Galway Kinnell, “Why Regret?”

Once again, I’m reminded [follow this link, maybe?] about this fantastic poem, which I first came across cradled in the folds of an excerpt from Nick Hornby’s “About a Boy” within the pages of the December 22 & 29, 1997 New Yorker.

I had memorized the Kinnell poem back when I lived in Greenpoint in the winter and spring of 1998, when I still spent time walking over the Pulaski bridge to get to the subway to get to whatever job I might have had then. This 20-minute exercise afforded me the luxury of spending time memorizing poems off of index cards: I would carry the index card in my jacket pocket, or hold it in my gloved hands (this one is a winter memory, you see), while hustling across the freezing Newtown Creek toward the no. 7 train’s Vernon-Jackson stop.

Memorial Day of that year I bought my first bike and by fall of the next year I had sworn off the pedestrian transit of the bridge in favor of cycling over and taking the Queensboro bridge into Manhattan, one side effect being the loss of poetry-memorizing time. But every once in a while I look around for the Kinnell poem, which has gotten much easier to find since it was published in a book Strong Is Your Hold.

Unfortunately for me, Mr. Kinnell has revised his poem for publication (which is why I’m not putting the whole thing in this blog post; I remember the old poem, not the new one. It would be like showing a picture of a 2008 Jamis Durango and claiming, “This is the bike I bought in 1998, which freed me from the drudgery of walking across the Pulaski Bridge on winter mornings.”) I remember line 17 as being “muck, birdlime, slime, mucus, gleet, ooze,” not “glaim, gleet, birdlime, slime, mucus, muck” as it is in the book.

The Robbins poem, “Alien vs. Predator,” when compared to the Kinnell poem, just seems glitzy and shiny and made of tinfoil. Its delights are insipid compared to the deep wonder and insight of Kinnell’s verses.


“a little foam chiropractor”? Meh. What’s the fun in memorizing a poem like that?

Galway Kinnell, “Why Regret?”