Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Robert Pinsky on contemporary and older poetry in SLATE.

Ex-national poet laureate Robert Pinsky, for some time, has chosen his favorite literary/academia-friendly poetry for the webzine SLATE.

As National Poetry Month nears its end, here's a link to his latest column--a fountain-pen-dipped-in-acid snarkfest taking potshots at people he perceives to have little knowledge of poetry past and present:


This one-finger exercise is redeemed at least somewhat by Pinsky's printing of some of his favorite poems.  For example, the Allen Ginsberg and Emily Dickinson pieces in the article easily trump a lot of the "modern" poetry that RP gives to the SLATE audience weekly.

And be sure to click onto the SLATE "Fray" message boards where there exists a lively-without-being-mean pro-and-con about RP's article.

As for me, I'll reprint this old poem of mine as a response to the SLATE piece:



I inhabit a cubicle on the 33rd floor

of the giant literary conglomerate

Poetry Inc.


Each day, I consult the corporate handbook

and churn out intricate, metaphor-laden and

purposely inaccessible poems loved by an Important few.


Lunches are spent with colleagues

denouncing “journal entry” poetry

and hailing rhyme-and-meter “new traditionalism."


In the break room, we are treated to tape loops

of Robert Frost intoning “free verse is like playing

tennis without a net” hundreds of times.


Occasionally, we meet in the auditorium for lectures

and Q and A sessions with the movers and shakers

of Poetry Inc.


Robert Pinsky shook my hand and called me a “mainstay”.

Billy Collins said I should write a poem for the next company picnic.

These accolades mean a lot to me.


It’s now time for me to get back to work.

Our new supervisor is NEA chairperson Dana Gioia.

If we’re caught doing nothing, he’ll transfer us to Los Angeles.


If that happens, you’ll never hear from me again.



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