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Gulf Music: Poems

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  220 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Dollars, dolors. Callings and contrivances. King Zulu. Comus.
Sephardic ju-ju and verses. Voodoo mojo, Special Forces.

Henry formed a group named Professor Longhair and his
Shuffling Hungarians. After so much renunciation

And invention, is this the image of the promised end?
All music haunted by all the music of the dead forever.

Becky haunted forever by Pearl the daughter she
Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published October 16th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Miroku Nemeth
I cannot uniformly appreciate all of Pinsky’s poems, but some of them are very powerful and amply demonstrate his prowess as our former poet laureate. I will not go into the myriad problems and disconnections with modern poetry—the way it lingers in the academic ivory tower while the poetry of pop (or more hopefully, underground) music resonates with the masses, but it always bears consideration. I have not read much Pinsky since I was studying poetry in the 90’s, but I do remember a political e ...more
John Tessitore
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pinsky ends this volume with a prose meditation on memory. He asks, "Where in the mess is a true reflection, a lasting truth?" As a historian of objects, of newspapers and books and pliers, of "things" as well as of culture ("Louie Louie," Steven Wright), of mess and always of words, Pinksy is a rare contemporary poet; he seeks "lasting truth" in the world around him, in bright memory as well as in dark memory. Even his confessions exist in history--which sets him apart. But never question his h ...more
Kyler Wegner
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, you don't become poet laureate by merely shitting yourself.
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
A good review would be longer than the book itself. This isn't a good one. It's scattered. My thoughts all run together.

I really admire Pinsky and always like to read what he has to say about poetry. I've heard him speak a couple of times and he was wonderful. He's done more for American poetry than anyone I can think of. That said, I often have a hard time reading his poems. You can't be lazy. He requires a lot. Sometimes, I find myself thinking: He knows too much.

I always feel that I'm missin
Ronald Wise
This a collection of about four dozen short poems published in 2007, which seem to have been written since his last published collection in 1998. I found none to be very memorable, though from nearly all I experienced some curiosity or enjoyment. Perhaps my expectations for this collection were too high, as I had just completed Pinsky's An Explanation of America (1997), by which I was very touched and impressed.

There are many references to the events and public dialog of the early 2000s, especia
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Surprisingly the thing I liked most is the Notes section at the end of the book. I enjoyed reading Robert Pinsky's thoughts on memory and meaning:
"Forgetting is never perfect, just as recall is never total: the list or the person's name or the poem or the phone number may be recalled in every detail, but never with the exact feeling it had. And conversely the details may be obliterated, but a feeling lingers on.

"...One doesn't need to be Freudian to understand that memory and forgetting are part
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book at the same time as Robert Hass' "Time and Materials," so it was interesting to see how the two Roberts overlap--look for my Hass review soon! (as if I have an adoring public just salivating for my opinions)

The work here in "Gulf Music" is concerned often with the "thinginess" of objects, as well as etymology and language. Many of the poems move by association--"Poem of Disconnected Parts," for example, consists of couplets that almost feel like ghazal couplets, in that the idea
Funny how some reviewers here felt Pinsky was 'too smart' for them. What the heck? I doubt this guy refurbishes Russian rockets and sends them to Mars. He's no Elon Musk. Sure, Pinsky has experiences and is well-read, but, that doesn't make him 'too smart', not for anyone. When he writes poetry from those experiences, he excludes (wide) audiences that have not had - or don't care for - those experiences. That's all. So, for those of you who felt/feel Pinsky is 'too smart' for you: don't beat you ...more
Sep 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had been meaning to read some amount of Pinsky (instead of just a poem here and there) for a while now, but I don't think I should have started with this one. Pinsky is a very technical poet, and he's very good at the nuts and bolts, but some of the poems, while excellent pieces of writing, failed completely to move or resonate with me at all. A few are great, but most of them I did not care for or even actively disliked. The titular work, for example, was a poem that while it stands as an ext ...more
Christina Rau
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Robert Pinsky is too smart for me. Gulf Music intertwines myth with modern day in the same poems and includes scatting of music notes that represent some sort of music I’m either not familiar with or that he has a difficult time translating in a soundless book. I read the Note at the end first, and that became my favorite part because it is a license to read the poems without understanding them, which is really what I did. I can enjoy the sound of poetry. I did very much enjoy the focus on defin ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As some others have said, Pinsky is just too smart for me. His poetry is clearly erudite, wide-ranging, and makes connections between the old and the new, both in world history and personal history, but only a handful of these poems really spoke to me. I enjoyed his end notes more than the poems themselves, for the most part, though I really appreciated Keyboard, Akhmatova's 'Summer Garden', Jar of Pens, Other Hand, The Dig, and XYZ. I like his shorter pieces better, perhaps because his longer o ...more
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
"The world is allusive." This could also be said of Robert Pinsky's poetry (as allusion or "net of being"). His poems are allusive things. This latest poetic effort and endeavor (Gulf Music) is all-allusive and civic-minded as usual (if not unapologetic). Classical and contemporary. Daring to be disparate, desperate for missing connections, edges, transitions. Engulfed by, engulfed in worldly affairs, atrocities, lyrics, music, poems, things, and translation. Pervasively political if not occasio ...more
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

