Divine Comedy-I: Inferno

Innovation, Rhyme, and Feel in Robert Pinsky's Poetry

The first U.S. Poet Laureate for three consecutive years (from 1997-2000), Pinsky has succeeded in much more than poetry. In 1984, for example, he was the author of an interactive fiction game called Mindwheel; today, he is the poetry editor for the irreverent online Slate magazine. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that his poetry embraces modern life--yet remains firmly rooted in a traditional education in poetry and the classics.

In The Figured Wheel, for example, Pinsky's poetry ranges from a look athi smother to a discussion of psychiatrists. His style, although variable, is readable, and shuns much of the "encoding", or deliberately obscure language, of other poets. His poem "History of My Heart," for example, begins,

One Christmastime Fats Waller in a fur coat

Rolled beaming from a taxicab with two pretty girls

Each at an arm as he led them in a thick downy snowfall

Across Thirty-fourth Street into the busy crowd

Shopping at Macy's: perfume, holly, snowflake displays.

Chimes rang for change. In Toys, where my mother worked (Pinsky, 1996, 123)

Even in this short excerpt, Pinsky uses a number of poetic devices that deepen the poem--yet make it both comprehensive, and conscious of modern life....

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