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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (320 pages)
(Pub. Nov 1996)
The opening scene. The yellow, coal-fed fog
Uncurling over the tainted city river,
A young girl rowing and her anxious father
Scavenging for corpses. Funeral meats. The clever
Abandoned orphan. The great athletic killer
Sulking in his tent. As though all stories began
With someone dying.
'Poem with Refrains'
Welcoming Robert Pinsky's work, Robert Lowell wrote: 'it is refreshing to find a poet who is intellectually interesting and technically first-rate. Robert Pinsky belongs to that rarest category of talent, a poet-critic.'
The Figured Wheel gathers together all Pinsky's poetry to date, including twenty-one new poems. The celebrated verse essay An Explanation of America (Carcanet, 1980) remains at the heart of things; this book also includes 'Ginza Samba', an astonishing history of the saxophone; and 'Impossible to Tell', a jazz-like poem that combines elegy with the Japanese custom of linking-poems and the American tradition of ethnic jokes. Sadness and Happiness (1975), History of My Heart (1984) and The Want Bone (1990), the earlier books, are here. Also included are some of his translations of Czeslaw Milosz, Paul Celan and others, and the last canto of his version of Dante's Inferno. Pinsky combines 'abstract utterance and vivid image', Louis Martz wrote, and 'points the way toward the future of poetry'. 'Above inventors, said Pound, stand the small class of "masters", those who, apart from their own inventions, are able to assimilate and co-ordinate a large number of preceding inventions. This,' declared the Salmagundi reviewer, 'near the end of the twentieth century is what Robert Pinsky is doing.'
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