Few American poets have had as distinguished a career as former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. On May 7, hundreds of students and faculty members heard an exclusive reading from the Pulitzer Prize nominee in his first visit to UCI.
Entitled ‘An Evening With Robert Pinsky,’ the event was presented by UCI’s Department of English and Comparative Literature. Pinsky recited poems and discussed works of poetry and prose.
Susan Davis, coordinator of the creative writing emphasis in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, opened the event with a discussion concerning the effects of poetry on the educational landscape of America and introduced Pinsky amidst a grand applause.
Pinsky began the reading by reciting several poems from his newest anthology, ‘Jersey Rain.’ Pinsky then progressed to discussions concerning the diversity and nature of poetry in American life.
He also took poem requests from the audience, reciting some favorites such as ‘The Window,’ ‘Round’ and ‘The Hearts.’
Apart from the poetry readings, the audience was also encouraged to ask questions. Audience questions sparked not only discussions of poetic rhyme and structure, but also issues of poetic interpretations and meaning.
‘I thought the questions were first-class. The audience was lively and engaged,’ Pinsky said. ‘I wasn’t surprised because this is one of the best places in the nation for poetry.’
Pinsky’s accomplishments have been widely recognized by the literary world. As a contributor to ‘The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer’ on PBS, Pinsky has undergone numerous interviews with media outlets such as CNN, ABC and FOX News.
As the current poetry editor for the online journal ‘Slate,’ Pinsky has won several awards for his publications not only in poetry but also in the fields of translation and literary criticism.
‘Poetry is supposed to be said by the literal or imagined voice of the reader. Poetry is a unique art whose medium is the audience body,’ Pinsky said. ‘It isn’t the poet’s voice, it is the voice of whoever reads the poem.’
It is precisely Pinsky’s voice that allowed the audience to relate to the readings. Using poetry as a platform for addressing contemporary topics, Pinsky’s readings touched upon issues pertaining to the diversity of American society and the nature of poetic culture within America’s education system.
Students who attended the event expressed that they enjoyed Pinsky’s appearance.
‘It was really wonderful to hear him read,’ said Courtney Santos, a fourth-year English major. ‘He read a lot of great poems, and it was really amazing to hear him recite poetry from other poets.’