Sunday, March 16, 2008

An Expert Opinion

So I saw this listing yesterday around noon on

Brave poets have a chance to read their works in front of a former Poet Laureate tonight. Robert Pinsky is the special guest at tonight's Poetribe event, which means he'll watch an hour of open-mike poetry readings before he takes the stage himself. Perhaps if Pinsky likes your poem, he'll tell you. If he doesn't, he'll probably smile at you anyway. We hear he's polite like that. Sign-up is at 7:45 p.m. Free, but donations accepted. East Bridgewater Public Library ...

I was intrigued. I’ve seen Pinsky read many times but to read with him sitting in the audience? My husband said it sounded like a good opportunity and I agreed. So I call a friend and we hauled down to East Bridgewater for the event.

Now for those who know where I live north of Boston, East Bridgewater is the other side of the world—about an hour away. I was psyched because a) I was semi-spontaneous (can’t remember the last time I was semi-spontaneous) and b) I had this dream scenario that Pinsky would hear me read and … I know don’t … sign me up for Slate magazine or something. Silly, I know.

Anyway, the reading was held in a library basement with more than 60 people attending. By the time we arrived around 7:30, the open-mike sign-up had already started—15 minutes earlier than advertised. I was put on the waitlist as #28! Ugh. Those who read seemed to be regulars. Most read one poem quickly, but as 9 p.m. rolled around, it was time to get Pinsky on stage. I can't be sure, but I think the open-mike portion stopped right before my name. Drat!

So I was extremely disappointed that I drove all that way for a disorganized event, but it was nice to see so many different poets—young and old, traditional and performance—do their thing. And, of course, it’s always nice to read Robert Pinsky read.

He said something that stuck me as odd, but given his Favorite Poem Project I guess it makes sense. Pinsky started the night by reading six poems by other poets, saying that he encourages poets and teachers to type up the poems of others and create personal anthologies. Now, my first thought was, “copyright issues?” but there’s nothing wrong with reading a few favorite poems before an audience, which he did very eloquently, poets from Ben Johnson to William Carlos Williams. Then he read five of his own and the event was over.


The evening had one saving grace: I got a few moments with speak with Pinsky. Told him about my book with CavanKerry Press, which he congratulated me on and told me he thought they were doing great things. And I asked if he would be at the upcoming Cave Canem reading at Boston Univerity (where he teaches). He said there was a scheduling conflict and he would be out of town. But Pinsky made of point of saying he’s sad to miss the reading because some of “his buddies” are reading that night.

Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men (and poets) ...


pepektheassassin said...

Too bad. He doesn't know what a good thing he missed!

Anonymous said...

bummer...nice semi-spont....ty though. Its also good for a north shore girl to head own south...


January said...

What I left out is that my friend and I really wanted to stop at MaryLou's because we've never been. But it was closed by the time we left the reading.

Drat! Drat! Drat!

pepektheassassin said...

and, let me add, I get to go to a workshop/reading by WD Snodgrass next month!

January said...

Joyce, that's terrific. You'll have to tell us all about the workshop. Sounds like a great opportunity.

...deb said...

lot's of drats in an interesting post!

I *hate it* when sign-ups (or anything like that) is earlier than announced.

I like the idea of personal anthologies. My current teacher said something similar this week. (See, he is helpful. He just doesn't love my work.)

Joyce, his April Inventory ( fits this week's tree prompt at should link it for us and talk about the workshop! I am envious.


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