clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Video of 100 Americans will be pure poetry

It long has been a tradition to bury a newspaper under the cornerstone of a building as a message to future generations.

Robert Pinsky, the nation's new poet laureate, has today's twist: He is making videos of Bill Clinton and 99 other Americans reading their favorite poems.Blending the traditional and the modern is nothing new for Pinsky.

He is poetry editor of the online magazine Slate as well as translator of the medieval Italian poet Dante.

"My theory is that there's a very deep personal, intellectual and physical effect from what a person says aloud," he told a news conference Thursday as he took over his new post.

He will use readings by legislators, officials and people from all walks of life in the videos, he said. The president would not lead the list, he added, but would certainly be included.

"They can pick a poem in Chinese or Navajo or Spanish if they want, as long as they furnish a translation," he said - but he will not let anyone read his or her own work.

Pinsky pointed out that the Internet has many poetry sites, and some let the reader click on a title and hear a poem read aloud.

"In this peculiar way the digital medium is restoring some of the vocal essence of the poem, reasserting it in a way that the old print medium can't do," he said in an inaugural lecture Thursday night at the library.

The title of the lecture: "Digital Culture and the Individual Soul."

Bringing poetry to the ear as well as the eye could help bring back the ancient tradition - still alive in some countries - of poetry being something you listened to in a big audience, not what you sweated over in a dull textbook.

"For most of my friends - which isn't saying much - I'm considered something of a computer maven," Pinsky said. He would be lost among experts, he hastened to add.