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Nick Norwood

BPR 47 | 2020

Excerpt (full interview available in Birmingham Poetry Review number 47 or pdfread/download here)

With the death of Mark Strand in November of 2014, and of John Ashbery in September, 2017, the era of American poetry that would accommodate the purely aesthetic poet seems to have passed. Strand wrote in what he himself referred to as an international style—spare and ahistorical, gauzy and impressionistic rather than thick-textured and immediate—a kind of verse that avoids the local, topical, political, and overtly personal in favor of the ethereal and universal.

Easy to see then why Strand’s evocations of the moon should become so central to his poetry. Moonlight is at the heart of what his poems are about: beauty, mystery, evanescence; night, death, loss. Whatever it is his poems intend to do aesthetically and thematically, the essence is lunar. In the poems mentioning either the moon or its emanation—let’s say, a rough estimate, about a third of those he published—the moon serves alternately as a primary agent, peripheral character, point of reference, guiding force, light source, or inspiration. Some typical examples:

Under the fuss of starlight, under the dusty
Sickle of the moon, he stood alone,
And waited for the birds to sing,
For the wordless tirades of the wind
("Grotesques, 2 The King")

How bold you are!
You rise like the moon
while I sit on the edge of my bed
("The Dream")

And while I strain
To keep that prospect near,
The small night garden behind the house
48 Norwood Sheds its scented moonlit flesh.
("The Empire of Chance")