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The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996 Paperback – April 7, 1997


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The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996 + The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525064
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Katha Pollitt writes that these are "extraordinarily accomplished and beautiful poems." Pinsky is a respected critic and translator and, as a poet, is a genius of sound and lineation. He also excels at the startling image, as when he describes a brain as "humming to itself, / Like a fat person eating M&Ms in the bathtub." The vividness of the image grabs our attention even as its poignancy and cruel edge complicate the tone of this intricate poem ("History of My Heart"). An impressive and moving collection.

From Publishers Weekly

To say that Pinsky's verse is thunderous is not to imply that it is loud and unbridled. Rather, like the true nature of thunder, each poem begins with a bolt to make its presence known (as with titles like "The Want Bone" and "Doctor Frolic" or such first lines as "Afternoon light like pollen"), rumbles on to strike primitive chords of religion and mythology in the reader's mind and winds down to a charged silence hanging on the coattails of a simple image. Brought together here are 16 new poems, the work of his four original collections and a sampling of his fine translations, including a canto from his well-received version of the Inferno. Taken as a whole, this is the record of a poet who grows from highly competent to near-transcendent, becomes more serious in tone while more complex in meter and enlivens everything from a baseball game to observations of his young daughter to an essay, in verse, on psychiatrists with a language that would be equally at home on vellum.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By tmchurch on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Not since William Morris put ink to paper and stained "Tyger, Tyger" has a poet moved me so much as Bob Pinsky has! A solid methodological and whimsically "fresh air" aspect underscores and overdetermines his every line and meme! I loved it so much I forgot who August Kleinzahler was for a minute! Boffo!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By I X Key on April 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I guess his work is so controversial because it's so thoroughly formalist in a time of experimentation. He is a very feeling person, a poet of feeling & great genius. He addresses all sorts of themes in these poems. All sorts, from the serenely bucolic [he sometimes begins poems by showing the reader that he's been sure to learn things about what he uses for images) to overtly sexual experiments that he says in the poem make you feel dirty. In one he muses about philosophy in general, which he declares as a poet is not his field, not quite, as nothing can stop the poet from thinking (no matter how much exile that means, I must add)but the thinking of poetry is be for poetry.
He is a very important poet. He was honored with the distinction of U.S. poet laureate three times in a row -- the first ever to be three times in a row -- because he's done more work for the vitality of poetry than almost any other person alive, matched or nearly matched by very few. In his scholarship, he studies everything so intently. In his writing, he channels the world through an equally unsparing dedication to mastery.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Haas on October 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
In contrast to, say, John Ashbery, Charles Simic, or Mark Strand, Robert Pinsky's poetry is practically unknown among literary circles in Europe. I guess it is Pinsky's variety both in tone and subject matter, which make him hard to place, and maybe even more, his obviously positive attitude towards life and ordinary people, which make it impossible for him ever to become the darling of European intellectuals.
Writing a long poem called "An Explanation of America" makes it look as if Pinsky wanted to place himself in the tradition of Whitman. And there is something Whitmanesque (?) in the sheer width of Pinsky's concerns - in contrast to contemporaries who dig in the same ground over and over again, Pinsky's imagination tries to encompass the variousness of what's going on around him and in his mind. Just flicking through the table of contents will show you that "Jesus and Isolt" or "The New Saddhus" sit comfortably side by side with what seems like childhood memoirs. Pinsky's humour and sense of irony are a far cry from Whitman, however, and so is his stylistic variety which matches the one of his concerns.
The Pinsky I like best is the one of the rather short, unpretentious poems like "The Beach Women". Here, the speaker recalls his youthful fascination with thirtyish women in the 50s:
"On those days I admired their tans, white dresses, / And pink oval fingernails on brown hands, and sold them / Perfume and lipstick, aspirins, throat lozenges and Tums, / Tampax, newspapers an paperback books - brave stays / Against boredom, discomfort, death and old age.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F. Graham on April 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books of poetry I've ever read. I personally own over 100 books of poetry, including anthologies and I can say, without a doubt, this may be one of the best books written in modern times and certainly in our lifetime.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really like the binding, I think it is a good quality.

Pinsky a really bright man and former US Poet laureate. He is capable of much wonderful lyricism but in this work I feel like 30% is awesome and the rest is droll and somewhat sterile compared to what he is capable of.

For comparison, I think Malena Mörling and Ben Lerner are more capable of making the ordinary more extraordinary and have a lot more imagination in their works as a whole. Also Tony Hogland is a master of satire, both in person and in writings.

I am still looking for some of Pinsky's other writings.

So far I really do think his The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide is the ideal for all poetry textbooks. It demonstrates a true understanding of how to present and learn about sound, rhythm, rhyme and voice and I think that is one of his gifts. I also really liked his translation of the Divine Comedy. I recommend that version if you have to read one in English it is really good. Do not mistake me though, Pinsky SHOULD BE READ, but maybe not this particular work as a whole.
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Format: Paperback
I think this one is worth the work.

I cannot imagine I'd ever read one of these stupid customer reviews and base my decision to buy a book of poetry on that review.

However, if I had never owned Pinsky's the Figured Wheel and if I had never read "the Volume" or that poem about his mother saying she heard Fats Waller playing piano in a mall, or the one about the grandmother, or the amazing one about the epileptic seizure in the store with that great line about "hachures in the brain," which is later called "the dark stubborn current that breathes blood," I would want this review to be written for that earlier me who had not encountered these things.

Me from 15 years ago: buy this book as soon as possible. Don't listen to anybody about it. Just read the damn thing. Read a lot of it. Put it down when it frustrates you. But read the stuff out of it. It's got some thinking about language in it that feels very fresh and it speaks in a way that no one else speaks and as such it is able to say things that no one else can say. For these reasons it will mean a lot to you some day and you will still read it after you've already read it a lot of times and the spine on the book is broken.
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