cover image Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry

Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry

Robert Pinsky. Princeton University Press, $29.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-691-09617-9

Three-term U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky delivered the Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Princeton University last April, reprinted here as Democracy, Culture, and the Voice of Poetry. The nine short chapters (including ""Culture,"" ""Vocality"" and ""The Narcissistic and the Personal"") of this large-print, 4"" 7"" book follow ""the voice of poetry emphasizing its literal and actual `voice' within the culture of American democracy."" Culture is the operative word here, and Pinsky begins etymologically with the word's ""old agricultural and biological connotations,"" and arcs through de Tocqueville, Frost's ""Home Burial"" and poems by Stevens, Williams and Bishop in pursuit of its varying expressions and ""invocations"" of social life. He ends with an extended and illuminating discussion of the Favorite Poem Project Pinsky undertook during his laureateship, whereby any American reader of poetry was invited to send in their favorite poem and describe its significance to them.