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Eating Poetry -- Mark Strand

Guest poem sent in by Terry Smith
(Poem #676) Eating Poetry
 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.
-- Mark Strand
I submitted another Mark Strand poem some time ago
(poem #453), so
I'll forego any biographical info except to say there's a short
bio at,5716,366991,00.html
and the author won a pulitzer prize in 1999 for his book "A
Blizzard of One" ([broken link]

I was given this poem by way of introduction to Strand, and while
he isn't the boldest poet currently writing, he deserves his
reputation as one of the best.  In this poem, there's a hint of
the poetry being the source of light in the library that I love,
and "bookish dark" has a familiar smell to it.  I have to admit,
however, I don't understand the reference to the dogs on the
stairs.  Perhaps there is someone on the list with some good

        -Terry Smith

74 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

mderagon said...

I think the dog reference is beautiful and whether it brings with it a sense
of animalistic instinct that the narrator has found from the ink of poetry
or whether it talks of the freedom with which poetry unleashes Eye don't
think it matters--this poem screams for freedom and devourment of the dark
bookish world these verses have been locked up in. They are busting off the
shelves and the vitalis is creeping up from the basement, as dogs burning
through the ice of ennui.

David Wright said...

These dogs, they are perhaps the spirit released from the poets words, the anima unleashed from text, the life of verse reconstituted into breath, impulse and image... Something like this. Few things seem quite so spontaneous and enthused as dogs. This is no actual librarian, but the librarian and the dogs are something like the tension of language itself, on the one hand to signify and classify and capture, and on the other hand to express, to embody, to sing... ...both of which create meaning.

Then again, speaking as a flesh-and-blood librarian who has been on the receiving end of psychotic behavior, maybe they're just dogs. Stranger things have happened, in MY bookish dark.
-David Wright

Lgemini615 said...

I understood this poem to be about the woman's sexual desires that surface
hence the dogs in the basement. The freudian "id" of the woman sexual
desires are trying to surface but she is ignoring it,"the poems are gone"
could refer to her past lovers that left her and she has dimmed her desires
for lust until desire licks her hand convincing her to give in and she
screams her resistance. And the last stanza shows that she does and
masterbates to the sexual desires she has.

Ken Wanamaker said...

W/R the dogs in Strands poem. Perhaps the poet meant that his poems are
dogging' him [to hound, keep at the heels of]. Perhaps they drive him to
write. Dogs are also loyal companions to man. Perhaps he sees poetry in this
light, too.

Ken Wanamaker

Hope not being hope
until all ground for hope has
Marianne Moore- "The Hero"

Heather White said...

Quite the striking poem, it almost sounds like something a friend of mine said a long time ago, but far more eloquently.

AKAANGEL880 said...

I loved how you potrayed the dog as if it was thirsty to only write poetry.
The begging line was wonderful also. "There is no happiness like mine," this
line I really liked because you have to make yourself happy before you make
anyone else.

chaz said...

I am not sure exactly what to do. I really didn't understand the poem but I
thought it was sort of funny and was a decent poem

connor said...

This is a great poem it shows the writers desire to write as almost being
instinctual. As if it were starved to write poetry.

Anonymous said...

im doing research on this peo and i dont get it at all!!! >.< I hav research in books and they also think its odd to come up with something like this they say it might be something metaphoic in his life.... like asecret or something its probably one this i would like to ask him... this doesnt help my research!!! I'm gonna fail *feels depressed*

Anonymous said...

I've got to write an essay on this poem and the question is, 'What do you think the poet is saying about imagination and reality?' any ideas..?

Anonymous said...

omg i dont understand this at all. ive been reaserching it for an hour and dont fully understand it. why is there a libarian

Anonymous said...

hehe :) I agree with most comments. This poem is not a metaphorical explanation of the speaker's feelings, it is merely a literal portrayal of how ecstatic he is about writing poetry. And the fact that he devours the forgotten poems, influences writers to write more.

Anonymous said...

Stupid poem. :(

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