Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Poetry's refrains and introspections, its way of repeating itself in sound or idea, with each recurrence varying, link the art to a certain kind of thought. The word "reflection" can be a synonym for thought and also for a close resemblance. The way thought beholds itself is an important subject: Self-awareness, painful or ecstatic, is a central human experience.

Mary Kinzie's new book reflects on itself and on poetry in a spirit that is engaging, expansive, venturesome, sometimes comic or surreal. In a sequence about T.S. Eliot in California with his love interest Emily Hale, the couple visits the In-N-Out hamburger chain, as do other poets, including Emily Dickinson and Henry Thoreau.

Kinzie includes many prose sections. In one of these, she uses the phrase "windless, bony dusk" then reflects that the phrase is too showy and "pleased with itself" for prose, though it might be appropriately "chastened" in a poem she has not written. A few pages later, the phrase comes back (without its comma), in a poem with a prose afterword:


those streets down which

sun never falls

Above which

stories cloud up

with a god onlooking

twisting about the sky

The poems to burn through into code

like an opera in silver

When death begins

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