Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry

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 wrong-headed 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 significance 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." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The term “culture” with its old agricultural and biological connotations has taken on a new, sur- prising centrality. In world affairs and in Ameri- can electoral politics, in geopolitical analysis and in economics, culture has become a kind of ulte- rior cause of causes. It has been proposed that culture determines the power of a nation to achieve economic development, and that cultural more than political differences underlie electoral contests and atrocities, economic trends and ter- rorist acts. Cultural clashes seem to have re- placed ideological strife. Even the directions and conceptions of science have been seen in cultural terms.

Delivered as a Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Princeton University, April 5–6, 2001. Printed with permission of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, a Corporation, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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