How can my words even begin to do justice to the force of Pinsky's? My clumsy attempt: his creative, tangible imagery, his practiced but seemingly effortless use of rhyme (when he uses it), the raw and innovative subject material, from prisoners in Guantanamo to his left hand, all are to be greatly admired. I was not surprised that he is hailed as a major American poet, as I found myself re-reading entire stanzas, entire poems, as if hungering for that which his poems conveyed. Several of my
I'm always surprised not to hate poetry by Pinsky...some of these really having something going for them, though. He'll create these elaborate pastiche mosaics, all interlocking and fascinating (if a bit too tidy)—and then suddenly they get interrupted by his voice/tone, which really just does not do it for me. It's still a solid three stars, because I like some of the lines, but I wish he'd pull out the stops sometimes, get messier, be more (yes, I'm going to say it) Jewy and less goy. I'll giv ...more
Even if Robert Pinsky should never give me anything else, I will always hold him in high regard for a provisional answer to a question I've been holding for some time. Did he know what he was doing when he wrote his "Poem of Disconnected Parts"? When I first read the poem in _Poetry_ the words "Culture the lock, culture the key" opened up a path for my own work, the fruits of which remain to be seen. So I gobbled up _Gulf Music_ in search of more of the same. I remember liking the book, but noth ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-poetics
This was a challenge. Love the "Thing" poems. Love "The Forgetting" and "Louie Louie." Love "Rhyme," "Immature Song," his Dante translation. Most of the book, actually, except for some in the first section.

I'm thinking of using "Poem with Lines in Any Order" in one of my poetry classes. Have the students rearrange the lines.

His note at the end is brilliant in its own right: "Forgetting is not mere absence. The repressed does not simply return, it transforms and abrogates, rising and plunging lik
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
It's been a while since I've come across a poet who Ive enjoyed as much on first reading as I have Pinsky. There are times I think he overreaches in showing off a pretty substantial vocabulary-but overall a great use of language.

Makes me wonder how I've managed to miss him, as he has been writing poetry since 1975. Plus the man has guest starred on the Simpsons, something most poets havent done.
M- S__
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
There were some missteps and some nonsense scattered in this collection, but I generally felt excited throughout the reading. This is my first book length exposure to Pinsky, and I have gathered from the comments here it might not have been the best start. If that's the case I'm really looking forward to the next reads.
Donald Armfield
Robert Pinsky is a beast. And I mean that as great if we are speaking ebonics.

This is one of my favorite books, it would be easier for me to say I didn't care for a certain poem in this book, but still found it interesting
★Overall Favorites★
-The Thicket
-The Forgetting
-If the Dead Came Back
-Eurydice and Stalin
-El Burro Es un Animal
Lisa Lepore
from Antique

I drowned in the fire of having you, I burned
In the river of not having you, we lived
Together for hours in a house of a thousand rooms
And we were parted for a thousand years.
Ten minutes ago we raised our children who cover
The earth and have forgotten that we existed.
It was not maya, it was not a ladder to perfection,
It was this cold sunlight falling on this warm earth.
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This man was United States Poet Laureate between 1997-2000, so I figured I had to check him out at some point. Lo and behold, Pinsky is past his prime on this one, where his strongest work still reads like a wooden classroom writing prompt. Pretty unimaginative, cliche stuff here. from the Academy of American Poets
Prepare for the 2010 Poets Forum in New York City (October 28-30) by reading Pinsky's newest book of poetry, and check out the Poets Forum 2010 bookshelf for the latest collections by each of the poets participating in the Poets Forum. Happy reading!
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't my favorite collection by Pinsky. It had a bit of an edge and he was very political. I still go back to previous collection, "The Want Bone" and "Jersey Rain,"however I'm not sure I would reread this one.
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2008, poetry
pinsky does some astonishing, beautiful things in this collection. i feel that i need to own this one, read it and read it and read it. some poems i definitely liked more than others, but there wasn't one that i found flat.
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Part II of the book, the series of poems about things, was beautiful, lyrical, simple, believable, all in the best ways. I was less compelled by I and II, though both did contain poems I liked. The book is worth it for Part II alone.
Dec 03, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
[rec: critical mass blog]
ej cullen
I like good poetry. but this isn't it (despite Pinsky being the Poet Laureate of the US from '97 to 2000.)
Emily Gordon
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you read this, you get why the man was Poet Laureate for three years running. I wanted to read these poems aloud over and over.
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Gulf Music, by Robert Pinsky 4 19 Dec 20, 2011 07:00AM  
  • News of the World
  • New Addresses
  • Blackbird and Wolf: Poems
  • Time and Materials
  • Warhorses
  • What Narcissism Means to Me
  • Collected Poems
  • The Blue Estuaries
  • Flies
  • Averno
  • Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
  • Native Guard: Poems
  • Walking the Black Cat
  • All-American Poem
  • Atlantis
  • The Deleted World
  • Next Life
  • The Niagara River
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. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including The Inferno of Dante Alighieri and The Separate Notebooks by ...more
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