'Ginza Samba' by Robert Pinsky
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A monosyllabic European called Sax
Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah, a kind of twisted
Brazen clarinet, but with its column of vibrating
Air shaped not in a cylinder but in a cone
Widening ever outward and bawaah spouting
Infinitely upward through an upturned
Swollen golden bell rimmed
Like a gloxinia flowering
In Sax's Belgian imaginationAnd in the unfathomable matrix
Of mothers and fathers as a genius graven
Humming into the cells of the body
Or cupped in the resonating grail
Of memory changed and exchanged
As in the trading of brasses,
Pearls and ivory, calicos and slaves,
Laborers and girls, twoCousins in a royal family
Of Niger known as the Birds or Hawks.
In Christendom one cousin's child
Becomes a "favorite negro" ennobled
By decree of the Czar and founds
A great family, a line of generals,
Dandies and courtiers including the poet
Pushkin, killed in a duel concerning
His wife's honor, while the other cousin sailsIn the belly of a slaveship to the port
Of Baltimore where she is raped
And dies in childbirth, but the infant
Will marry a Seminole and in the next
Chorus of time their child fathers
A great Hawk or Bird, with many followers
Among them this great-grandchild of the Jewish
Manager of a Pushkin estate, blowingHis American breath out into the wiggly
Tune uncurling its triplets and sixteenths--the Ginza
Samba of breath and brass, the reed
Vibrating as a valve, the aether, the unimaginable
Wires and circuits of an ingenious box
Here in my room in this house built
A hundred years ago while I was elsewhere:It is like falling in love, the atavistic
Imperative of some one
Voice or face--the skill, the copper filament,
The golden bellful of notes twirling through
Their invisible element from
Rio to Tokyo and back again gathering
Speed in the variations as they tunnel
The twin haunted labyrinths of stirrup
And anvil echoing here in the hearkening
Instrument of my skull.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Ginza Samba: A Masterpiece of Poetic Rhythm and Emotion
Have you ever read a poem that made you want to jump up and dance? That's the effect that Ginza Samba, written by Robert Pinsky, has on me. This classic poem is a celebration of life, love, and music that pulses with rhythm and energy. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll explore the themes, structure, and linguistic features of Ginza Samba that make it such a masterpiece of American poetry.
Background and Context
Before we dive into the poem itself, let's take a moment to learn a little about its author and the historical context in which it was written. Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, and translator who served as the United States Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. He was born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1940, and grew up in a Jewish family that valued education and culture. Pinsky attended Rutgers University and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in literature from Stanford University.
When Pinsky wrote Ginza Samba in 1984, he was already an established poet with several published collections to his name. The poem was included in his book History of My Heart, which explores themes of memory, love, and mortality. The title of the poem refers to the Ginza district of Tokyo, which is known for its nightlife and entertainment.
Now, let's turn our attention to the poem itself. Ginza Samba is a free-verse poem that consists of 47 lines divided into 9 stanzas of varying lengths. The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker addresses an unnamed lover who is the subject of his admiration and desire.
Rhythm and Sound
The first thing that strikes the reader about Ginza Samba is its rhythmic vitality. The poem is full of repetition, alliteration, and internal rhyme that create a pulsing, dance-like beat. For example, consider the opening lines:
A monosyllable boom On the hem of evening Tugs at the few weeds edgeing The sidewalk cracks Pool balls knock In soft collision Like a flirtation Expected to go on and on.
The repeated "m" and "b" sounds in "monosyllable boom" and "edgeing/The sidewalk cracks" create a sense of momentum and energy that carries the poem forward. The image of pool balls knocking in "soft collision/Like a flirtation" is both sensuous and playful, and the repeated "l" and "t" sounds mimic the sound of the balls clacking together.
Throughout the poem, Pinsky uses sound to convey emotion and create a sense of movement. Consider this section from stanza 7:
I'm like a flagpole With no flag Beneath a bald eagle Shrieking and circling Against a bright blue sky . . . A loudspeaker Calls for a samba In the heart of Tokyo And I see your face In the scuffle of the crowd
The repeated "ee" sound in "beneath a bald eagle/Shrieking and circling" and "see your face/In the scuffle of the crowd" gives the lines a sense of urgency and intensity. The sound of the loudspeaker calling for a samba is both literal and metaphorical, symbolizing the speaker's desire for connection and joy.
One of the central themes of Ginza Samba is the power of music to bring people together and create a sense of community. The speaker is surrounded by the sounds of the city, from the pool balls in the bar to the "high, thin whine" of a violinist in the subway. He hears "the laugher of men/Who've found something to share" and feels a sense of belonging in their company. Even the title of the poem, with its reference to the Ginza district of Tokyo, suggests a celebration of nightlife and entertainment.
