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A temple of words

Last October, the Chautauqua Poets & Writers Series brought former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser to the Rogue Valley for a series of presentations and workshops.

Next week, the group is hosting Robert Pinsky who served as poet laureate from 1997 to 2000. Pinsky will visit the Rogue Valley as part of the Chautauqua Poets & Writers Series. He will give a talk and read from his work at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Mountain Avenue Theatre, Ashland High School, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

Pinsky's time in Southern Oregon will be spent much as Kooser's was. He will be interviewed on Jefferson Public Radio's "Jefferson Exchange" starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7. He will meet with teachers from the Rogue Valley at Southern Oregon University, and conduct a workshop with Ashland High School and Eagle Point High School students.

A native of Long Branch, N.J., Pinsky began his artistic career as a saxophone player, but switched to poetry in college. Recognized as an ambassador for poetry, he devised the Favorite Poem Project during his term as Poet Laureate. As part of the project, 18,000 Americans of varying backgrounds, ages, and from every state, shared their favorite poems. The anthology "Americans' Favorite Poems" is now in its 18th printing.

Pinsky is poetry editor for the online magazine Slate and writes a weekly "Poet's Choice" column for the Washington Post. He appeared regularly for seven years on the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." His landmark translation of "The Inferno" by Dante received the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry. He also has translated poems from the Yiddish and the poetry of Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. He has written an opera libretto and completed "The Life of David" which explores the legacy of the scriptural hero. His book, "The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996," was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. "Gulf Music," published in 2007, is his seventh volume of poetry.

"In my opinion the medium of poetry is not words, not images, not lines," Pinsky said at a reading of his poetry at John Carroll University in Cleveland. "The medium for poetry is one person's voice. It's the human body. Breath."

Chautauqua Poets & Writers series is cosponsored by Friends of the Ashland Library and made possible through grants from Oregon Writing Project at Southern Oregon University, Jackson County Cultural Coalition, City of Ashland Economic and Cultural Development and Ashland High School.

Tickets prices are: patron, $25; general, $15; student with ID, $12. Tickets are available at A Rug for All Reasons, Medford; OregonBooks, Grants Pass; and Bloomsbury Books, The Bookwagon, and Tree House Books in Ashland.

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made

Audacity my roof. When I had

No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.

When I had no ears I thought.

When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made

Care my father. When I had

No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made

Quiet my friend. When I had no

Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made

My voice my temple. I have

No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune

Is my means. When I have

Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment

Is my strategy. When I had

No lover I courted my sleep.

Former poet laureate Robert Pinsky