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

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

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The place of poetry in modern democracy is no place, according to conventional wisdom. The poet, we hear, is a casualty of mass entertainment and prosaic public culture, banished to the artistic sidelines to compose variations on insipid themes for a dwindling audience. Robert Pinsky, however, argues that this gloomy diagnosis is as wrongheaded as it is familiar. Pinsky, whose remarkable career as a poet itself undermines the view, writes that to portray poetry and democracy as enemies is to radically misconstrue both. The voice of poetry, he shows, resonates with profound themes at the very heart of democratic culture.

There is no one in America better to write on this topic. One of the country's most accomplished poets, Robert Pinsky served an unprecedented two terms as America's Poet Laureate (1997-2000) and led the immensely popular multimedia Favorite Poem Project, which invited Americans to submit and read aloud their favorite poems. Pinsky draws on his experiences and on characteristically sharp and elegant observations of individual poems to argue that expecting poetry to compete with show business is to mistake its greatest democratic strength--its intimate, human scale--as a weakness.

As an expression of individual voice, a poem implicitly allies itself with ideas about individual dignity that are democracy's bedrock, far more than is mass participation. Yet poems also summon up communal life.. Even the most inward-looking work imagines a reader. And in their rhythms and cadences poems carry in their very bones the illusion and dynamic of call and response. Poetry, Pinsky writes, cannot help but mediate between the inner consciousness of the individual reader and the outer world of other people. As part of the entertainment industry, he concludes, poetry will always be small and overlooked. As an art--and one that is inescapably democratic--it is massive and fundamental.

Synopsis:

"Pinsky's conception of the poet as citizen--not legislator, but something between town crier, parson, and fool on the hill--gives us hope that the cultivation of a shared memory will, in time, make us a people"--Jonathan Galassi

"Pinsky's startlingly original thesis--that democracy's contradictory drive toward monadic individualism and mass conformity is echoed, and resolved, in the parallel tension between the solitary practice of poetry and the collective invocation of its voice--is itself a cultural event of major significance. In showing how poetry, by its mimetic embodiment, artfully resists and engages our demotic cultural dilemma, he sharply defines the moral and social place of poetry for our times. His model of internal cultural analysis will inform and delight both poet and reader, humanists as well as social scientists. This is perhaps the most important discourse on cultural analysis by a major poet since Eliot's Notes Towards the Definition of Culture."--Orlando Patterson, Harvard University

"Robert Pinsky has produced a fine, lean book on a very large topic. With fresh and compelling arguments, Pinsky writes that poetry has a significant role to play in a mass-democracy, that American poetry has produced extraordinary art, and that this genre has truly engaged with the challenge to traditional art forms raised by democratic revolutions."--Robert von Hallberg, University of Chicago

"An important contribution to our thinking about the place of poetry in American life. No one could be more qualified to speak on this subject than Robert Pinsky, who combines extraordinary gifts as a poet, critic, and public ambassador for the art. The book is full of provocative thought and sharp observations about poems and responses to poetry."--Paul Breslin, Northwestern University

Synopsis:

The place of poetry in modern democracy is no place, according to conventional wisdom. The poet, we hear, is a casualty of mass entertainment and prosaic public culture, banished to the artistic sidelines to compose variations on insipid themes for a dwindling audience. Robert Pinsky, however, argues that this gloomy diagnosis is as wrongheaded as it is familiar. Pinsky, whose remarkable career as a poet itself undermines the view, writes that to portray poetry and democracy as enemies is to radically misconstrue both. The voice of poetry, he shows, resonates with profound themes at the very heart of democratic culture.

There is no one in America better to write on this topic. One of the country's most accomplished poets, Robert Pinsky served an unprecedented two terms as America's Poet Laureate (1997-2000) and led the immensely popular multimedia Favorite Poem Project, which invited Americans to submit and read aloud their favorite poems. Pinsky draws on his experiences and on characteristically sharp and elegant observations of individual poems to argue that expecting poetry to compete with show business is to mistake its greatest democratic strength--its intimate, human scale--as a weakness.

