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The Story of Our Lives, with the Monument and the Late Hour
by Mark Strand
ISBN 0375709754 / 9780375709753 / 0-375-70975-4
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Mark Strand is one of our finest contemporary American poets. The republication of The Story of Our Lives, with The Monument and The Late Hour, a collection of three out-of-print works written in the 1970s, is a testament to Strand's versatility and intellect. The Story of Our Lives is primarily an evocative lament for the author's deceased father, mulling over the questions and frustrations presented when someone close dies, as showcased in the deeply moving "Elegy for My Father": "It is over and nobody knows you." The second book, The Monument, could loosely be described as a series of prose poems utilizing lines from other works, such as those of Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, and Friedrich Nietzsche, as Strand presents an amusingly irreverent jab at the seriousness with which many poets (including himself) take themselves and their aspirations of having their works achieve immortality. The last book, The Late Hour, exhibits Strand's characteristic dreamlike quality--images have a sparse and haunting beauty about them, and patterns of quiet thought are reworked in a still, dark night. It's as if, while peering into that dark, one catches a glimpse of something in the periphery, and the residue of that brief image is what Strand explores--the space between what is and isn't there, between light and dark. Also, a prescient recitation of our aspirations of self-understanding and self-improvement can be found here, as in "Lines for Winter": "tell yourself / in that final flowing of cold through your limbs / that you love what you are." This collection serves as a welcome reintroduction to Mark Strand's earlier works. --Michael Ferch [via]