Salon: Martha Heimberg on Robert Pinksy

When: Thursday, May 10
Where: RSVP for location:

Martha Heimberg Salons are WordSpace classics, where she offers up entertaining presentation of her reading and perspectives of selected writers and works. For this Salon, Heimberg will present and discuss the most recent work of Robert Pinksy.

Refreshments and lively social setting are included in this evening and WordSpace Spring season closer.

1997 to 2000, Robert Pinksy served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He is the first and so far only poet to be named to three terms. As Poet Laureate, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, in which thousands of Americans of varying backgrounds, all ages, and from every state share their favorite poems. Pinsky believed that, contrary to stereotype, poetry has a strong presence in the American culture. The project sought to document that presence, giving voice to the American audience for poetry.

Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including The Inferno of Dante Alighieri and The Separate Notebooks by Czesław Miłosz. He teaches at Boston University.

Early on, Pinsky was inspired by the flow and tension of jazz and the excitement that it made him feel. As a former saxophonist, he has said that being a musician was a profoundly influential experience that he has tried to reproduce in his poetry. The musicality of poetry was and is extremely important to his work.Additionally, Pinsky revealed in a 1999 interview with Bomb Magazine that he enjoys jazz for its “physical immediacy, improvisation and also the sense that a lifetime of suffering and study and thought and emotion is behind some single phrase.”

Rather than intending to communicate a single or concrete meaning with his work, Pinsky anticipated that his poetry would change depending on the particular subjectivity of each reader. Embracing the idea that people’s individuality would fill out the poem, he has said, “The poetry I love is written with someone’s voice and I believe its proper culmination is to be read with someone’s voice. And the human voice in that sense is not electronically reproduced or amplified; it’s the actual living breath inside a body—not necessarily the second life of reception—not necessarily the expert’s body or the artist’s body. Whoever reads the poem aloud becomes the proper medium for the poem.” Pinsky observes ‘the kind of poetry I write emphasizes the physical qualities of the words’ for poetry to Pinsky, is a vocal art, not necessarily performative,but reading to one self or recalling some lines by memory. Pinsky comments ‘all language is necessarily abstract ‘ .  No aspect of a poem, he observes, is more singular, more unique, than its rhythm, for there are no rules.

Photo courtesy of Theater Jones

Martha Heimberg has been writing about theater, the arts and historic preservation for over 30 years for numerous Texas newspapers and magazines, including Dallas Weekly, D Magazine and Texas Monthly.  She has won awards from the Dallas Press Club and the Texas Historic Commission, and is a founding member of the Dallas Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum. She coordinates DART’s Poetry in Motion program, and served for nearly a decade on the WordSpace board of directors. Her degrees are in English and comparative literature are from Southern Methodist University. She teaches at Northwood University.


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