February 13, 2004

Blizzard of One
Mark Strand

! -- "Surprise" is perhaps our most precious emotion. That won't come as a surprise to those of us who find ourselves squirming beneath the daunting, dreadful weight of the day-in, day-out routine that smothers so much of life. And, for me, this slim volume of poems is full of surprises. First and foremost, at a time when so much of contemporary writing is about me-me-me, the insights and ideas explored here are focused on More Important Things, The Big Questions, Worldly Matters -- nothing less than that seemingly old-fashioned but, in fact, now-needed-more-than-ever pursuit of The Meaning of Life. Second, I came across this book at the Printer's Row Book Fair, during which the writer Kevin Grandfield had guided me to a Mark Strand reading in a loft-style Unitarian Church two flights up from the book-crowded street. I was immediately bewitched by Strand's reading -- his bawdy humor and modest confidence, the very tenor of his voice. (I had forgotten, frankly, that poetry could be and should be so much fun!) My final surprise appeared months later, over dinner at a small French restaurant in Lakeview. That's when I learned that my friend Suzae Johnson is a Strand fan and had, in fact, recently finished reading, "Blizzard of One." I was surprised on two accounts: one, you rarely find anyone who reads poetry, let alone a dear friend; and two, there's a certain joy that arises when you realize that you and another share an equal enthusiasm for a writer. It's as if you've just discovered a long, lost mutual acquaintance.


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