Poet Tells JU Graduates to Never Forget the Arts

Article excerpt

The arts give people an essential connection with the past, said Robert Pinsky, the U.S. poet laureate for the past three years.

He urged about 500 graduates at Jacksonville University's commencement yesterday not to break that chain. For instance, he warned them against becoming future school board members who decide the arts aren't needed in schools anymore.

"If that happens, woe to you, woe to us," Pinsky said. "If we do that, I believe we bring down a mighty curse upon ourselves."

The librarian of Congress appoints the poet laureate each year. His job isn't to write poems for aristocracy, Pinsky told the graduates, but to nurture the strong relationship Americans have with poetry and other art forms. The United States may be viewed as having little culture compared to older nations, he said, where the aristocracy's tradition of patronizing the arts is done with some snobbery. But this nation's culture is still evolving, he said.

Pinsky read the comments of some of the 18,000 people who nominated entries to the Favorite Poem Project, an effort he has worked on for the past three years, which resulted in the publication last year of Americans' Favorite Poems, a compilation Pinsky co-edited.

Pinsky talked of the "healing wisdom" in poetry, of the woman whose favorite piece was one she read to her dying mother, of the woman born after her family fled Cambodia who identified with poet Langston Hughes' work. …