Robert Pinsky and Repetition

Sun, 12/01/2019 - 8:00am

Robert Pinsky poet laureate of the United States, 1997-2000, is charming, engaging and passionate, especially when he talks about his love of music and the importance of rhyme and tone in poetry. Here is a clip of Pinsky reading his poems with a live jazz band – his voice like another instrument riffing right along with the clarinet and the saxaphone.

Pinsky said, “I think the rhythms in a lot of my writing are an attempt to create that feeling of a beautiful, gorgeous jazz solo that gives you more emotion and some more and coming around with some more, and it’s the same but it’s changed, and the rhythm is very powerful, but it is also lyricism. I think I’ve been trying to create something like that in my writing for a long time.” (The Progressive).


Watch Pinsky recite his poem, Samurai Song, and notice his use of repetition. Pinsky repeats the phrase, "when I" many times, varying the length of the sentences. You can be serious with your tone, or you can be light-hearted, in talking about chocolate ice cream for example. It's the rhythm and tone of your writing that will be the incantation. Try it and let me know how it turns out.