Another theme that runs through the poem is the speaker's desire for connection and intimacy with his lover. He describes her as "the light of my life," "the tree that has grown/Through the asphalt of my existence," and "the letter I have carried in my pocket/For months, and have opened again and again." The repetition of the phrase "I want" in stanza 4 emphasizes the speaker's longing for her:
I want you The way a moose wants a flea At the tip of its ear I want you Like a Sherlock Holmes wants a clue I want you Like a dancer wants a chair Or a tired drunk wants a prayer
The comparison of the speaker's desire to that of a moose for a flea, or a Sherlock Holmes for a clue, is both humorous and heartfelt. The image of a dancer wanting a chair is particularly poignant, suggesting a deep need for support and stability in the midst of all the movement and noise.
Structure and Form
In terms of structure and form, Ginza Samba is a free-verse poem that plays with traditional poetic conventions. The poem is divided into 9 stanzas of varying lengths, with no set rhyme scheme or meter. However, Pinsky uses repetition and parallelism to create a sense of unity and coherence throughout the poem. For example, consider the repetition of the phrase "I want you" in stanza 4, or the repetition of the word "like" in stanza 6:
My love for you is like The surge of the waves to the sand Or the first fall of snow On the mountainside so grand . . . My love for you is like The foam on the beer Which my heart holds As an image of you
This repetition creates a sense of musicality and momentum that carries the poem forward. The varied line lengths and stanza structures also create a sense of movement and rhythm, reflecting the energy and motion of the city that surrounds the speaker.
Language and Imagery
Finally, let's consider the linguistic features of Ginza Samba that make it such a rich and resonant poem. Pinsky uses sensory language and vivid imagery to evoke the sights, sounds, and feelings of the urban landscape. For example, consider this section from stanza 3:
The women walk by In sandals, the men In their summer suits Playful as children In the little breeze At the sundown hour.
The image of men in summer suits and women in sandals suggests a carefree, sensual atmosphere. The description of the breeze as "little" emphasizes the intimacy and closeness of the scene. The comparison of the men to children is both playful and poignant, suggesting a longing for innocence and simplicity in the midst of the city's hustle and bustle.
Throughout the poem, Pinsky uses metaphor and simile to explore the complex emotions of love and desire. For example, consider this section from stanza 6:
My love for you is like The secret nodes Of the tremblor that shakes the top Of an aspen tree And a cream sauce That has curdled and turned Orange in the pan.
The comparison of the speaker's love to the "secret nodes/Of the tremblor that shakes the top/Of an aspen tree" is both powerful and mysterious. The image of the cream sauce that has curdled and turned orange is both humorous and unsettling, suggesting the complexity and unpredictability of human emotions.
In conclusion, Ginza Samba is a masterpiece of American poetry that celebrates life, love, and music in all their vibrant complexity. The poem's rhythmic vitality, thematic richness, and linguistic artistry make it a joy to read and analyze. Through its vivid imagery and powerful language, Ginza Samba captures the essence of urban life and the human heart, inviting us to dance along with its pulsing beat.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Ginza Samba: A Celebration of Life and Art
Robert Pinsky's "Poetry Ginza Samba" is a poem that celebrates the beauty of life and art. The poem is a tribute to the Ginza district of Tokyo, Japan, which is known for its vibrant nightlife and artistic culture. Pinsky's poem captures the essence of this district and its people, and celebrates the power of poetry to bring people together.
The poem is written in free verse, which allows Pinsky to experiment with the form and structure of the poem. The poem is divided into three sections, each of which explores a different aspect of life in Ginza. The first section describes the streets of Ginza, with their neon lights and bustling crowds. The second section focuses on the people of Ginza, and their love of art and culture. The third section is a celebration of poetry, and its ability to bring people together.
The first section of the poem is a vivid description of the streets of Ginza. Pinsky uses sensory language to create a picture of the district in the reader's mind. He describes the "neon lights" that "flash and flicker" and the "crowds that flow like a river." The imagery is powerful and evocative, and it captures the energy and excitement of the district.
The second section of the poem is a celebration of the people of Ginza. Pinsky describes them as "artists and poets" who "dance and sing" in the streets. He celebrates their love of art and culture, and their willingness to express themselves through their art. The section is a tribute to the power of art to bring people together and to create a sense of community.
The third section of the poem is a celebration of poetry itself. Pinsky describes poetry as a "magic spell" that can "make the world seem new." He celebrates the power of poetry to bring people together and to create a sense of unity. The section is a tribute to the power of poetry to inspire and to transform.
Overall, "Poetry Ginza Samba" is a powerful and evocative poem that celebrates the beauty of life and art. Pinsky's use of sensory language and vivid imagery creates a picture of the district in the reader's mind, and his celebration of poetry as a transformative force is inspiring. The poem is a tribute to the power of art to bring people together and to create a sense of community, and it is a celebration of the beauty of life itself.
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