cover image The Want Bone

The Want Bone

Robert Pinsky. Ecco Press, $17.95 (70pp) ISBN 978-0-88001-250-8

Most lyric poetry turns and tumbles in the bittersweet pathos of desire; the human heart and its fantasies have been Pinsky's subject for many years. His last book, History of My Heart , tried to locate the source of desire in autobiography. The new volume, a kind of sequel, largely avoids personal subject matter in order to explore the manifestations of desire in religious and mythological stories, from those of the Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati to Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar and--in a stunning prose piece, ``Jesus and Isolt''--the fabled lovers Tristram and Isolt. One could call his subject desire in the abstract; the poet addresses ``The old conspiracy of gain and pleasure / Flowering in the mind greedily to build the world / And break it.'' His writing is lush as Pinsky tries to remove himself from the Augustan mode of his earlier work--sentences sprawl over tercets and shift direction suddenly. This may be his best book; it is certainly his best collection of lyric poetry. (May)