As an expression of individual voice, a poem implicitly allies itself with ideas about individual dignity that are democracy's bedrock, far more than is mass participation. Yet poems also summon up communal life.. Even the most inward-looking work imagines a reader. And in their rhythms and cadences poems carry in their very bones the illusion and dynamic of call and response. Poetry, Pinsky writes, cannot help but mediate between the inner consciousness of the individual reader and the outer world of other people. As part of the entertainment industry, he concludes, poetry will always be small and overlooked. As an art--and one that is inescapably democratic--it is massive and fundamental.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

I: Culture 1

II: Vocality 19

III: Self-Consciousness 30

IV: Performance 43

V: Social Presence 46

VI: Readers 55

VII: The Narcissistic and the Personal 64

VIII: Models of Culture 73

IX: Conclusion 79

Index of Names 95

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691122632
Editor:
Gutmann, Amy
Editor:
Macedo, Stephen J.
Author:
Pinsky, Robert
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
Poetry
Subject:
American Language and Literature
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
American literature
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
The University Center for Human Values Series
Publication Date:
February 2005
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Pages:
112
Dimensions:
7 x 4 in 3 oz

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry (University Center for Human Values) Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 112 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691122632 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Pinsky's conception of the poet as citizen--not legislator, but something between town crier, parson, and fool on the hill--gives us hope that the cultivation of a shared memory will, in time, make us a people"--Jonathan Galassi

"Pinsky's startlingly original thesis--that democracy's contradictory drive toward monadic individualism and mass conformity is echoed, and resolved, in the parallel tension between the solitary practice of poetry and the collective invocation of its voice--is itself a cultural event of major significance. In showing how poetry, by its mimetic embodiment, artfully resists and engages our demotic cultural dilemma, he sharply defines the moral and social place of poetry for our times. His model of internal cultural analysis will inform and delight both poet and reader, humanists as well as social scientists. This is perhaps the most important discourse on cultural analysis by a major poet since Eliot's Notes Towards the Definition of Culture."--Orlando Patterson, Harvard University

"Robert Pinsky has produced a fine, lean book on a very large topic. With fresh and compelling arguments, Pinsky writes that poetry has a significant role to play in a mass-democracy, that American poetry has produced extraordinary art, and that this genre has truly engaged with the challenge to traditional art forms raised by democratic revolutions."--Robert von Hallberg, University of Chicago

"An important contribution to our thinking about the place of poetry in American life. No one could be more qualified to speak on this subject than Robert Pinsky, who combines extraordinary gifts as a poet, critic, and public ambassador for the art. The book is full of provocative thought and sharp observations about poems and responses to poetry."--Paul Breslin, Northwestern University

"Synopsis" by , The place of poetry in modern democracy is no place, according to conventional wisdom. The poet, we hear, is a casualty of mass entertainment and prosaic public culture, banished to the artistic sidelines to compose variations on insipid themes for a dwindling audience. Robert Pinsky, however, argues that this gloomy diagnosis is as wrongheaded as it is familiar. Pinsky, whose remarkable career as a poet itself undermines the view, writes that to portray poetry and democracy as enemies is to radically misconstrue both. The voice of poetry, he shows, resonates with profound themes at the very heart of democratic culture.

There is no one in America better to write on this topic. One of the country's most accomplished poets, Robert Pinsky served an unprecedented two terms as America's Poet Laureate (1997-2000) and led the immensely popular multimedia Favorite Poem Project, which invited Americans to submit and read aloud their favorite poems. Pinsky draws on his experiences and on characteristically sharp and elegant observations of individual poems to argue that expecting poetry to compete with show business is to mistake its greatest democratic strength--its intimate, human scale--as a weakness.

As an expression of individual voice, a poem implicitly allies itself with ideas about individual dignity that are democracy's bedrock, far more than is mass participation. Yet poems also summon up communal life.. Even the most inward-looking work imagines a reader. And in their rhythms and cadences poems carry in their very bones the illusion and dynamic of call and response. Poetry, Pinsky writes, cannot help but mediate between the inner consciousness of the individual reader and the outer world of other people. As part of the entertainment industry, he concludes, poetry will always be small and overlooked. As an art--and one that is inescapably democratic--it is massive and fundamental.

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