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Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry (The University Center for Human Values Series)
 
 

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry (The University Center for Human Values Series) [Kindle Edition]

Robert Pinsky

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Review

"An engaging analysis of the way the intimate rhythms of American poetry invoke a social presence. Pinsky, a former poet laureate, passionately argues that American poetry is driven by the anxiety of being forgotten; the solitary poet makes us aware of the presence of others as he yearns for their approval while striving to preserve his uniqueness. . . . He concludes that only through the individual reader does a poem reach full bloom."--Natalya Sukhonos, New York Times Book Review

"Pinsky is, by turns, whimsical and profound."--Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Pinsky argues forcefully that poetry has not been rendered obsolete by globalization, commercialization, and technological advance; instead, poetry is more necessary than ever, as it gives voice to the individual."--Library Journal

"One is never in any doubt about the tendency of Pinsky's argument. He urges appreciation not of what the poet does in writing a poem, but of what the poet does in reading it. The poet mainly counts as one more reader. So, too, Pinsky's idea of the place of poetry in democratic culture comes from an image of someone reading a poem to an audience."--David Bromwich, The New Republic

"Pinsky . . . champions the importance of each individual whose breath creates or carries a poem, without which society would be nonexistent."--Alexandra Yurovsky, San Francisco Chronicle

Review

An engaging analysis of the way the intimate rhythms of American poetry invoke a social presence. Pinsky, a former poet laureate, passionately argues that American poetry is driven by the anxiety of being forgotten; the solitary poet makes us aware of the presence of others as he yearns for their approval while striving to preserve his uniqueness. . . . He concludes that only through the individual reader does a poem reach full bloom. (Natalya Sukhonos New York Times Book Review )

Pinsky is, by turns, whimsical and profound. (Carol Muske-Dukes Los Angeles Times Book Review )

Pinsky argues forcefully that poetry has not been rendered obsolete by globalization, commercialization, and technological advance; instead, poetry is more necessary than ever, as it gives voice to the individual. (Library Journal )

One is never in any doubt about the tendency of Pinsky's argument. He urges appreciation not of what the poet does in writing a poem, but of what the poet does in reading it. The poet mainly counts as one more reader. So, too, Pinsky's idea of the place of poetry in democratic culture comes from an image of someone reading a poem to an audience. (David Bromwich The New Republic )

Pinsky . . . champions the importance of each individual whose breath creates or carries a poem, without which society would be nonexistent. (Alexandra Yurovsky San Francisco Chronicle )

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 267 KB
  • Print Length: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (11 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WJM5CS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,415,523 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great short read 4 Oct 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Short, punchy, and nicely designed. Pinsky doesn't waste words. If you want to read a modern manifesto in defence of poetry, this is it. It's easy to dump on Pinsky because he's in the public eye so much, but this at least shows he's there because he has a brain. And who can complain about a poet being a star?
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A century or two without poetry? 13 Oct 2008
By Theodore A. Rushton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this elegant, clear and concise essay Pinsky explains why modern poetry is generally ignored in America; as a poet, he faults society instead of the poets.

The poetry he praises is a "peculiar blend of ballad and tragedy, meditation and gossip" which resists "any anticipation to make American poetry something that goes down easily." He praises 'Eros Turannos' by Edwin Robinson, a 1911 poem describing the empty feelings of a woman in a bleak marriage; he condemns 'Chicago' by Carl Sandburg in 1916 which fails "to equal 'Eros Turannos' in emotion, in formal penetration or invention."

Presumably, on this basis, a man can know and express the innermost feelings of a woman who knows how "all her doubts of what he says/Are dimmed with what she knows of days --/". Yet, Sandburg is deemed incapable of expressing the dynamism of Chicago which is still "Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher ...."

If you agree poetry is articulate tragedy in a few words, you'll love this essay which demolishes everything but sorrow, despair and grief. Pinsky is an astute thinker, scholar and writer who illustrates his theme with references from Alexis de Tocqueville to Rabindranath Tagore.

If you want reality, try Robert Service and 'The Cremation of Sam McGee' from 1907, or John Gillespie Magee Jr. and 'High Flight' from 1941, or Lt. Col. Robert McCrae and 'In Flanders Fields' from 1918. Most definitely read Carl Sandburg and 'Chicago' again or even for the first time.

Obviously, my opinion is an "equatorial opposite" to Pinsky; a contrast between a dynamic hot, sweaty, messy mirth to that of Pinsky's pure cold crystal clear gloom. If you share Pinsky's view, this book is great; if you don't and wonder why poetry is so vigorously unappreciated in America, it explains much.

