Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 – 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including a collection of poems by Czeslaw Milosz and Dante Alighieri.His honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, both the William Carlos Williams Award and the Shelley Memorial prize from the Poetry Society of America, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He is currently poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate. Pinsky has taught at both Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Topic: “The Forgetting”
Robert Pinsky: The forgetting I notice most as I get older is really a form of memory: The undergrowth of things unknown to you young, that I have forgotten. Memory of so much crap jumbled with so much that seems to matter we tended to Kelly, Captain Easy [inaudible] and all the forgetting that preceded my own Baghdad, Egypt, Greece, The planes, centuries of looting of antiquities, obscure atrocities. Imagine a big tent filled with mostly kids yelling for poetry in fact it happened. I was there in New Jersey at the famous poetry shop. I used to wonder what if the baseball hall of fame overflowed with too many 1000s of grades all in time and remembered. Hardly anybody can name all eight of their great grandchildren. Can you? Will your children’s grandchildren remember your name? You will see you little young jerks, your favorite music and your political figures too will need to get sorted in dusty electronic corridors. In 1972, Joll N. Ley was asked the lasting effects of the French revolution too soon to tell. Remember? Or was it milestone poetry made of air, streams to reach back to begets and aspiring forward into air, grunting to beget the hungry or overfed future. Isara Pound praises the emperor who appointed a committee of scholars to pick the best 450 new place and destroy all the rest, the fascist. The standup master Steven Right says he thinks he suffers from both amnesia and daysha woo[phonetic] “I feel like I have forgotten this before.” Who remembers the arguments when jurors gave pound, the only prize for poetry awarded by the United States government until then. I was in the big tent when the guy read his poem about how the Jews were warned to get out of the twin towers before the planes hit. The crowd was applauding and screaming. They were happy. It isn’t that they were anti-Semitic or anything. They just weren’t listening or no they were listening, but that’s certain way. In it comes you hear it and that self seemed second you swallow it or expel it, an ecstasy of forgetting.
Recorded On: 3/25/2008
Robert Pinsky: I think skepticism toward things like titles, good reviews, what the world calls distinctions, recognitions, can become mechanical, but it’s a good armor too.