The Poet Laureate and the Fraygrants

articles
Sept. 5 1998 3:30 AM

The Poet Laureate and the Fraygrants

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

(Continued from Page 5)

What does it mean to be a Jewish poet in an America where ethnicity seems increasingly less important?

RobertPinsky--

As to the idea "How could it be, then, that Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, et al. are so universally agreed upon." Well, some people think Chaucer is outdated; I personally think Shakespeare though a great, great artist in the plays is often second rate in the sonnets; Pound deprecated Wordsworth and Milton; and some people think Blake is a scoundrel; etc., etc. What lasts is what doesn't bore people, I guess.

Horowitz, I hope you are right that ethnicity is less important. I do think that our terms for these things will seem quaint to our grandchildren. I find "Jewish" an immensely rich, fascinating historical reality that I will be thinking about as long as I live--"ethnicity" is an inadequate term for all these threads and influences from the past that make up any one person: George Herbert through his poetry, and Coleman Hawkins through his music, are our ancestors, too.

Horowitz0--

Why are you happy to see ethnicity disappear? An America without it would seem awfully bland. Do you envision a day when there are no countries or religions (kudos to John Lennon), nothing to kill or die for?

RobertPinsky--

Horowitz,

I don't welcome any cultural reality "disappearing"--I remember your original terms as "less important" and that phrase made me think of racism, blood-hatred, snobbery, etc. Remember, my family motto is "All of the Above," so my Chinese and Hindu and African-American and Islamic heritage is important to me, too.

RobertPinsky--

By the way, if any of you are librarians or teachers, etc., and would like to have a public Favorite Poem reading in your community, my helper Maggie Dietz will send you a how-to kit: mcdietz@bu.edu, or FPP, 236 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215.