Saturday, May 3, 2008

Driving Mr. Pinsky

OK, it was really fun to chauffeur the former U.S. Poet Laureate around Cambridge and Waltham. His new book, Gulf Music, is great, and the reading at Back Pages Books was underattended but still cool.
I was hanging out at Back Pages stocking up on reading for a number of consecutive business trips (not business reading, just something to take my mind elsewhere while sitting on planes for hours), when I overheard Alex, the owner, freaking out that he did not have a way to get Robert Pinsky from his home near Harvard Square to the bookstore the next afternoon for his reading. His own car was dead and he couldn't find a Brandeis student available or able to help. What was I doing on a Sunday afternoon, besides laundry and packing for the first of a bunch of business trips? And my car was pretty clean...

Anyway, it was extremely cool to meet Mr. Pinsky and be his driver for an afternoon. During his reading he suggested that a good assignment for poetry students is to task them with anthologizing 10-20 of their favorite poems. "I had that assignment in college," I piped up. "Really?" he replied. "Who was it?" "Frank Bidart was lecturing at Brandeis at the time and..." "He stole it from me!" the poet grinned. "No, really, he did. We're good friends. In fact we are having dinner together tonight, or maybe it's tomorrow night..." Then he gets on the cell with Frank Bidart and sends him my regards. "She had such a promising start, and now she's reduced to driving me around..." Did I mention the former U.S. Poet Laureate has a sense of humor?

I told Alex that my sister lives in the same town as another former USPL, Donald Hall (one of my favorite writers in the world). He told me that the current USPL, Charles Simic, had moved up to good old Wilmot, New Hampshire because Hall and he are buddies. Not sure my sister will feel like escorting two Poet Laureates to Waltham and back anytime soon, but maybe if the price of gas drops in the fall I will feel like a road trip...In the meantime, Robert Pinsky is staying busy with jazz readings and as the poetry editor for Slate magazine.

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