Of far more serious concern, which remains sadly unanswered except to claim America today is rudely uncultured, what has been written within the past century to rival 'Chicago' or 'Eros Turannos'? As is said in Chicago of the beloved Cubs, "any team can have a bad century."

Perhaps any society can have a bad century without significant poetry.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Heat of Middle Water 30 Dec 2002
By Arch Llewellyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Sober, judicious, temperate, suave, Pinsky considers poetry's place in our high-tech democracy with all the passion of a required civics course. Nary an insight will trouble anyone's sleep in NPR, MacNeill/Lehrer America, and that's a shame, because poetry at its best is a whole lot hotter than that. Pinsky's a deft explainer and he keeps his good-natured balance in the midst of a very fragmented field. But I think those qualities mitigate against the kind of fire we need to shake poetry loose from the warm academic middle, whose virtues and limitations Pinksy embodies in every line of his prose.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Statement about the place of poetry in America 10 Oct 2005
By Martin H. Dickinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Poetry is not aristocratic in America--but rather personal and cultural at the same time. Pinsky jumps right into the discussion of culture and the so called "culture wars," and shows us all the many ways in which our poetry is a public expression of deep knowing and the inner voice. His takeoff point is Alexis de Tocqueville's description of American life as lacking in poetic quality in Democracy in America. Americans, Tocqueville maintains, will focus not on the heroic actions of aristocratic poetry, but on the natural features of the landscape and the interior feelings, emotions and makeup of the individual person. Pinsky sees this observation as prescient of what our poetry eventually has turned out to be. He sees America's poetry as a poetry of shared memory--shared and socialized through the human voice.

The human voice of the poem as read aloud is the actual instrument, for Pinsky, of culture--making men and women social beings. This, of course, is the genius of Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, which has generated two anthologies to date and a video archive of the social moments of America's poetic voices as brought to life by ordinary Americans.

He provides special insights into the "skewed quatrains and secular hymns" of Emily Dickinson (one of my favorite poets)and Walt Whitman's project (partly a failure and partly a success) to fashion himself into the persona of a great national bard.

This is one of the best descriptions of poetic "voice" that you will ever find. Pinsky himself has the credentials for it, given his own remarkable body of poems, his translations of Dante's Inferno and now his new book on David--perhaps one of the greatest models for all poetry.

If you write or read poetry, this is a book you will resonate with.
5 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars yo, chek it 13 Oct 2003
By Ali G - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
as a poet, critic, and as poet laureate, a literary activist, pinsky as bin a significant force in recent efforts to comprehend relationships betweun american poetry and culture. dis volume summarizes is efforts to "consida da voice of poetry [...] within da culture of american democracy, amid da tensions of pluralism." although marxists and post-structuralists will likely check da unquestioned umanism implicit in pinsky's ruk suspect, he nevertheless offers pragmatic ruks fa situatin poetry's cultural and political role in american society and fa understandin da social value of private art. he emphasizes ow da diverse characta of america as led to a "fantastic" experience of memory dat "exaggetares da anxieties of uniformity and memory" in a nevertheless positive role of resistance to da "apparently total successes" of colonitazion. poetry's function in da process of cultural memory borrows a bodily quality to da "solitary voice" and defends uman-scale perceptions and judgments from da levelin effects of mass-scale culture. fa pinsky, da "solitude of lyric [...] invokes a social presence." integral, is poetry's intrinsic vocality, creatin a force dat "origitanes within da reada" but "gestures outward" to "alert us to da presence of anotha or udders." thus poetry, though inherently personal, is nevertheless "far from solipsistic" in its invocation of audience. pinsky distinguishes dis outward-reaching interiority from more performative arts such as drama, tunes, and slam, and stresses it as poetry's source of endurin strengf. efforts to transform poetry into performance, from dis view, doom it to irrelevance coz of its inability to compete wiv da influence of da entertainment industry. as an essentially socially-based convention, poetry's formal qualities also play an outward-reaching role in its social praxis, but unlike da more apocalyptic proclatamions of formalists dig dana gioia, pinsky's calm advancement of a theory of form's function avoids reductively polarized (form versus free verse) polemics and thus supports a broada endorsement of da genre's social efficacy. although far from comprehensive, pinsky offers a teachable counterpoint to more dire political assessments from bof da right and left wings of da poetry wars.
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