Man and Camel by Mark StrandMark Strand's most recent collection Man and Camel (2006) is still an essential read for lovers of poetry. Born in Prince Edward Island, Canada, Strand has published eleven collections of poetry and was the Poet Laureate for the United States from 1990-1991. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Blizzard of One and currently teaches at Columbia University. I have to admit, the rainbow and camel cover is bizarre but at least it's original (poetry covers tend to be abysmally bland so 'bizarre' is a welcome change of pace). Strand often draws you into a story that at first glance appears to be grounded in the everyday, even cliché-like. Take, for instance, the beginning of "Error": "We drifted downstream under a scattering of stars/ and slept until the sun rose." Pretty but it doesn't jump up and grab you, right? He then leads you to some surreal and unexpected places. The poem continues: "When we got to the capital,/ which lay in ruins, we built a large fire out of what chairs/ and tables we could find. The heat was so fierce that birds/ overheard caught fire and fell flaming to earth." Wow. Man and Camel is Strand's first major collection since his Pulitzer Prize-winning Blizzard of One (1998) and isn't very long (there are only 23 poems) but you can tell that every poem has been chosen fastidiously and deserves to be in the book.
Highlights: "I Had Been a Polar Explorer", "Two Horses", "2002", "Man and Camel", "Error", "Fire", "Cake", "2032", "Storm", "Afterwords", "Black Sea", "Mirror", "People Walking Through the Night", "My Name".
Read excerpts from Man and Camel.