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Saturday, October 16, 2021

'Real Poetry Is Not Easy'

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

Pinsky, a Boston University prof turning 81 on Oct. 20, is a poet, essayist, literary critic and translator.  The former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, he has authored 19 books, mostly poetry inspired by the flow and tension of jazz and the excitement that it made him feel. As a former saxophonist, he said being a musician was a profoundly influential experience he tried to reproduce in his poems.


“I don't like to have a calm, orderly, quiet place to work.”  He said his book, The Sounds of Poetry, A Brief Guide, was written almost entirely in airplanes and airport departure lounges.   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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