Catalyst Conversations: Poetry and the Ocean

June 1, 2017
Event Types
Talk / Lecture

As sea levels are rising, we are in a moment of global change and climate crisis. Our relationship to the ocean has been altered dramatically and continues to do so. Renowned poet Robert Pinsky and MIT anthropologist Stefan Helmreich will discuss, imagine and invoke the ocean; Pinsky acting as the poetic voice through his choice of poems, will be the “hub” of the conversation and Helmreich’s comments and responses will serve as the “spokes”. In this way they will summon the rich history of our relationship to the sea, both benign and dangerous. The voice of the poems will iterate the sounds of the water.

About the Speakers

Robert Pinsky grew up within the sound of the ocean in Long Branch, New Jersey, He is a poet, essayist, translator, teacher, and speaker. His first two terms as United States Poet Laureate were marked by such visible dynamism—and such national enthusiasm in response—that the Library of Congress appointed him to an unprecedented third term. Throughout his career, Pinsky has been dedicated to identifying and invigorating poetry’s place in the world. Known worldwide, his work has earned him the PEN/Voelcker Award, the William Carlos Williams Prize, the Lenore Marshall Prize, Italy’s Premio Capri, the Korean Manhae Award, and the Harold Washington Award from the City of Chicago, among other accolades. Pinsky is a professor of English and creative writing in the graduate writing program at Boston University. In 2015 the university named him a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed on senior faculty members who are actively involved in teaching, research, scholarship, and university civic life.

Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, Program Head, MIT Anthropology received his PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University and prior to coming to MIT held fellowships at Cornell, Rutgers, and NYU. His research has examined how biologists think through the limits of “life” as a category of analysis. Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (University of California Press, 2009) is a study of marine biologists working in realms usually out of sight and reach: the microscopic world, the deep sea, and oceans outside national sovereignty. This book, winner of the 2010 Senior Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society, the 2010 Gregory Bateson Book Prize from Society for Cultural Anthropology, and the 2012 Rachel Carson Book Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science, charts how marine microbes are entangled with debates about the origin of life, climate change, property in the ocean commons, and the possibility of life on other worlds.