Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 – 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including a collection of poems by Czeslaw Milosz and Dante Alighieri.His honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, both the William Carlos Williams Award and the Shelley Memorial prize from the Poetry Society of America, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He is currently poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate. Pinsky has taught at both Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Robert Pinsky: "The City Dark." In the early winter dusk the broken city dark seeps from the tunnels up towers. And in gusty allies, the mathematical vale of generation has lit its torches to light the rooms of the made and the unmade. The two faded behind you and ford behind them in the matrix widening into the past. Eight, sixteen, thirty two, many as to crystal dream sells illuminating the city Even for those who sleep in the street there are lights
Like a heavy winter sleep the long flint called the past spreads over the glinting dream blisters of the city asleep or awake as if the streets were an image of the channels of time with 64, 128.The ancestral net of 1000s only a couple of centuries back with its migrations and fortunes and hungers like an image of the city where they start to spelling lights have climbed and multiplied over the tenements and outlying suburbs like a far past of multitudes behind us in the glistering web of strands crossing 1000s and 10s of 1000s of lives coupled with their games, passions, misfortunes. Somewhere in the tangled ally ways who were, somewhere a spirit diffuse the wing like blind along the stretched wire branching the dark city air or bundled under the streets causing surely to some one phase like an ancient song do----lah soul soul. Somewhere the aspiring somewhere recognition back here one died of starvation, here one thrived, descendant the bitter city work and the shimmering maternal burden of music uncoiled outward and the avenues through smoky bars by televisions, beyond sleepers. Well the Bolivian of generation radiates backward and then forward homeward to the one voice or face like an underground pool through its delicate light shaft moonlit, a cistern of light echoing in a chamber cellared under the dark of the city pavement faintly glittering slabs.
This is related to our earlier conversation about the past and the future and each of us has --- each of us who is made by two people, who are made by four, eight, go back a couple of 100s of years, its 1000s of people. Eventually 10s and dozens of --- many many many thousands and you can bet that some are back there, you are the product and worried. Somewhere your products have a tremendous love match, somebody died of starvation, we are all descended from kings. That many people 50, 60, 1000. One of them was a king. One of them was a slave and I suppose in relation to your question earlier about an image for things with that sense of the immense wake that goes behind any one person widening, widening, widening what is it like? All those people, it’s like being an airplane over a city at night and you see all those lights all the bulbs in the city as if each light is a life and in deed in the city almost anything you name is happening as you look down that at and that’s like your pretty almost anything you name has happened back there and I guess that image of the city and picking a light and thinking what is in that room or is it a car or who is in the car. That’s like trying to imagine what is behind you.
Recorded On: 3/25/2008
Robert Pinsky: I think skepticism toward things like titles, good reviews, what the world calls distinctions, recognitions, can become mechanical, but it’s a good armor too.