Poet's Choice

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By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, March 4, 2007

Mastering complexity is beautiful, a great human pleasure. Music or dance executed well, scientific discoveries, athletic records exceeded -- in addition to their principal meanings and satisfactions, those accomplishments also fill our hunger for the elegance of difficulty well engaged.

The final poem in Linda Gregerson's new book is an extended meditation on a Nobel-winning discovery about cell death and regeneration in the common roundworm C. Elegans. The poem, "Elegant," ponders a scientific vision of death's relation to life. Its pages also contemplate intellectual beauty.

A stupid idea about art, or about poetry, is that it is too difficult. Gregerson's attractive work demonstrates that muscular thinking is not only desirable but needed, giving weight and meaning to emotion. Thinking gives us reality. Here is the first part of "Bicameral," a poem in three parts:

Choose any angle you like, she said,

the world is split in two. On one side, health

and dumb good luck (or money, which can pass

for both), and elsewhere . . . well,

they're eight days from the nearest town,

the parents are frightened, they think it's their fault,

the child isn't able to suck. A thing

so easily mended, provided

you have the means. I've always thought it was


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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