Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky Comes to Campus

This past Thursday Robert Pinsky, former American Poet Laureate, made a special appearance on the UVM campus. Robert Pinsky is best known as a recent translator of The Inferno of Dante. The reason that Pinsky came to visit the UVM campus is due to the current exhibition at the Fleming Museum. Artist Michael Mazur created 41 black and white prints to correspond with Pinsky’s translation. Those prints are being displayed at the Fleming Museum until May 14th. Robert Pinsky spoke with Michael Mazur at half past noon on Thursday afternoon to a crowd of nearly 60 people in the Marble Court at the Fleming Museum. The crowd was made up of young and old alike. The artist and the poet spoke about the exhibition, which is titled The Inferno of Dante by Michael Mazur. Pinsky, three and a half hours later, read selections from his poetry books in Southwick Hall on Redstone Campus. Pinsky read several selections from his most recent of six poetry publications titled Jersey Rain. Pinsky read poems such as “Samurai Song”, “Immature Song”, and “Poem of Disconnected Parts.” In between each reading he opened up the floor for questions and comments from the listening audience. This gave the crowd the ability to engage Pinsky, which he was very happy to do so. When asked which poem he would like to see the current president read, he answered that he could not chose because every poem, when read by an individual, becomes the instrument of the individual, and he could never make a choice like that for a person. “Like democracy as a system of government, poetry puts a great emphasis on each person.” Pinsky exclaimed to a crowd of over 100 people sitting before him in the music recital hall in Southwick Hall. Although Pinsky didn’t comment much on the subject of the president he may have had some insight. Robert Pinsky was appointed as the American Poet Laureate in 1997. He remained President Clinton’s official poet until 2000, when current President Bush became elected. Not too bad for a homegrown New Jersey boy. Pinsky certainly made his bearing upon being appointed the American Poet Laureate, but he had already made a critically acclaimed mark prior to the appointment in 1994. Pinsky translated The Inferno of Dante from its original Italian text in 1994. Dante Alighieri wrote the classic literature piece in the early 14th century. Pinsky’s translation is one of the most commonly used translations around the country; Pinsky uses his own translation when teaching gradate students at Boston University. It was also in 1994 that Michael Mazur created his art pieces to specifically correspond with Pinsky’s translation. Pinsky did not read any excerpts from The Inferno of Dante while he spoke at Southwick Hall. The people in the crowd didn’t seem to mind very much. “…He is so central to our understanding of the art of poetry.” A middle-aged man stated. The crowd was responsive to the selections that Pinsky chose to read. After reading six or seven short poems Robert Pinsky departed from the UVM campus at nearly 6 o’clock.