the end of mark strand


T. S. Eliot famously proposed that a poem is no less than a “raid on the inarticulate,” an effort to make what has not yet been said pass into speech. But Strand’s objective is somewhat different, even counter to that. He aims to engage with the inarticulate, to approach it, moving outside of the visible in order, ideally, to inhabit that unknown space. He suggests that the work of the poem could be to bear witness to that which cannot be articulated, even as it calls to us. This effort affords us no end of trouble, however, since poetry is indivisible from its articulation. If the poem is trying to get at nothing, it is always using a something in order to do so. “The Minister of Culture” makes this trouble evident. “Nothing is elsewhere doing what nothing does,” but that expansion of the dark can never occur here: the light of the mind keeps it at a distance. The personification of nothingness in the last sentences also complicates the pursuit of oblivion: nothing becomes a love-object, and therefore loses its insubstantiality.

more from Jay Deshpande at Boston Review here.