poem index

Video: A Fundamental Art

Year

2011

Type

Video
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From a 2010 Poets Forum panel discussion titled "Poetic Affinities & Inspiration" featuring poets Naomi Shihab Nye, Robert Pinsky, and Gerald Stern discussing what inspires what they write and, more importantly, what they read.

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Transcript

Robert Pinsky: The proposition is that, on one hand, with the kind of poetry that's being written today and with the kind of young people there are today, that the torch isn't being passed on. The sustenance of the art isn't being preserved.

I know what you mean. I'm sympathetic of the feeling you have. But I'm skeptical of that.

This is fundamental, and central. I think a lot of the marketing of poetry that organizations like our own does, give the impression that poetry is an ailing brand: "Get poetry. Bad at first, but..."

This is a fundamental, central human art. The kids may not do it the way we do it. But if you take a two-year-old or three-year-old on your lap and you read Walter de la Mare, or Dr. Seuss, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or Edward Lear to the child, the child doesn't have to study something. The child loves hearing the language with the rhythm in it. It's in us.

And to say, "I'm worried about poetry," is like saying I'm worried about dancing. Sure, people learn that they can't dance. "You want to dance?" "Oh, I don't know how to dance..." Meanwhile, the three-year-old is going...[makes dancing motions]

And it's the same with many arts. We learn that they're difficult or that we can't do it. This appetite...it's like cuisine as opposed to nutrition, or lovemaking as opposed to copulation. Dancing as opposed to walking: it's fundamental.

And we can, to some extent, calm down. I'm not saying we don't owe it to the young to give them what the ancestors gave us. Somehow I did get Walter de la Mare and Robert Louis Stevenson, and Emily Dickinson and George Oppen—from somewhere. And I do owe to give it to people younger than me.