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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The 'music' in the words

“Poetry is not easy. Or should I say, real poetry is not easy.” – Robert Pinsky

Pinsky, a professor at Boston University, celebrated his 76th birthday this past week and continues going strong as a poet, essayist, literary critic and translator.  The former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, he has authored 19 books, most of which are collections of his poetry.

A one-time jazz musician, Pinsky said his poetry has been inspired by the flow and tension of jazz and the excitement that it made him feel. As a former saxophonist, he has said that being a musician was a profoundly influential experience that he has tried to reproduce in his poetry.

“I don't like to have a calm, orderly, quiet place to work. I often compose while driving, compose in my head. It is true that I wrote my little book, 'The Sounds of Poetry, A Brief Guide,' almost entirely in airplanes and airport departure lounges.”  Today, for Saturday’s Poem, here is Pinsky’s
Samurai Song
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

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