Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, October 2, 2005

The word "wanting" means both to desire and to lack. These related feelings are basic to life and to poetry. The lyric poem organizes the sounds of language so that the very cadences and patterns express wanting something.

Two very different poets address this most fundamental of subjects in their recent books. In The Green Stamp Book , Susan Wheeler is interested in the choppy, crazy images and motives in consumer culture; she loves to navigate through the hype to find the actual emotions that drive it all:

The Green Stamp Book

Child in the thick of yearning. Doll carted and pushed

like child. The aisles purport opportunities --

looking up, the women's chins, the straight rows

of peas and pretzels, Fizzies' foils, hermetic

boxes no one knows. I'll get it! What thing therein

-- bendy straws, powder blue pack Blackjack gum --

will this child fix upon? On TV, women with grocery carts

careen down aisles to find expensive stuff. Mostly,

this means meat. This, then, is a life. This, a life

that's woven wrong and, woven once, disbraided, sits

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