Poet Keeps Honors In Perspective By Leslie Rice It is not unusual for poet laureate Mark Strand to win awards for his poetry. Never sure precisely what to make of these prestigious awards, he said he usually spends a giddy 10 minutes basking in people's applause, thinking he is a wonderful man. But when those 10 minutes are up and he returns home, he said, he goes to a mirror, sees he's still Mark Strand, and helps his wife with dinner. Part of his appeal is that despite being one of the country's most esteemed modern poets, he keeps the praises, awards and honors in a rich comic perspective. "For me the trick has always been to never have expectations, so when you do win something, it's very exciting," he said. "Since I've stopped being ambitious, I think my writing has become better--certainly funnier." Strand, the Elliott Coleman Professor of Poetry in the Writing Seminars, will read some of his most recent works at the Sidney Ann Wilson Memorial Poetry Lecture at 5:30 p.m. April 27 in the Doctors' Dining Room at the Hopkins Hospital. The reading is free and open to the public. Wilson was born with cerebral palsy in 1924, a disease which affected her motor control and speech and would later in life be compounded by cervical arthritis. Her stunning intellect remained intact, however, and she communicated through her indomitable faith in poetry. In appreciation to her Hopkins doctors, Wilson willed her estate to the Hospital's Department of Orthopedic Surgery upon her death in 1987. The department created an endowment with a portion of her estate to support an annual program devoted to poetry readings, sponsored by the JHMI Office of Cultural Events. Strand will mostly read from his unfinished, upcoming collection of poems. This latest collection of work is much darker than earlier collections, he said. "I think my writing is lusher these days, and funnier, although rather grim at times." Besides working on his latest poetry collection, Strand is collaborating with Writing Seminars professor Jean McGarry on another collection of short stories. "Essentially, I walk around the halls coming up with goofy ideas and present them to Jean who either says, 'No that won't do,' 'No that's not funny' or 'That's OK.'" Last year, Hopkins was able to woo Strand from the University of Utah, where he had taught since 1981, because he missed the cultural attractions of the East Coast, and he would be able to take off each spring semester to focus on his writing. Strand is the author of nine books of rich, lyrical poems, the most recent of which is "Dark Harbor: a poem" (1993). Other works include "The Continuous Life" (1990) and "Selected Poems" (1980). He has written humorous columns for the New Yorker and is the author of Mr. and Mrs. Baby, a collection of short stories. Strand has received countless fellowships and awards, including a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."
Go to Gazette Homepage