Poet's Choice

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By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Personal emotions -- impatience, affection, discomfort of illness, pleasure in food or music, feeling old or angry, sorrow and exhilaration -- are not necessarily diminished by political or social context. On the contrary, the context can make the feelings mean more. In a way, the word "personal" is what diminishes emotion, by bleaching away the social or political meanings of what we feel. That is why Adrienne Rich's poetry has enduring importance. Here is a poem from her new book:

ARCHAIC

Cold wit leaves me cold

this time of the world Multifoliate disorders

straiten my gait Minuets don't become me

Been wanting to get out see the sights

but the exits are slick with people

going somewhere fast

every one with a shared past

and a mot juste And me so out of step

with my late-night staircase inspirations my

utopian slant


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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