Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Rodger Kamenetz introduces “Glass” by Robert Pinsky. This piece originally appeared on October 5, 2001, as part of the Forward’s Psalm 151 series. It is being published here online for the first time.
Robert Pinsky, poet and translator, has done more than teach us that American poetry belongs to all Americans. In April 1997, when the Library of Congress named Mr. Pinsky the 39th poet laureate, he created the Favorite Poem Project as his special undertaking. He began by recording ordinary Americans reading their favorite poems and ended up with more than 18,000 submissions, a video project, a Web site and a book, “Americans’ Favorite Poems” (Norton, 1999), or which he’s co-editor.
He himself has published six books of poetry. “The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996” was awarded the Lenore Marshall Prize in Poetry. His translation of “The Inferno of Dante” received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. He teaches in the writing program at Boston University.
“Glass” is part of a series of poems, “First Things to Hand.” “Each poem,” he told the Forward, “starts from an ordinary object I touch.”