… to come my way today was thanks to The Writers Almanac. It’s Robert Pinsky’s birthday today (born in Long Branch, New Jersey, a town where Kate’s family has some history, one-time home, briefly, of U.S. Grant and deathplace, about the same time, of James A. Garfield). The almanac had a couple of beautiful Pinsky quotes:
“The longer I live, the more I see there’s something about reciting rhythmical words aloud — it’s almost biological—that comforts and enlivens human beings.”
“The medium of poetry is not words, the medium of poetry is not lines — it is the motion of air inside the human body, coming out through the chest and the voice box and through the mouth to shape sounds that have meaning. It’s bodily.”
A case in point: Although I’m probably less than a Pinsky fanatic, I actually have a couple of his books. Here’s a favorite from one of them, the title poem from “Jersey Rain”:
Now near the end of the middle stretch of road
What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.
That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,
That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.
The source of art and woe aslant in wind
Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.
What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn’t mend
It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.
It spends itself regardless into the ocean.
It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:
Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,
The chilly liquefaction of day to night,
The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:
It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,
Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.
I feel it churning even in fair weather
To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.
In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds
Vapors in the sky that swell to drench my state —
The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads
Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:
Original milk, replenisher of grief,
Descending destroyer, arrowed source of passion,
Silver and black, executioner, source of life.
(Now, why is it a favorite? Reading it to myself, I’m in love with the imagery that springs from the statement, “… I cannot tell good fortune from bad/That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.” Then, bring on the rain: “The source of art and woe aslant in wind.” Then the sound, the rhythm, of a torrent pouring down on the roof: “… my rain, in streams and beads/Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration.” Indissoluble grudge! Original milk. Descending destroyer. Source of life.)
And that, al 11:59 p.m. PDT, is that.