APU welcomed Robert Pinsky, Ph.D., former United States Poet Laureate, prose author, translator, and Boston University professor, to present a sampling of his powerful, imaginative poems at an event on March 5 that attracted more than 300 faculty, staff, students, and off-campus guests. The evening was part of APU’s James L. Hedges Distinguished Lecture Series, which celebrates the written word by drawing literary scholars and writers from around the nation to join in the university’s mission of fostering a culture of academic excellence. Pinsky’s visit marks the second time APU has hosted a poet laureate, following former poet laureate Billy Collins’ 2011 campus visit. “Events like this help people outside APU perceive us as a nationally recognized university serious about literature,” said Mark Eaton, Ph.D., professor in the Department of English and director of the Center for Research on Ethics and Values.
Pinsky served as the United States Poet Laureate, the nation’s official poet, for an unprecedented three terms (1997–2000), becoming one of America’s most beloved poets and raising national appreciation of poetry. In 1997, he founded the Favorite Poem Project, an initiative inviting thousands of Americans from varying ages and backgrounds to share their favorite poems, and reinforcing the value of poetry in American culture. “The art of poetry uses something people use every day, even in their solitude for thought and understanding: words,” said Pinsky. “Poetry gives tremendous pleasure; it brings a physical sensation of saying something that feels right.”
Pinsky’s poems explore new territories of language usage and employ moving, energetic rhythms. His poetry collection The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966–1996 received numerous awards and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. “Pinsky’s poetry masterfully experiments with sound and rhythm, juxtaposing unusual words to create unique sounds,” said Eaton.
The Pinsky poetry reading and student poetry readings hosted by APU’s English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, exemplify poetry’s importance on campus as an outlet of artistic expression that promotes literary excellence and awareness of the surrounding world. “Poetry shows that language is more than just words, but an art form that calls us to pay closer attention to the world,” said Eaton. “It also helps students understand the magnificent beauty and power of language, one of the great gifts God gave us to describe the world around us and communicate essential truths about the human experience.”