Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anton Chekhov and Mark Twain are among the artists who studied the craft of writing while working as journalists. Willa Cather and Langston Hughes, too, met deadlines. The demands of concision, clarity and accuracy helped develop their gifts. But a poem reports about something different from news, even when the material is similar. That distinction is clear when a superb reporter such as Eliza Griswold, who has covered Afghanistan, Africa and Guantánamo, also excels as a poet.


The soldiers are children and the monkey's young.

He clings to my leg, heart against calf --

a throat filling, refilling with blood.

Last week, the children ate his mother --

dashed her head against the breadfruit.

A young girl soldier laughs,

tears the baby from my leg

and hurls him toward the tree.

See, she says, you have to be rough.

When she was taken, the girl's

heart too pulsed in her throat.

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