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A Is for Absence

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By Mark Strand, from his 1999 essay "A Poet's Alphabet." Strand was a US poet laureate, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, and a Columbia professor of English and comparative literature. He died on November 29, 2014.


E is for endings, endings to poems, last words designed to release us back into our world with the momentary illusion that no harm has been done. They are various, and inscribe themselves in the ghostly aftermath of any work of art. Much of what we love about poems, regardless of their subject, is that they leave us with a sense of renewal, of more life. Life, on the other hand, prepares us for nothing, and leaves us nowhere to go. It stops.

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