21st Annual Literary Festival
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Mace & Crown October 13, 1998

U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky Gives His "Explanation" To ODU

Staff Writer

Robert Pinsky, is very ordinary and is easily confused with a security guard. He is a short and normal looking man. Pinsky has this uncanny ability to make everybody around him feel important. You can talk to him like you have known each other all your life. It is simply spectacular how he waltzes in and illuminates the room. He gets to know his patrons and then he breathes the breath of poetry into your lungs. Before it is over you fell as if you are a part of history.

The Literature Festival Coordinator, Tim Seibles gave the outlook for the event. Seibles stated that they contacted Mr. Pinsky through his agent last fall to ask if he would be able to partake in 1998 Literary Festival. Of course, Robert Pinsky said yes. This is another golden opportunity for him to showcase his work and talk about the Favorite Poetry Project.

Tim Seibles, a creative writing professor, wants us to realize how language is magic and is alive and well. He also said "poetry is not an elitist language, but it is accessible to everybody." Seibles thinks of Pinsky as one of the greatest minds of our times. The method Seibles used in selecting the presenters is the exciting and accessibility of the artist. Who could be a sustaining force if they were only exciting but no one could reach them? In all actuality, that led to Seibles' choosing the Electric Voice theme. A voice full of many amps tells all. The Poet Laureate is the highest honor bestowed upon the most prolific poet of their time.

Robert Pinsky, when asked about the Poet Laureate said, "this is largely a honorary post." Poetry is in a great upsurge, a lot of people are more interested; therefore, more books are sold. Professor Pinsky, a Graduate professor at Boston University,

Pinsky in Contemplation
Courtersy of ODU English Department

said, "The Favorite Poem Project will cross ethnic, age, and income level to unite America as one for the cause of reading aloud their favorite poem. This will be like a history marker to note our place in time. It will be done in audio and in visual. At least 1000 Americans are expected to participate. There is an article dedicated to the Favorite Poem Project; it appears in Life magazine. Pin-sky can be contacted at BU for the project kits. "Readership correlates with poetry and is the most bodily of all arts. It is supposed to sound good in the readers voice, and it is also inherent on individual scale."

Though Mr. Pinsky is not an avid listener of rap or hip-hop, he said it is poetry and a step in the right direction. Robert Pinsky's major influences were

John Coltrane, Alan Ginsburg, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare and the collective art world. Pinsky admits that he was not much of a musician, he was frustrated so he used his passion for the art to compose his poems to render a rhythm much like a song.

Again he stressed the importance of "vocal art," which is an important medium. Pinsky also stated, "I earned my living teaching, it is a very honorable profession." He helps students develop their intellectual curiosity. When asked about translation of Dante's Inferno he said, "It was like any other poem I have written; I felt I had to cross it and write it." Finally, in his own words he said, "I've given my life to make poetry come alive and speak."