Puckering up for Pinsky



Because we missed most of Robert Pinsky's lecture the first day, we came back Sunday with the deliberate purpose of catching his second, held in a tent down at the side of the Morris Canal.

Pinsky is Sharon's hero, someone with whom she wants to study -- and dreams of sending her poem for an evaluation. Such worship of successful people does not stir me. I am often in awe of (and sometimes jealous of) great artist's work. Not the artist. I have never felt the urge to sit at their feel to learn from them directly.

I suppose this arises out of an innate distrust of teachers, and how easily then can lead a hungry mind astray. I have met good -- even great -- teachers in my life, but these always inspired me to seek my own path and to rely more closely on other people's work rather than other people.

Sharon describes Pinsky best by saying first impressions lead you to think of him as "an ordinary guy." By this she means "blue-collar worker" or common laborer. His long engraved face leaves you with the same impression you might get from meeting an older Clint Eastwood -- although Pinsky's coloring and hair color belong more to Charles Bronson. If ignorant of his esteemed career, you might even envision Pinsky behind the wheel of a cross-country tractor-trailer.

Despite our best efforts, we arrived later for his craft lecture on Sunday, too, but not so late as to miss his amiable style. He has a talent for putting people at ease and talking straight at them in terms they can understand. You didn't get any high rhetoric from him, or deliberate name dropping of prestigious poets. He did not seem to wow people with his vast library of poetic terms -- even though he clearly knew what he was talking about. At times, he even struggled to answer people's more complicated questions, working through the details of his creative process for them.

Listening to his lecture, I grew as impressed with him as I was of his poetry, although neither sent me scrambling to my notebooks to copy his style. As a former poet laureate, Pinsky had won a respect in the main stream poets of lesser renown lacked. He took this position seriously -- attempting somehow to connect his art with the masses.


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