Friday, October 23, 2009

Robert Pinsky at Midwest Poet Series

The Midwest Poet Series has hosted some wonderful poets over the years and yet last nights reading by Robert Pinsky is a standout among the many readings I’ve witnessed there myself. This is my first personal encounter with Pinsky, who by the way turned 69 this week and doesn’t look it.

His reading or let me call it an interaction with the audience was a lot different then most poetry readings in that he was very laid back and mingled stories with his poems and mid way through took questions and requests for poems to read. Yes, requests. This was particularly impressive because it implied on one hand, that he was confident there would be people in the audience well enough read on Pinsky, that they would have poems in mind that they wanted to hear; and that he would be able to produce those poems from his volumes of work quickly without fumbling through said work. It went perfect!

According to Pinsky, he would be a musician rather than a poet were it not for one thing; his lack of talent. Still, he is more than a casual musician and his love is the Sax is evident. I think the lyrical aspect of his poetry suggests that he is very tuned into sound.

Another strong component of his writing is the way he threads history through his poetry. He suggests that he writes for the dead, and quotes a mantra, “We do not worship our ancestors, we consult them.” He is big on the past, big on culture and the mingling of them together.

His presence is on of reassurance. He’s a very peaceful man. Even when he talked of his anger of the things he saw during the Bush years, he was even tempered and never raised his voice, but you knew he was indignant.

A few of the poems he read, Poem of Disconnected Parts, Shirt and The Night Game.

Poem of Disconnected Parts is such a terrific example of his pull of history and culture together to inform his poetics. Shirt is such a moving poem. Again history meets the art of poetry.

It’s no wonder Pinsky was Poet Laureate for three years- he is the perfect ambassador for the art. After a brilliant reading, he was most humble to the audience as he left the stage. You felt it was he, who was honored to be in our presence.

Hear and Read Shirt

Read Poem of Disconnected Parts
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