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AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK STRAND Mark Strand photo by LiIo Raymond courtesy of Atheneum Publishers An Interview with Mark Strand The following interview was conducted in New York City in November, 1980. The interviewer is Cristina Bacchilega, who is a Fulbright Scholar from Italy, working on a Ph.D. in Contemporary Fiction at SUNY, Binghamton. She received a degree in English and American literature from Rome University, Italy. Her translations of Mark Strand's poems have appeared in Tabula, an Italian literary magazine. Interviewer: In the Preface to The Contemporary American Poets, you pointed out the variety in American poetry since 1940, its stress on the self and its growing internationalism. That was in 1969. Where do you think American poetry is going now? Strand: Well, I don't know where American poetry is going. I think it's impossible for anyone to say with any assurance where it's going. The things that I pointed out in 1969 probably still apply. That is, much American poetry is still self-involved, so to speak. Also, translation is a factor in many poets' work; they are influenced as much by foreign poets as they are by those who write in English. I think that there is, perhaps, a greater concern for forms and measures—at least, I notice this with my students. Perhaps, we will have a period with a lot of rhymed and measured verse: the fifties revisited, that is the academic side of the fifties' poetry. This is not to say that in our age we'll see an Alexander Pope or a John Dryden; but, we have James Merrill. We may have little James Merrills. I don't know. Interviewer: Did your choice of poets for that anthology provoke some polemical responses? Did it define you as a poet and put you in a specific category? Strand: I think not. First of all, the choices I made by and large were choices that I had been making over the years as a young poet. I had certain models. I think most young poets have an anthology in theirheads and it is usually composed of poets of the generation ahead of them or of the generation directly ahead ofthat. Mindyou, mine was a prettyeclectic and catholic selection, so I didn't receive a great deal of criticism in reviews. I think that one person complained that McClure was not in it. But, by and large, the poets were satisfied. Some poets complained about The Missouri Review · 52 being represented by the wrong poems; other poets complained that friends of theirs were not represented adequately. I had ninety-two poets in the anthology: for every ninety-two poets you include, you have another ninety-two poets who feel that they should have been included. That was a problem, but not a critical problem; it had more to do with being in the world with other poets. People dislike me really on the grounds that they were left out of the anthology and, like it or not, I just hadn't read their works. Of course, I should have read everything; but, that's really impossible especially now that there is a proliferation of small presses and there are many more volumes of poetry. Interviewer: Which of your American contemporaries do you feel influenced by? With whom do you feel an affinity? Strand: Well, some poets have changed. But, I certainly feel a great kinship with Donald Justice and Charles Simic. Kinship can be lines of influence, friendship or something else. Howard Moss is another person I can think of: I am very fond of his work and I admire him . . . although I think it would be difficult to find much similarity in our work. Certainly, Merwin is one . . . Elizabeth Bishop. Interviewer: Your admiration for Elizabeth Bishop's poetry is well known. Your poem "The House in French Village" in The Late Hour is dedicated to her. What fascinates you about her poetry? Do you think she's been understood by the critics? I would think that it is her darkness ofvision that brings her sensitivity close to yours; but, this is certainly not the feature of her poetry that critics...


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