Doug Bruns

Robert Pinsky and aspiring to a “new soul”

In Books, Literature, Reading, Writers on March 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

I went to the annual Bernard A. Osher Lecture at the Portland Museum of Art last night. The lecture was given by U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Pinksy. I aspire to appreciate poetry, like I wish I had command of a second language, or play a musical instrument. I recall once walking into a bookstore in Spain and seeing the racks of books, all in Spanish, all inaccessible. A closed universe. “Will not every language we learn give us a new soul?” asked Goethe. Poetry appeals to me in that fashion–as if it’s the key to opening a closed universe, or a dormant soul waiting to be awakened.

Pinksy was a wonderful speaker. His lecture was laced with thought-provoking notions and insights. (The idea that America is a young place and as such is still creating its culture fueled the after-lecture conversation of our little group.) And of course there was the poetry, read by a master and illuminated with brilliant explication. It was not highfalutin, not boring–to the contrary

Pinksy founded the Favorite Poem Project. The project description reads: “During the one-year open call for submissions, 18,000 Americans wrote to the project volunteering to share their favorite poems — Americans from ages 5 to 97, from every state, of diverse occupations, kinds of education and backgrounds.” Brilliantly, many of the submissions were recorded. Here is John Doherty, a construction worker, reading a portion of his favorite poem, Whitman’s Song of Myself:

If, like me, you wish to better appreciate poetry, I recommend the project and the videos.


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  1. Thanks for the easy map to the videos, Doug, and for leading the post-presentation discussions. I join in your praise for the event and add that for many of us it was an opportunity to increase our vocabularies.

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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