Poetry Monday – Mark Strand

Photo courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

Photo courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

The book from which the poem is taken. Photo courtesy of oxonianreview.org.

The book from which the poem is taken. Photo courtesy of oxonianreview.org.

Too many talents have died this year. Among them is poet Mark Strand, who passed this Saturday. I’d like to dedicate this Poetry Monday to his work and memory.

“The Coming of the Light” by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

What I like about this poem: I first heard about this piece when I took a workshop with Jericho Brown a few years back. He featured this poem in a really cool prompt. Since that time, I’ve used this poem in a few workshops with high school students. Because of these experiences, I associate this poem with playfulness and wonder. I often think of the surreal imagery in this poem, particularly the “warm bouquets of air.”

Bonus! Prompt: Here is the prompt Jericho Brown gave us in that workshop I mentioned earlier–
What is the opposite of “up”? Down.
What about “left”? Right.
What about “green”?
What about “the”?
Starting to get more difficult, right?

The prompt is to re-write this poem. The catch is that you must re-write it word for word using the opposite of each word. For example, write down the opposite of “even,” then the opposite of “this,” and continue in this manner until you’ve finished the whole poem. It’s OK if you are not certain of a word’s opposite. Make it up! “Opposite” can be interpreted in so many different ways. This is a great exercise for letting go of expectations and being surprised!

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