Despair, mania, rage, guilt, derangement, fantasy: poetry is our most intimate, personal source for the urgency of these experiences. Poems get under our skin; they engage with the balm, and the sting, of understanding. In The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall
—its title inspired by a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem—acclaimed poet Robert Pinsky gives us more than 130 poems that explore emotion at its most expansive, distinct, and profound.
With seven illuminating chapters and succinct headnotes for each poem, Pinsky leads us through the book’s sweeping historical range. Each chapter, with contents chronologically presented from Shakespeare to Terrance Hayes, Dante to Patricia Lockwood, shows the persistence and variation in our states of mind. “The Sleep of Reason” explores sanity and the imagination, moving from William Cowper’s “Lines Written During a Time of Insanity” to Nicole Sealey’s “a violence.” “Grief” includes Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs last in the Door-yard Bloom’d” and Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do,” and “Manic Laughter” highlights both Lewis Carroll and Martín Espada. Each poem reveals something new about the vastness of human emotion; taken together they offer a sweeping ode to the power of poetry.
Guided by “our finest living example of [the American civic poet]” (New York Times
), The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall
demonstrates how extreme feelings can be complementary and contradicting, and how poetry is not just an expression of emotion, but emotion itself.