The Poet Laureate and the Fraygrants

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Sept. 5 1998 3:30 AM

The Poet Laureate and the Fraygrants

Robert Pinsky goes toe-to-toe with participants in "The Fray."

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Mr. Pinsky,

I think I understand what you say about "our" voice becoming the medium in a bodily sense. I suppose where I differ is that I consider poetry that is specifically designed to be read aloud, as in a public forum, just a different category within the medium. This is partly because I am never consciously aware that the voice I am using to conceive a poem is anything more than just my own private vocalization. Also, I always seem to miss half of what's going on when poetry is presented in any type of theatrical milieu. I find my consciousness interacting with the body or vocal language of the speaker, as well as the environment in which it is presented. The voice option in Slate is a typical example of this. I have read some of the poems and then listened to the author's reading of the same poem. Aside from finding the personality was exactly opposite to what I had conjured during the reading, I now found myself trying to fathom inflections and emphasis in places where I had previously not found any. I guess my question, at this point, would be, am I unique in writing poetry as something I expect to be simply read, rather than recited aloud? And have you encountered this type of resistance(?) or question in your travels within the various poetry circles?

dpiette--

Mr. Pinsky,

I grew up with poetry (my father frequently quoted Eliot and Frost) but fell away for about the last 15 years. Can you recommend any poets, anthologies, magazines, or books to help me catch up? I recently bought Thomas Lux's New and Selected and loved it.

RobertPinsky--

dpiette,

I'm glad you enjoyed Tom Lux's book. Louise Glück has a book about to come out, Vita Nova, that I like a lot, as I did her Meadowlands. I'll also recommend Frank Bidart's Desire. Her publisher is Ecco and his Farrar, Straus. As to anthologies, I've just done one that comes out this month, from Morrow: The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow. Though the material is sad, I hope the book gives pleasure.

RobertPinsky--

dpiette, Blaise, others,

I hope you consider volunteering to read a poem for my Favorite Poem Project. You can learn about it at http://www.nefa.org, the site of my sponsoring agency, the New England Foundation for the Arts. Or just send the author and title of the poem you'd like to read, and your address name and phone number to me at favpoem@bu.edu. The volunteers--I have thousands already--will be a valuable archive, aside from the video and audio.