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Arts and Theater 1

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Black Tie International Magazine - Arts and Theater
Poetry and Jazz with Robert Pinsky, Ben Allison,
Andrew Cyrille and Vijay Iyer


Poetry and Jazz with Robert Pinsky,

Ben Allison, Andrew Cyrille and Vijay Iyer

Riggio Forum at The New School

Photos & Story by:  Fiddle Viracola

Robert Pinsky Robert Pinsky, Ben Allison, Andrew Cyrille 

Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky, Ben Allison, Andrew Cyrille  

Robert Pinsky and Keenan Walsh   Charles Thompson,  Sam Litton, Jade Park 

Robert Pinsky and Keenan Walsh       

Charles Thompson,  Sam Litton, Jade Park  

Ross Gallagher and Marshall Brown   Robert Pinsky and Fiddle Viracola

Ross Gallagher and Marshall Brown  

Robert Pinsky and Fiddle Viracola




Dylan Thomas said: ’Writing poetry is like throwing rose petals down the Grand Canyon and waiting to hear the echo.”  That wasn’t true for Robert Pinsky’s  poetry joining the jazz of bassist/composer Ben Allison, drummer Andrew Cyrille and pianist/composer Vijay Iyer at the New School.  We heard.  Oh, what we heard!


This quartette made words its fourth instrument. Poetry was emphasized by music in a jazz improv: coming forth then holding back; solo's allowed then combined; a sometimes silence. The music in Pinsky’s phrases (tough, biting, gentle, powerful, classy, wise, vast, witty,)  arrow-leaps a phrase to the heart, not to wound but to open a closed spot to “I know that. You’re saying what I feel, or never saw.” His delivery and emphases were impeccable. Actors could learn from him.


Everyone in the sold out crowd sat in red chairs or leaned against white walls. These artists made heads bob; a foot beat; fingers mark time; four year old eyes dart in rhythm,  a couple kiss, while bearded wall people slight-shuffled their feet. Talk about cause and effect.  Thank you! Thank you gentleman!

In an unprecedented appointment Robert Pinsky served three terms as the United States Poet Laureate and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, when he founded the Favorite Poem Project that recorded and encouraged poetry's place in Americans' lives. He authored nineteen books, is an essayist, teacher, literary critic, and translator. Translations include those of Nobel Laureate Cesar Milosz and Dante Alighieri, which received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

What vast  honors: the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award;  American Academy of Arts and Letters award; William Carlos Williams Award; Shelley Memorial prize from the Poetry Society of America;  PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry; The National Foundation of Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in Literary Arts; The National Foundation of Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in Literary Arts; elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Guggenheim Foundation fellowship; Pulitzer Prize nomination and Book-of-the-Month-Club Editor's Choice, etc. Remember the News Hour with Jim Lehrer that included a Pinsky poem with its news? And his stint on The Simpsons?

Bassist and composer Ben Allison, drummer Andrew Cyrille and pianist and composer Vijay Iyer are part of the stellar Jazz and Contemporary Music teachers at The New School.  Robert Pinsky teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor of Slate, etc.

Drummer Andrew Cyrille performed with Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Freddie Hubbard, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Nigerian drummer Babatude Olatunji, Cecil Taylor etc.

Bassist and composer Ben Allison’s recent albums are Think Free and Little things run Wild.

Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer’s recent albums are Historicity and Tragicomic

About his work, the poet Louise Glück has said, "Robert Pinsky has what I think Shakespeare must have had: dexterity combined with worldliness, the magician's dazzling quickness fused with subtle intelligence, a taste for tasks and assignments to which he devises ingenious solutions."  WOW!

I can’t understand how he found poetry in Third Avenue, Long Branch, New Jersey where he was born (as I was) He also wrote poetry on Long Branch’s disintegration. That I know for when I returned I saw Disney-beige condos now block the ocean that listened to my childhood heartache and “waved” away its fences.  


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