Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poetry appeals to people who get bored easily. It can accomplish a lot in small spaces: sometimes, in almost no time at all. Often, it works by moving rapidly, skipping over predictable or needless steps, disregarding or exploding the obvious. Sometimes, it feints in one direction, then takes another. Or, the poem quickly upends our first, easy associations, as when William Blake uses the nouns "rose" and "love":


O rose, thou art sick;

The invisible worm

That flies in the night,

In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy,

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.

Blake reverses conventional expectation from his title onward, with a violent and exuberant forward thrust. A poem in Dorianne Laux's recent collection Facts About the Moon also has the quality of speed, incorporating reversal into a more zigzag movement:


Not nearly a woman like the backyard cedar

whose branches fall and curl,

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