Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 24, 1995

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."

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