Poetry, Memory, and Visualization

by Jackie

My freshman year in college, somehow, Robert Pinsky, who was, at the time the US Poet Laureate, visited my mostly unknown (unless you like Division II football) mid-western university. I squeezed into the prettiest building on campus; a building that served double duty as venue and church and was far too small to house an audience for the sitting Poet Laureate. Other than the forced marches through poetry and recitation in high school, I can’t recall attending any poetry readings before that. It is one of the most memorable performances of my life. I include concerts and theater in that tally.

I’ve been out of college (and grad school) for quite some time now, but these memories came flooding back as I watched the below video, a “visualization of Robert Pinsky’s poem “Shirt,” produced by the Nantucket Poetry Project,” and featuring, among others, Herbie Hancock (!) and Nas (!!). It’s worth five minutes of your life.

What’s your most memorable poetry moment?



5 responses to “Poetry, Memory, and Visualization”

  1. Michelle C. says:

    For me it was when I watched Slam Nation during a Creative Writing class in college and first heard Saul Williams. He showed me that poetry can be passionate and angry and heart-wrenching–things you think would be obvious but somehow weren’t to me at that time. I fell in love with spoken word poetry.

  2. Alez says:

    I’ve always enjoyed poetry, but taking classes in college really helped show me how many different styles of poetry there are. I was especially drawn to more alternative styles of poetry, such as spoken, visual, interactive, or sentence poetry. Things like the video above, that add different elements to poetry.

    I’ll never forget my encounter with the digital version of Robert Grenier’s Sentences. Each time you enter the site the 500 “cards” rearrange themselves. I spent hours on it. This was more than I ever thought poetry could be, and I still use it as an example of how varied poetry really is.


  3. Jackie Personeus says:

    One of my most memorable was from a PBS series called The United States of Poetry. This was in the 90’s and the poems were made into short MTV-like videos. It was awesome! My favorite: Leonard Cohen performed “Democracy is Coming to the USA.” I still get chills when I watch it on youtube every now and then.

  4. Jenny says:

    A memorable moment for me was watching a video of a three-year-old recite the poem “Litany” by Billy Collins and thinking well, that’s quite a feat for a three-year-old and thinking the poem was just ok. https://youtu.be/uVu4Me_n91Y . But then watching Billy Collins recite the poem and feeling floored at the discovery that this was actually a funny poem and thinking what a huge difference it makes the way a poem is read. https://youtu.be/56Iq3PbSWZY

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