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« Available Now: The Best American Poetry 2021 | Main | "Bad Workshops" [by Alan Michael Parker] »

September 19, 2021


This poem will continue to live in the future.

I read it backwards !!

good choice terence, compelling poem

Michael:  Glad you liked it.

Thanks. I've been reading Pinsky for what?...30 years? A great soul.

A reader’s first instinct may be to re-arrange the lines of the poem so that it makes “better” sense. But that would be violating what Pinsky and his poem intend to do: upend us. The narrative configuration or, if you will, convolution of the poem activates our instinct to recombine and thereby revise it into something neat, trim, linear, and readily comprehensible. But by doing so, we erect, elide, and “emend” memory and thus history to taste, preference, desire, and other purpose. The poem contains first-blush “disordered” fragments of family conversation, gossip, lore, and incidents resisting smooth manipulation. Even the last two of the three linchpin statements—“You can’t live in the past,” “Nobody can live in the future,” and “There’s no way to just live in the present”—are out of temporal order. A question posed by Pinsky’s poem is: Must we impose order on memory to live? This “Rashomon”-like take on recall and its codification into personal story suggest the things we remember often hinge on the way we want to remember. With consummate skill, Pinsky takes the tesserae of recall and makes a mosaic muddled enough to remind us that cultural and historical memory is similar to our own personal memory: imperfect, including by design. The Bard of Long Branch strikes true!

Thanks, Earle, for another thoughtful & insightful comment.

This is a side of Pinsky (of whom I was and am a great fan!) I never knew. Thank you! And OMG, the photos, the photos. Wow.

The poet seems to say that the past, future and present can't be separated from one another, that they have to blend. Then he writes this remarkable poem to show how that is true.

the marriage of poetry and vernacular , gangster and folk/family wisdom and more traditionally academic sophisticated philosophical and epistemology conundrums is constructively disturbing and a great read to boot with the pix.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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