"All Must Suffer": Suffering and Rest
I just learned this very hour that the poet Helen Pinkerton Trimpi died peacefully yesterday, surrounding by her family. As she approached the age of ninety, she sometimes sent me photographs of herself with several generations of her family, Helen herself cradling a great-grandchild in her arms. Many people were enriched by Helen's company, scholarship, and poetry over the decades, and I look forward to reading their tributes to her remarkable personality and achievement.
For the moment, I wish merely to point toward the last -- of a good number -- of pieces I wrote on Helen's work over the last decade. We spent much of that decade in close correspondence, as I studied her poems and interviewed her about her life and work; as the years passed, as she slowed down, our conversation turned in attention more to my own work, which she scrutinized closely, helping me revise my first book of poems after it appeared, reviewing my second, and then offering insightful suggestions as Fortunes of Poetry and The Vision of the Soul moved toward publication. She read both in manuscript and, in fact, read the latter as I was still writing it. How grateful I was to have such a reader in such a friend.
I will also add how honored I was to be the publisher of Helen's last poem, "Dialogue." I helped her work on it and, unhappily, my criticisms caused her to refrain from publishing it in her Collected Poems. She only reluctantly gave it to me to publish in Modern Age, knowing that her remaining strength would not allow her to return to the poem. It was in fact a fitting crown to her achievement and drew into a few spare, blank pentameter stanzas a summary of her entire life's work in poetry, which was always to encounter God who is Being Itself, the one who causes all things such that to contemplate existence is to enter into the fundamental mystery of reality and to be confronted by Existence Itself in the face of our Redeemer. May the God of Creation and Redemption bless her and accompany her into his eternity.
A note from December 7, 2016:
The Weekly Standard has now published "It's a Battlefield," my review of A Journey of the Mind, the collected poems of Helen Pinkerton. Readers of my work will know that I have written a great deal about Pinkerton, publishing two interpretive essays on her work, a personal interview with her, and also citing her more than once in my various books and articles. She is one of the best American poets of this last century; I hope this little article will serve as a fitting last word on her small but impressive body of work. Click the picture to read the review.
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