PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue Jen Schmitt on Ekphrasis Rachel Hadas on Text and Pandemic Kirsty Gunn Essaying two Jee Leong Koh Palinodes in the Voice of my Dead Father Maureen Mclane Correspondent Breeze
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 17, Volume 7 Number 3, January - February 1981.

The Interest of Poetry Robert Pinsky

(A talk given as part of a panel discussion at the 1979 MLA meeting in San Francisco)

My response to our topic ("Current Unstated Assumptions About Poetry") will be to muse briefly about what makes poetry interesting - to formulate my own assumptions about the interest of poetry, and to speculate a little about rival assumptions, as I think they are reflected in the institutions or social arrangements that surround poetry in my own life. And finally, I'll present an example of my idea of an "interesting" poem - magisterially interesting, in the way that a work of art can interest us, permeating our inner life.

In a book called The Situation of Poetry I tried to put forward the assumption that poetry is a mode of speech, continuous with all the other ways we use language - the assumption, though I didn't state it in these terms, that poems are things that people say. Poems are more than that, too, of course; but just as Pound urges that poetry be at least as well-written as prose, one would like to write poems that are at least as interesting as good gossip; at least as urgent as "Help, I'm stuck!"; at least as communicative as "Excuse me, you're standing on my foot". This continuity of poetry with speech - the idea that a poem is something one says, and more - has been my "unstated assumption".

The opposite, alternative assumption is that poetry ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image