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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DanDillon--

Hello Mr. Pinsky,

I'd like to know your thoughts, as general or as specific as they may be, on canonicity. What works or authors do you consider to be an integral part thereof? What do you think of the notion of "sexiness" in relation to the canon's constituents?

My question springs from a desire to know the ways in which we redefine the canon every so often. Also, as a follow-up, what elements of a work of poetry (or fiction for that matter) make that work canon-worthy? Are there such elements?

RobertPinsky--

DanDillon,

As to the canon, it is always changing, always different for each person, always suggests some social core. Like culture, or a culture or a nation, it is made out of motion. It is a form of change.

DanDillon--

Mr. Pinsky,

You say that the canon is "always different for each person." How could it be, then, that Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, et al., are so universally agreed upon? Just how personal is the canon when these literary figures are such a large part of our common epistemology?

Horowitz0--