Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, February 19, 2006

"Poetry is a Destructive Force." That sentence is the title of a poem by Wallace Stevens, meaning among other things that poetry breaks and devours comforting sentiments, soothing language, elevated humbug, wishful thinking. It re-imagines in language what we are used to. It presents anew what we thought or meant to say or expected to see a moment before encountering the poem. Stevens imagines poetry as a lion, "a violent beast."

The violence is figurative, not the literal splash and crash of special effects. It menaces or devours not flesh and blood but cozy preconceptions. In keeping with that consuming force, here is a poem from Linda Gregg's new book:


The woman walks up the mountain

and then down. She wades into the sea

and out. Walks to the well,

pulls up a bucket of water

and goes back into the house.

She hangs wet clothes.

Takes clothes back to fold them.

Every evening she crochets

from six until dark.

Birds, flowers, stars. Her rabbit lives

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