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Artists mix poetry with music

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Longtime poet and jazz veterans Robert Pinsky and Laurence Hobgood filled the night with some of their classic pieces.

Chico State held the “PoemJazz” event at the Harlen Adams theater Feb. 26 where both these art forms were showcased. For the last 45 years, Robert Pinsky has contributed a long work of poetry and literature to American culture.Starting out as a jazz musician in high school, Pinsky decided to intertwine his passions.

“My first ambition was to be a musician,” Pinsky said. “In high school, I was voted as ‘most musical student.’”

After releasing his first poem collection in 1975 titled “Sadness and Happiness,” Pinsky’s career began to takeoff and he began working and collaborating with some of the world’s finest jazz and poet figures.

Pinsky has released more than 30 collections in the span of his almost 50-year career. He currently teaches poetry writing at Boston University and hosts many workshops and seminars.Pinsky always makes an effort to bring something new to each of his shows.

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Robert Pinsky reciting his Poems Photo credit: Abigail Jones

“Each performance is improvised and never the same,” he said. “Laurence does different things. As any improvised performer would do, we revolve our art around conversation. That’s how jazz and poetry come together.”

Pinsky explained that all of his poems are about nature of culture and the American identity.

“My poem called ‘Creole,’ for example, is a poem that’s not about what the word is usually associated with. It involves Jews, Iranians, the Irish and different backgrounds showing that a culture is always mixed and always in motion,” Pinsky said.

He also founded the Favorite Poem organization in 1997 that involves Americans projecting and sharing their favorite poems

“Poetry is a vocal art. It’s an art of the mind and body, that contrary to popular belief about Americans, many of us love,” he said. “As an organization, we aim to educate, fund donations, and advocate individuals the importance of literature.”

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Robert Pinsky and Laurence Hobgood up on stage Photo credit: Abigail Jones

The ability of jazz and composing are essentially the same things and both need to be mastered in order to combine them, according to Hobgood.

“Majority of jazz artists may have written a few tunes, but don’t really know how to compose and arrange,” Hobgood said. “Some people expect a coffeehouse jazz vibe but it’s totally different from that. What we do is cool but it’s not cool in a contrived way.”

Both Hobgood and Pinsky have contributed a tremendous amount of work to the industry and inspire individuals every day to impact the world of jazz and poetry.

Niyat Teferi can be reached at artseditor@theorion.com or @theorion_arts on Twitter.

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Artists mix poetry with music