“The New Poetry Handbook” Analysis by Mark Strand


The New Poetry Handbook by Mark Strand, he is a Canadian- born American poet, essayist, and translator. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress in 1990. He received the Wallace Stevens Award in 2004. Strand was a professor of English in Comparative Literature at Columbia University from 2005 until his death in 2014.

The New Poetry Handbook by Mark Strand Analysis

The poet uses an interesting structure in this poem, “The New Poetry Handbook” by numbering each stanza and laying a poem as a set of rules for reading & writing poetry. The poem follows a constant pattern of cause and effect. The causes dealing with the interaction between a man and the poem, resulting in a consequence which directly affects the man. At first, the poem comes off as a bit confusing to the reader. The poem is a contradiction in itself. The poet has laid down this poem as a manual or guidebook for truly comprehending poetry. The poem starts by addressing to the reader that if a man understands a poem he shall have troubles. It means that the poem can never be understood completely & each person has their own unique opinion on the poem. A poem at the same time is a highly debatable subject.

The poet might have written his poem trying to depict a different meaning but the reader might get a different idea on reading the poem. The second rule laid out by the poet says that “if a man lives with a poem he shall die lonely” these lines suggest that a person with melancholic disposition is more likely to be drawn towards poetry. Poetry is like oxygen it gets imprinted on the mind of the reader. There are high chances that he/she might end up following the intricate words of a poem as his/her life’s holy lesson. Thus suggesting that they might end up lonely in the end with nothing but poetry laced in their lives. The third rule states that if a person is to live with two poems in his life he is bound to be unfaithful to one. This implies that one of the two poems might seem completely relatable to a certain situation in a person’s life. As a result, the other poem might lose its significance in the person’s life. This act can be depicted as being unfaithful to the other poem.

The poem proceeds forward letting g the reader know that if he happens to conceive two poems he shall have two children less. This is an important line suggesting that a poem is like a child it is first conceived in the mind of the poet & then of the reader. We nurture poems like children so this implies that it shall always be dear to a man’s heart. Poets become famous through their poems. It is their work that brings them fame & recognition. It raises them from the pits of obscurity to the high pedestal of prosperity.  This is an undeniable fact of life. “If a man publicly denounces poetry, his shoes will fill with urine” these lines imply that the whole of humanity is bonded by the universality of the poem. Each in his own way relates to the poem & it holds a deeper meaning in their hearts. Thus, a person publicly denouncing a poem will be subjected to hate from the majority of the public. Thus the poet imparts an invaluable lesson to the reader through these lines.

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This handbook serves to be resourceful for the reader and is widely applicable under different circumstances. The beauty of poetry is beyond comparison. Those who have felt it in their lives are truly blessed. “If a man fears death/he shall be saved by his poems” this means that a person can escape from a deep-rooted fear through poetry. It is because poetry provides solace to the heart of a man. It is through poetry that an individual can truly express himself. The poem ends on a humorous note stating the feeling that every poet feels on the completion of his poem. It feels like an accomplishment because it requires an immense passion to write poetry. So in giving birth to a poem, the poet has to shape and mold it to life. For when a poem is born the poet becomes more alive. Poetry is the celebration of a wide spectrum of human emotions. The poet through this poem has successfully laid out specific guidelines for the readers to follow.

The New Poetry Handbook by Mark Strand Central Idea/Theme

The central idea of the poem is to inform the reader about the general guidelines of poetry. So that he makes no mistake in deciphering its true meaning. The poem is also laced with humor & is relatable to the reader. The rules or regulations that the poet suggests in this poem are quite realistic & practicable in nature. The reader gets to view the poem as a person. Poetry is an important part of a person’s life. Poetry is inevitable. It is like the air we breathe suggesting that it is essential for our survival. The poet stating out these rules can be compared to a person’s physical traits. Like a person, the poem also has certain traits which are to be understood by the reader. Thus by following the guidelines of the poet, the reader can grasp the true underlying meaning of the poem.

Thus, in simple words, the poet relays a meaningful message to the reader. Poetry is the savior of mankind in the sense it has helped everyone in its own way. For it is only through poems that a man opens up his heart & lets his imagination take its flight. Poem arouses the feeling of passion in a man. The true meaning of the poem can be felt in its very words by the reader. This poem dives deep into the realm of poetry where it is invoked to live. This poem leaves an everlasting impression on the reader’s mind.

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