Sasha Pimentel Recommends...

“In the poem ‘He Would Never Use One Word Where None Would Do,’ Philip Levine says: ‘Fact is, silence is the perfect water: / unlike rain it falls from no clouds….’ I attach to this Denise Levertov’s idea that a poet must be brought to speech—what we write must be felt so intensely, it ‘wakes in [the poet] this demand: the poem.’

Why use words at all if none can do, if silence, unlike temperamental rain is already there, and constant? The things that really matter will likely remain unlettered, unsayable. How painful, for example, when we learned a man so large in his compassion, and in the force of his words as Levine, was dying. I still cling to the few calls I had with his voice on the other side of the line, how he showed me, just before time collapsed to memory, his belief in me. But what I cling to most is his poetry. What demands speech in a lyrical space are the News of the World (Knopf, 2009) and The Simple Truth (Knopf, 1994). So I read the news, grieve our present and our histories there, let it wake in me what ‘must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,’ what must be ‘laid on the table beside the salt-shaker, / the glass of water,’ let it wake in me that words are not for ornament, nor play, nor experiment—that words will fail us, that in the news are revealed some of our hardest lines and corners, our brutality and our vulnerability resonant there. Then I try to break into the first word.”
—Sasha Pimentel, author of For Want of Water: And Other Poems (Beacon Press, 2017)