The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996

The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996

by Robert Pinsky


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The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996 by Robert Pinsky

The Figured Wheel fully collects the first four books of poetry, as well as twenty-one new poems, by Robert Pinsky, the former U.S. Poet Laureate.

Critic Hugh Kenner, writing about Pinsky's first volume, described this poet's work as "nothing less than the recovery for language of a whole domain of mute and familiar experience." Both the transformation of the familiar and the uttering of what has been hitherto mute or implicit in our culture continue to be central to Pinsky's art. New poems like "Avenue" and "The City Elegies" envision the urban landscape's mysterious epitome of human pain and imagination, forces that recur in "Ginza Samba," an astonishing history of the saxophone, and "Impossible to Tell," a jazz-like work that intertwines elegy with both the Japanese custom of linking-poems and the American tradition of ethnic jokes. A final section of translations includes Pinsky's renderings of poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Paul Celan, and others, as well as the last canto of his award-winning version of the Inferno.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374525064
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux-3pl
Publication date: 04/28/1997
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,335,065
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

A former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey. In addition to his books of poetry and The Inferno of Dante, he has written prose works, including The Life of David and The Sounds of Poetry.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


In the early winter dusk the broken city dark
Seeps from the tunnels. Up towers and in gusty alleys,

The mathematical veil of generation has lit its torches
To light the rooms of the mated and unmated: the two

Fated behind you and four behind them in the matrix
Widening into the past, eight, sixteen, thirty-two,

Many as the crystal dream cells illuminating the city.
Even for those who sleep in the street there are lights.

Like a heavy winter sleep the long flint cold of the past
Spreads over the glinting dream-blisters of the city, asleep

Or awake, as if the streets were an image of the channels
Of time, with sixty-four, one hundred and twenty-eight,

The ancestral net of thousands only a couple of centuries back,
With its migrations and fortunes and hungers like an image

Of the city where the star-dispelling lights have climbed
And multiplied over the tenements and outlying suburbs

Like a far past of multitudes behind us in the glistering web
Of strands crossing, thousands and tens of thousands

Of lives coupled with their gains, passions, misfortunes.
Somewhere in the tangled alleyways, a rape. Somewhere

A spirit diffused winglike, blindalong the stretched wires
Branching the dark city air or bundled under the streets,

Coursing surely to some one face like an ancient song Do re,
Re la sol sol
. Somewhere diaspora, somewhere

Back here one died of starvation, here one thrived. Descendant,
The bitter city work and the shimmering maternal burden

Of music uncoil outward on the avenues through smoky bars,
By televisions, beyond sleepers while the oblivion of generation

Radiates backward and then forward homeward to the one voice
Or face like an underground pool, through its delicate lightshaft

Moonlit, a cistern of light, echoing in a chamber cellared under
The dark of the city pavement, the faintly glittering slabs.

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