The Poetry of Helen Pinkerton

When Helen Pinkerton died on December 28, 2017, she left behind a body of verse that, though modestly compact, has great grace and intelligence. However, while her poetry has never lacked for serious admirers, it has not received recognition commensurate with its excellence. In the following pages, I want to explain why she deserves new readers. She was wonderfully unusual—formidably thoughtful and direct, both in person and on the page. She also had a fascinating life, and to the extent that her life illuminates her poems, I hope to tell her story, blending, so to speak, biography with literary appreciation.

Song at Seventy

I’ve poems to write or polish
And daily tasks to tackle.
I don’t devote a lot
Of bandwidth to the thought
That time may soon demolish
My earthly tabernacle.

I’ve given some fears lodging:
What if Earth’s glaciers melt?
Will demagogues undo
Our polis? Can the New
Horizons probe keep dodging
Rocks in the Kuiper Belt?

But death seems merely strange
And tragic. It’s what’s not.
I have a hard time seeing
Myself as an ex-being.
Matter and mind and change
Are all I’ve known and got.