In Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry, Robert Pinsky posits that poetry, namely of the American poet, exists and struggles between the polarities of total undifferentiation and total fragmentation, between the colon (as in “colonial”) and the cult, between the social experiences of embarrassment and abandonment, and between the individual and the masses. Toward the middle of this tiny treatise, he brings it all together to say the following. I was struck by the simple beauty of this line:

“Poetry as breath penetrates to where the body recognizes the stirring of meaning.” (p.45)

I love the idea of poetry as existing on the cusp of something even more intangible than meaning itself: an awareness of possibility. I’ve been working on a research guide for a presentation that Pinsky will be making at USC next month, hence the reason for picking up this book (but do I need a reason?). I’ve also been reading Thousand of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmare of the American Small Town, which I recommend, if anything, for its discussion of American cinema.

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