Charles Bernstein: Rita Dove said ‘no thanks.’
Who can argue with Robert Pinsky that poetic rhythms are not therapeutic? That poetry can’t be a caring social glue? Pinsky is a cheerleader for poetry and we have to love him for that.
Marla Muse: But he has a lisp.
Oh, Marla, how can you be so cruel? Pinsky has three poems in the Dove anthology, which puts him in a pretty good crowd. Lucille Clifton has four. Michael S. Harper has four. Derek Walcott has five. Amiri Baraka has four. Countee Cullen has four. Langston Hughes has four. W.H. Auden has two. T.S. Eliot has three.
Marla Muse: Charles Bernstein has none. Dove said she didn’t have time for his “nonsense.”
Did she say that?
Marla Muse: What are you looking at me for? …Maybe.
Here’s the Pinsky poem for Round One:
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.
When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.
When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.
When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.
Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.
Marla Muse: Why “Samurai?” Is Pinsky a Samurai warrior? If not, the title just implies he stole some of his poem from an ancient text.
Yea, I don’t understand the title, either. The choices and connections are admirable, though the presentation, the form, the style, is stiff and pedantic.
Marla Muse: Maybe that’s why he felt compelled to put “Samurai” in the title.
It’s troubling. This poem is like a big guy who can rebound but can’t handle the ball. He’s as tall as wisdom itself, but has no style.
Marla Muse: What do we have for Bernstein?
Does it matter?
Marla Muse: Well, let’s have some of his nonsense. See how it does against Pinsky.
All The Whiskey In Heaven
Not for all the whiskey in heaven
Not for all the flies in Vermont
Not for all the tears in the basement
Not for a million trips to Mars
Not if you paid me in diamonds
Not if you paid me in pearls
Not if you gave me your pinky ring
Not if you gave me your curls
Not for all the fire in hell
Not for all the blue in the sky
Not for an empire of my own
Not even for peace of mind
No, never, I’ll never stop loving you
Not till my heart beats its last
And even then in my words and my songs
I will love you all over again
What is this? What’s going on here? If this is nonsense, I prefer Lewis Carroll.
Marla Muse: Agreed.
Quietude wins. Pinsky 80, Bernstein 47.