The 'Coltrane of the Quatrain' speaks tonight Ashland

Robert Pinsky, who served an unprecedented three terms as U.S. Poet Laureate, will visit Ashland Thursday, Feb. 7, as part of the Chautauqua Poets and Writers Series.

He will be interviewed at 9 a.m., on Jefferson Public Radio's "Jefferson Exchange" show. Fans can see him in person at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening when he gives a talk and reads from his work at the Ashland High School Theater. Between public appearances, Pinsky will conduct writing workshops with teachers and students from area schools.

Pinsky, a popular poet and poetry advocate, was U.S. Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. During his term, he created the Favorite Poem Project, in which over 18,000 Americans of varying backgrounds, ages, and from across the nation share their favorite poems. The resulting anthology, America's Favorite Poems, is now in its eighteenth printing. Pinsky works to promote poetry in mainstream popular culture. He appeared for seven years regularly on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and made guest appearances on The Simpsons and The Colbert Report.

Ashland librarian Amy Blossom says Pinsky's visit, as with other Chautauqua poets, will be very interactive. "All of the writers in the series are involved with the teaching of writing." Pinsky teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. Blossom adds, "It's not just a reading, he'll also talk about poetry and answer questions from the audience."

Known as the "Coltrane of the Quatrain," Pinsky was drawn to music as a teenager and played tenor sax in a band that performed at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Says Pinsky, "Art is essential. It is not here to enhance our lives, but to go one further, and be at the core of our lives. It is better to learn an instrument than to learn grammar because music and art is the center of intelligence."

He is poetry editor for the online magazine Slate, and writes a weekly "Poet's Choice" column for the Washington Post. His seventh volume of poetry, Gulf Music was published in 2007.

The Chautauqua series is made possible by several grants and co-sponsored by the Oregon Writing Project at SOU, Ashland High School, and Friends of the Ashland Library. The series has previously featured literary celebrities Naomi Shihab Nye, Jane Hirschfield, Alberto Rios, and Ted Kooser. The Ashland Library will host a number of related events in coordination with this visit, including Pinsky-led writing workshops for Oregon Writing Project alumni and for student groups.

The Pinsky reading will begin at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 7, at the Mountain Avenue Theatre, Ashland High School, 201 S. Mountain Ave. Attendees are advised to arrive early to find parking and allow time to purchase a favorite Pinsky book.

Tickets, $15 general and $12 for students, are available at Bloomsbury Books, The Bookwagon, and Tree House Books in Ashland, A Rug for All Reasons in Medford, and OregonBooks in Grants Pass.

For more information call 482-3632.

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