Eating Poetry By: Mark Strand

Created By: David Johnson

Biography of Mark Strand

Birth and Schooling

Mark Strand was born on Canada’s Prince Edward Island on April 11, 1934. He received a BA degree from Antioch College in Ohio in 1957 and attended Yale University, where he was awarded the Cook prize and the Bergin prize. After receiving his BFA degree in 1959, Strand spent a year studying at the University of Florence on a Fulbright fellowship. In 1962 he received his MA degree from the University of Iowa.

Some of Strand's Accomplishments

He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including:

  • Collected Poems (Knopf/Random House, 2014)
  • Almost Invisible (Knopf, 2012)
  • New Selected Poems (Knopf, 2007)
  • Man and Camel (Knopf, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)
  • Blizzard of One (Knopf, 1998), which won the Pulitzer Prize
  • Dark Harbor(Knopf, 1993)
  • The Continuous Life (Knopf, 1990)
  • Selected Poems (Atheneum, 1980)
  • The Story of Our Lives (Atheneum, 1973)
  • Reasons for Moving (Atheneum, 1968)

Eating Poetry

By Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.

There is no happiness like mine.

I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.

Her eyes are sad

and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.

The light is dim.

The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,

their blond legs burn like brush.

The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.

When I get on my knees and lick her hand,

she screams.

I am a new man.

I snarl at her and bark.

I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

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My Thoughts About The Poem

I believe this poem is about how poetry can transform you as a human. Strand talks about in the beginning the destruction of poetry; said by Strand in his poem "Ink runs from the corners of my mouth… I have been eating poetry" (lines 1-3). I believe the man who ate the poem is transformed into a dog because of the fact that the librarian does not believe what she sees, which means she could not believe he transformed. He also states the lights are dim, which is true for a dog because of the fact they only see black and white, not colors like humans. The man must be close to the librarian because she weeps and stomps her feet. At the end when he licks her, he is in mid-transformation and therefore is becoming the dog. When he becomes a new man – which we know is not man but dog – he snarls and barks at her. This poems purpose was to show what poetry can do to us. It can’t transform us in literal state, but it can transform us as people and that is what Strand is trying to tell us in this poem.

Theme Of The Poem

Realism vs. Surrealism

This is an attempt to express what the subconscious mind is thinking and how it works as opposed to the realities that we experience in the conscious mind. The poem accomplishes this if one is to think out side the box about the meaning of the poem.

Extra Information About The Poem

There is no consistent rhyme scheme used in the poem, but in the last two stanzas there are instances of rhyme. The most apparent devices used in the poem are vivid imagery and metaphor. From start to finish Strand uses imagery such as "Ink runs from the corners of my mouth" (line 1). He also uses imagery when he says "I romp with joy in the bookish dark" (line 18).
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