Robert Pinsky 

Akhmatova’s “Summer Garden”

I want to return to that unique garden walled
By the most magnificent ironwork in the world

Where the statues remember me young and I remember
Them the year they were underwater

And in fragrant silence
Under a royal colonnade of lindens

I imagine the creaking of ships’ masts and the swan
Floats over the centuries admiring its flawless twin.

Asleep there like the dead are hundreds of thousands
Of footfalls of friends and enemies, enemies and friends

The procession of those shades is endless
From the granite urn to the doorway of the palace

Where my white night of those years whisper
About some love grand and mysterious

And everything glows like mother-of-pearl and jasper
Though the source of that light also is mysterious.


The Wave
(Virgil, Georgics III:237-244)
As when far off in the middle of the ocean
A breast-shaped curve of wave begins to whiten
And rise above the surface, then rolling on
Gathers and gathers until it reaches land
Huge as a mountain and crashes among the rocks
With a prodigious road, and what was deep
Comes churning up from the bottom in mighty swirls
Of sunken sand and living things and water –

So in the springtime every race of people
And all the creatures on earth or in the water,
Wild animals and flocks and all the birds
In all their painted colors,
all rush to charge
Into the fire that burns them: love moves them all.


If You Could Write One Great Poem, What Woudl It Be About?

(Asked of four student poets at the
Illinois School for the Visually Impaired)

Fire: because it is quick, and can destroy.
Music: place where anger has its place.
Romantic Love – the cold or stupid ask why.
Sign: that it is a language, full of grace,

That it is visible, invisible, dark and clear,
That it is loud and noiseless and is contained
Inside a body and explodes in air
Out of a body to conquer from the mind.


Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.