As I type this, I am also listening to Robert Pinsky reading a sonnet written by Michaelangelo about the pleasure of complaining, while he was painting the Sistine Chapel. It is so lovely, I could listen to this all day.
I’m prepping for Pinsky’s edX class that starts today.
I am geeking out on wild levels. Robert Pinsky. ROBERT. PINKSY. Holy cow…
Robert Pinsky is one of America’s foremost poet-critics. Often called the last of the “civic” or public poets, Pinsky’s criticism and verse reflect his concern for a contemporary poetic diction that nonetheless speaks of a wider experience. Elected Poet Laureate of the United States in 1997, his tenure was marked by ambitious efforts to prove the power of poetry—not just as an intellectual pursuit in the ivory tower, but as a meaningful and integral part of American life. “I think poetry is a vital part of our intelligence, our ability to learn, our ability to remember, the relationship between our bodies and minds,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. “Poetry’s highest purpose is to provide a unique sensation of coordination between the intelligence, emotions and the body. It’s one of the most fundamental pleasures a person can experience.” (poetry foundation)
I graduated high school in 1996, and I started reading Pinsky’s work right about then. The only bookstore we had back then was a Crown Bookstore next to a ROSS. It had pretty typical books with a huge mystery section and a fantasy section with 3 books. The poetry section had a shelf of sonnets, which just goes to show how educated people allowed themselves to be about poetry movements: what is there besides Shakespeare? But I knew there was more to poetry than the sonnets we had to read in English class, so I searched and searched, and finally found some modern poetry.
I just want to point out, also, that when I graduated high school I had fully intended to become a marine biologist. I spent all my time scouring the shelves of SanFrancisco for poetry books, and yet I thought I was a scientist. My goodness….
I remember finding Robert Pinsky’s poems, and being mesmerized by his words. He is a man among poets. I enjoy his words in the same way that I fell in love with Robert Frost’s words: they take you somewhere very real. Somewhere you swear you have been before. When we visited Frost’s farm last year, I knew the entire place like the back of my hand. I recognized the path next to the little stone wall that he would walk up and down. I recognized the window on the second floor, out of which he would watch his wife walk across the little hill on their land while she was grieving the death of their son. His poems took me to where he lived, and when I visited the farm, it was like visiting a very good friend whom you never want to leave.
Pinsky has a grasp of language that is unparalleled.
Dire one and desired one,
In an old allegory you would carry
A chained alphabet of tokens:
Ankh Badge Cross.
Engraved figure guarding a hallowed intaglio,
Jasper kinema of legendary Mind,
Naked omphalos pierced
By quills of rhyme or sense, torah-like: unborn
Vein of will, xenophile
Yearning out of Zero.
Untrusting I court you. Wavering
I seek your face, I read
That Crusoe’s knife
Reeked of you, that to defile you
The soldier makes the rabbi spit on the torah.
“I’ll drown my book” says Shakespeare.
Drowned walker, revenant.
After my mother fell on her head, she became
More than ever your sworn enemy. She spoke
Sometimes like a poet or critic of forty years later.
Or she spoke of the world as Thersites spoke of the heroes,
“I think they have swallowed one another. I
Would laugh at that miracle.”
You also in the laughter, warrior angel:
Your helmet the zodiac, rocket-plumed
Your spear the beggar’s finger pointing to the mouth
Your heel planted on the serpent Formulation
Your face a vapor, the wreath of cigarette smoke crowning
Bogart as he winces through it.
You not in the words, not even
Between the words, but a torsion,
A cleavage, a stirring.
You stirring even in the arctic ice,
Even at the dark ocean floor, even
In the cellular flesh of a stone.
Gas. Gossamer. My poker friends
Question your presence
In a poem by me, passing the magazine
One to another.
Not the stone and not the words, you
Like a veil over Arthur’s headstone,
The passage from Proverbs he chose
While he was too ill to teach
And still well enough to read, I was
Beside the master craftsman
Delighting him day after day, ever
At play in his presence–you
A soothing veil of distraction playing over
Dying Arthur playing in the hospital,
Thumbing the Bible, fuzzy from medication,
Ever courting your presence,
And you the prognosis,
You in the cough.
Gesturer, when is your spur, your cloud?
You in the airport rituals of greeting and parting.
Indicter, who is your claimant?
Bell at the gate. Spiderweb iron bridge.
Cloak, video, aroma, rue, what is your
Elected silence, where was your seed?
What is Imagination
But your lost child born to give birth to you?
Dire one. Desired one.
Or presence ever at play:
Let those scorn you who never
Starved in your dearth. If I
Dare to disparage
Your harp of shadows I taste
Wormwood and motor oil, I pour
Ashes on my head. You are the wound. You
Be the medicine.
…and my very core shudders at the thought of being able to audit one of his classes. I am ridiculously excited.
But it is also Fall, and I would like to decorate my house for the kids. Yesterday I bought a tea towel for the stove that had apples on it. That was pretty major for me, and Nova mentioned how pretty the towel was. Here are some Pinterest ideas I also found…because I have no idea what I am doing in regards to decorating a house. No idea.