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Former U.S. Poet Laureate to Address Alma Graduates

Alma College’s 135th commencement ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23 in the Hogan Center’s Art Smith Arena.

ALMA — Robert Pinsky, the first and only United States Poet Laureate to serve three terms, will deliver the keynote address at Alma College’s 135th year commencement ceremony.

Approximately 300 graduation candidates will participate in the ceremony at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 23, at the campus’s Hogan Center, in Art Smith Arena.

“For more than 50 years, Robert Pinsky has illuminated the ways in which we think about ourselves and our place in the world. He has used his gifts in public service, bettering our nation by promoting the liberal arts,” Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said. “I’m delighted that our graduating seniors will have this opportunity to hear from him as they think about their role in the world outside of Alma.”

Robert Pinsky served as United States Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. In 1998 he launched the Favorite Poem Project External for National Poetry Month. The project took place in five cities — New York, Washington, Boston, St. Louis and Los Angeles — where Americans of all walks of life were recorded reading aloud their favorite poems. At the end of Pinsky’s tenure, Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project archives, comprising 1,000 audio and 200 video recordings, were presented as a gift to the Library of Congress.

Pinsky’s poems have earned praise for their wild musical energy and range. He is the author of “Sadness and Happiness,” “An Explanation of America,” “The Want Bone,” “First Things to Hand,” “Gulf Music,” “Jersey Rain,” “History of My Heart” (winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize), “The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996” (a Pulitzer Prize finalist), and “At the Foundling Hospital.” A career-spanning collection, “Selected Poems,” was published 2011. He is currently working on a memoir titled “Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet.”

Pinsky’s landmark, best-selling translation of “The Inferno of Dante” received the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Howard Morton Landon Prize for translation. He is also co-translator of “The Separate Notebooks,” poems by Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. Pinsky’s prose book, “The Life of David,” is a lively retelling and examination of the Bible’s David stories, narrating a wealth of legend as well as scripture. Pinsky also wrote the libretto for Tod Machover’s opera “Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant,” which premiered in Monaco in fall 2010.

Pinsky teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. In 2015 Boston University named him a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, which is the highest honor bestowed on senior faculty members actively involved in research, scholarship, and University civic life, and teaching.

In addition to delivering the keynote address at Alma’s commencement, Pinsky will receive the honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Story published on March 28, 2022