Thursday, May 20, 2004

Thoughts after a Lecture by Terry Penner

What I think it takes to be a good scholar in philosophy today.
(1) Mastery of original languages (at least Greek, Latin, German, and French).
(2) Knowledge of logic (formal, informal, set theoretic, metalogic, modal, etc.).
(3) Knowledge of the history of philosophy (both breadth and depth).
(4) Knowledge of the state and history of the discipline.
(5) Excellent study habits and writing skills.

NB: These are not criteria of what it takes to be a good philosopher nor even a good teacher of philosophy.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Robert Pinsky

Last night I went with some friends to listen to Robert Pinsky, one of the most skillful poets I have ever read, read some of his poetry. Listening to him read is a wonderful experience. Although I disagreed with some of his statements about language and "culture," he leaves almost every other contemporary poet in the dust. His knowledge of like and unlike sounds is vast, and his skill in bringing that knowledge to bear on words is virtuosic. Watching him read is like watching a prizefighter box: each movement is the seamless product of erudition and long practice.

He also recited from memory Ben Jonson's poem "His Excuse for Loving":

Let it not your wonder move,
Less your laughter, that I love.
Though I now write fifty years,
I have had, and have my Peeres;
Poets, though divine are men:
Some have loved as old again.
And it is not always face,
Clothes, or Fortune gives the grace;
Or the feature, or the youth:
But the Language, and the Truth,
With the Ardor, and the Passion,
Gives the Lover weight, and fashion.
If you then will read the Storie,
First, prepare you to be sorry
That you never knew till now,
Either whom to love, or how:
But be glad, as soon with me,
When you know, that this is she,
Of whose Beautie it was sung,
She shall make the old man young,
Keepe the middle age at stay,
And let nothing high decay,
Till she be the reason why,
All the world for love may die.

Pinsky read some poems from a collection he's working on now. He also took requests. He is 63 years old and looks amazing. After the reading, which lasted less than an hour (Pinsky is always careful to not drone on too long), he sat at a table and signed autographs with the patience and demeanor of a saint. During the question and answer session, a woman raised her hand to say that she didn't have a question but that this was the first poetry reading she had been to and that she was enjoying it and having a good time. She was genuine, and Pinsky seemed honestly thankful for her comment.

After the reading, back to the Bourgeois Apartment for good times with Carlos, Ally, Schubert, Heather, and the Bourgeois Wife, who really knows how to hostess a party: "mistress of herself though china fall."