- Series: The University Center for Human Values Series
- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 6, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691122636
- ISBN-13: 978-0691122632
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,093,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry: (The University Center for Human Values Series)
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From Publishers Weekly
Three-term U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky delivered the Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Princeton University last April, reprinted here as Democracy, Culture, and the Voice of Poetry. The nine short chapters (including "Culture," "Vocality" and "The Narcissistic and the Personal") of this large-print, 4" 7" book follow "the voice of poetry emphasizing its literal and actual `voice' within the culture of American democracy." Culture is the operative word here, and Pinsky begins etymologically with the word's "old agricultural and biological connotations," and arcs through de Tocqueville, Frost's "Home Burial" and poems by Stevens, Williams and Bishop in pursuit of its varying expressions and "invocations" of social life. He ends with an extended and illuminating discussion of the Favorite Poem Project Pinsky undertook during his laureateship, whereby any American reader of poetry was invited to send in their favorite poem and describe its significance to them.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In a lean volume organized into nine chapters, celebrated American poet, teacher, and past poet laureate Pinsky offers general musings about culture, memory, and the democratic impulses and technologies that either frame or brush up against poetry. Pinsky argues forcefully that poetry has not been rendered obsolete by globalization, commercialization, and technological advance; instead, poetry is more necessary than ever, as it gives voice to the individual. Pinsky points to the success of the Favorite Poem Project, which he designed and embarked on as poet laureate, as evidence that poetry still has meaning in our culture. This congenial but somewhat sketchy work is recommended for those interested in Pinsky and his undertakings; to reach further into the notion that poetry is intrinsically a social medium, one might turn instead to the Nobel acceptance speeches of Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, found in Antilles and Crediting Poetry, respectively.
Scott Hightower, Fordham Univ., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The poetry he praises is a "peculiar blend of ballad and tragedy, meditation and gossip" which resists "any anticipation to make American poetry something that goes down easily." He praises 'Eros Turannos' by Edwin Robinson, a 1911 poem describing the empty feelings of a woman in a bleak marriage; he condemns 'Chicago' by Carl Sandburg in 1916 which fails "to equal 'Eros Turannos' in emotion, in formal penetration or invention."
Presumably, on this basis, a man can know and express the innermost feelings of a woman who knows how "all her doubts of what he says/Are dimmed with what she knows of days --/". Yet, Sandburg is deemed incapable of expressing the dynamism of Chicago which is still "Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher ...."
If you agree poetry is articulate tragedy in a few words, you'll love this essay which demolishes everything but sorrow, despair and grief. Pinsky is an astute thinker, scholar and writer who illustrates his theme with references from Alexis de Tocqueville to Rabindranath Tagore.
If you want reality, try Robert Service and 'The Cremation of Sam McGee' from 1907, or John Gillespie Magee Jr. and 'High Flight' from 1941, or Lt. Col. Robert McCrae and 'In Flanders Fields' from 1918. Most definitely read Carl Sandburg and 'Chicago' again or even for the first time.
Obviously, my opinion is an "equatorial opposite" to Pinsky; a contrast between a dynamic hot, sweaty, messy mirth to that of Pinsky's pure cold crystal clear gloom. If you share Pinsky's view, this book is great; if you don't and wonder why poetry is so vigorously unappreciated in America, it explains much.
Of far more serious concern, which remains sadly unanswered except to claim America today is rudely uncultured, what has been written within the past century to rival 'Chicago' or 'Eros Turannos'? As is said in Chicago of the beloved Cubs, "any team can have a bad century."
Perhaps any society can have a bad century without significant poetry.
The human voice of the poem as read aloud is the actual instrument, for Pinsky, of culture--making men and women social beings. This, of course, is the genius of Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, which has generated two anthologies to date and a video archive of the social moments of America's poetic voices as brought to life by ordinary Americans.
He provides special insights into the "skewed quatrains and secular hymns" of Emily Dickinson (one of my favorite poets)and Walt Whitman's project (partly a failure and partly a success) to fashion himself into the persona of a great national bard.
This is one of the best descriptions of poetic "voice" that you will ever find. Pinsky himself has the credentials for it, given his own remarkable body of poems, his translations of Dante's Inferno and now his new book on David--perhaps one of the greatest models for all poetry.
If you write or read poetry, this is a book you will resonate with.