Deciding to remember, and what to remember, is how we decide who we are.
An Explantion of America: A Love of Death (An Excerpt)
by Robert Pinsky
The obliterating strangeness and the spaces
Are as hard to imagine as the love of death …
Which is the love of an entire strangeness,
The contagious blankness of a quiet plain.
Imagine that a man, who had seen a prairie,
Should write a poem about a Dark or Shadow
That seemed to be both his, and the prairie’s—as if
The shadow proved that he was not a man,
But something that lived in quiet, like the grass.
Imagine that the man who writes that poem,
Stunned by the loneliness of that wide pelt,
Should prove to himself that he was like a shadow
Or like an animal living in the dark.
In the dark proof he finds in his poem, the man
Might come to think of himself as the very prairie,
The sod itself, not lonely, and immune to death.
None of this happens precisely as I try
To imagine that it does, in the empty plains,
And yet it happens in the imagination
Of part of the country: not in any place
More than another, on the map, but rather
Like a place, where you and I have never been
And need to try to imagine—place like a prairie
Where immigrants, in the obliterating strangeness,
Thirst for the wide contagion of the shadow
Or prairie—where you and I, with our other ways,
More like the cities or the hills or trees,
Less like the clear blank spaces with their potential,
Are like strangers in a place we must imagine.
Robert Pinsky was the Poet Laureate during Bill Clinton’s second term, a public position that was somewhat ill suited to his quiet nature. However, change is good, even for old poets, and it offered him the opportunity to spearhead some unique projects, one of which was My Favorite Poem for the Library of Congress. Originally intended to be only 100 poems, being a poet with a panel of poets, they changed the rules because there were too many good ones and “the list” became 180. People from all over the country and backgrounds submitted entries and those that were selected were recorded as well. I am disappointed to report there were scant few sonnets, and of those included, I was not a fan. However, I am happy to report there are a lot of other great poems. If you’re looking for an eclectic free anthology on-line, check it out. Thank you Robert!
Loses his position on worksheet or page in textbook May speak much but makes little sense Cannot give clear verbal instructions Does not understand what he reads Does not understand what he hears Cannot handle “yes-no” questions
Has great difficulty interpreting proverbs Has difficulty recalling what he ate for breakfast, etc. Cannot tell a story from a picture Cannot recognize visual absurdities
Has difficulty classifying and categorizing objects Has difficulty retaining such things as addition and subtraction facts, or multiplication tables May recognize a word one day and not the next
I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.
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