A few months ago I attended a poetry reading by Robert Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate, and co-sponsored by Boston and Stanford Universities’ Alumnae Associations at Boston U.
When Pinsky was named poet laureate in 1997 he wanted to document at the turn of the millenium people from all walks of life saying aloud poems they love. The project, launched during National Poetry Month in 1998, quickly drew more than 18,000 letters from people who wanted to be considered for the video archive. The archive, available at www.favoritepoem.org, is comprised of 50 video segments. Most of the segments have been shown on the “Lehrer News Hour.” Interest in reading favorite poems aloud generated more than 800 community poetry-reading events; hundreds of those took place in schools.
“The Favorite Poem Project has already had an impact on the teaching of poetry. The summer institute is the next step,” says Pinsky, professor of English and creative writing at Boston University. “The seminars offered at the institute will become models for revitaling the teaching of poetry in classrooms all over the country.”
It’s the only poetry reading I’ve ever been to in which the poet read only one of his own poems during the hour and a half he presented. Instead he focused on his ‘Favorite Poem Project,’ which has blossomed into an ongoing, many-faceted endeavor to bring poetry to the people. He talked about the anthologies of ‘favorite poems’ which have been published by his non-profit organization, and he showed three ten-minute videos of regular people, a heavy equipment operator, a Jamaican immigrant photographer, a young Cambodian-American woman student, reading their favorite poems and explaining why they were their favorites.
I have never seen anything like the power of these short, beautifully-produced videos of people reciting, and talking about a poem that has moved them. If you love poetry, please take the time to look at these videos
We have both the book and the DVD of “An Invitation to Poetry,” edited by Pinsky and his colleague, Maggie Dietz. Come celebrate April, the poetry month and the coming of spring by reading some of the titles in our excellent poetry collection