Robert Pinsky on the Favorite Poem Project

Robert Pinsky at Poetry Daily:

Here’s an example of “covert arrogance,” from Jersey Breaks: when I was twenty years old, I applied to a foundation for money I was hoping to live on for the year after I graduated from college.

When, after the customary month or two of suspense, mail arrived from the foundation, with a high-class return address, I did not open the envelope. I put it on the mantel of a bricked-in fireplace, and there I left it, address outward, for several days. Taking my time asserted, in a childish and heartfelt way, that I was not in the power of that well-meaning institution. Behaving as if I was worth more than any Foundation reassured me that it might be true. The little gesture was personal to a fault. It was covert, in that only one person, the one I was living with, was aware of it.

That juvenile performance of restraint, or belief in myself, or whatever I thought I was doing, of course reflected a wealth of petty wounds and resentments—my particular theater of the accumulated humiliations and compensating fantasies of any life, peculiar to our each one life. Or if not a theater, a tavern where you can be drunk on your personal cocktail of blended arrogance shaken with despair and finished with a dash of bitters.

Now, in my eighties, I halfway forgive the kid his pointless though impressive feat.

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