The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall
with Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz
Despair, mania, rage, guilt, derangement, fantasy: poetry is our most intimate, personal source for the urgency of these experiences. Poems get under our skin; they engage with the balm, and the sting, of understanding. In The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall—its title inspired by a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins—acclaimed poet Robert Pinsky gives us more than 130 poems that explore emotion at its most expansive, distinct, and profound. For this event, poet and professor Maggie Dietz will engage Pinsky in conversation on this remarkable anthology of poems.
With seven illuminating chapters and succinct headnotes for each poem, Pinsky leads us through the book’s sweeping historical range. Each chapter, with contents chronologically presented from Shakespeare to Terrance Hayes, Dante to Patricia Lockwood, shows the persistence and variation in our states of mind. “The Sleep of Reason” explores sanity and the imagination, moving from William Cowper’s “Lines Written During a Time of Insanity” to Nicole Sealey’s “a violence.” “Grief” includes Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs last in the Door-yard Bloom’d” and Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do,” and “Manic Laughter” highlights both Lewis Carroll and Martín Espada. Each poem reveals something new about the vastness of human emotion; taken together they offer a sweeping ode to the power of poetry.
Guided by “our finest living example of [the American civic poet]” (New York Times), The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall demonstrates how extreme feelings can be complementary and contradicting, and how poetry is not just an expression of emotion, but emotion itself.Robert Pinsky is the author of ten collections of poetry including, most recently, “At the Foundling Hospital.” His translation “The Inferno of Dante” won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. His brief guide The Sounds of Poetry is used in acting classes. As a three-term United States Poet Laureate, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, in which thousands of Americans shared their favorite poems. That project gave rise to three previous anthologies, Americans’ Favorite Poems, An Invitation to Poetry, and Singing School. Pinsky lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches at Boston University. Maggie Dietz is the author of the poetry collections That Kind of Happy and Perennial Fall, which won New Hampshire's Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry and a Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award for Outstanding Achievement. Her awards include the Grolier Poetry Prize, the George Bennett Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy, as well as fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, and the NH State Council on the Arts. Dietz’s poems have appeared widely in literary journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, Agni, The Threepenny Review and Salmagundi. Dietz was the founding director of Favorite Poem Project with former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.