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Robert Pinsky, who served as the 39th U.S. poet laureate from 1997 to 2000, will speak on “Dante and the Modern Imagination” at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the auditorium of Lafayette’s Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.

Free and open to the public, the lecture is being held under the auspices of the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Visiting Lecture series, Lafayette’s most distinguished visiting lecture program. The talk is part of Lafayette’s 2001 Roethke Humanities Festival. Held every two years, the Roethke Festival is named for Theodore Roethke (1908-63), a former Lafayette faculty member and noted poet of the 1940s and ’50s. Roethke published several critically acclaimed volumes of poetry, including The Waking, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1954.

Pinsky is poetry editor of the online journal Slate and a contributor to “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University.

As poet laureate, Pinsky was an active and visible advocate for poetry. He created the Favorite Poem Project as his special undertaking. At first, Pinsky hoped to make audio recordings of Americans saying favorite poems. The idea caught on quickly and he made plans for a more substantial project that would encourage live reading events in communities across the country, create a database of thousands of letters from Americans, and produce a series of short audio and video documentaries that capture American voices, faces and choices.

At noon, Monday, Nov. 12, Lafayette will hold a Favorite Poem Reading in the Williams Center for the Arts. All those connected with Lafayette – students, faculty, and staff – are being invited to read the published poem that is most meaningful to them.

Pinsky’s The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1965-1995, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1996, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and also received the Lenore Marshall Award and the Ambassador Book Award of the English Speaking Union. His book-length poem An Explanation of America, awarded the Saxifrage Prize when it was first published in 1980, has been published by Princeton University Press in a new edition. History of My Heart, chosen for the 1985 William Carlos Williams Prize of the Poetry Society of America, has also been published in a new edition by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His collection of essays Poetry and the World was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award in criticism. He is also co-translator of The Separate Notebooks, poems by Nobel Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz.

His book The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1995), was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry and the Howard Morton Landon Prize for translation. A Book-of-the-Month-Club Editor’s Choice, The Inferno of Dante appeared on the Best Sellers lists of The Boston Globe and Newsday. It has been celebrated by Stephen Greenblatt as “the premier modern text for English-language readers to experience Dante’s power.”

In 1998, two books by Pinsky appeared: The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and The Handbook of Heartbreak, an anthology (Morrow). His latest collection of poems is Jersey Rain (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2000).

In 1999 W.W. Norton & Company published the anthology Americans’ Favorite Poems, a collection of poems featured in the Favorite Poem Project. In 1996, Pinsky received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His writing has also won awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including Antaeus, The New Yorker, Paris Review, The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The Harper American Literature, The Harvard Book of Contemporary Poetry, The Vintage Book of Contemporary Poetry, Best Poems of 1990, Best Poems of 1991, and Best Poems of 1992. Before coming to Boston University he taught at Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley. From 1979 to 1986 he was poetry editor of The New Republic.

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