School of Writing Director Robert Polito was recently in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts to be honored with the Arts Council's 2013 Arts Alumni Award at Boston College in recognition for his accomplishments in scholarship and poetry. The Arts Council Award is presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to the arts in their disciplines. Congratulations to Robert for receiving this distinguished honor!
About Robert Polito, the Arts Council said:
At the Arts Council, we couldn’t be more proud of our 2013 Alumni Award recipient. Poet, essayist, and biographer Robert Polito graduated summa cum laude from Boston College in 1973 with a degree in English. Since graduation, he has built a distinguished career at the intersection of poetry and scholarly literary and cultural studies. [...]
Polito’s poetry reads as the cornerstone of his scholarly and nonfiction pursuits. “Poetry—and what I’ve learned through reading and writing it,” says Polito, “is at the center of everything I do. This is true of my nonfiction as well as my teaching.” [...]
“For me,” says Polito, “and many other poets in my generation, popular music provided the education in sensibility that high culture offered to previous writers.” Indeed, Polito is invested in the future of poetry in America. For him, American poetry is in “a fascinating moment,” as poetry has grown up around local cultures, “each with its own magazines, presses, websites, blogs, and reading series, almost along the indie rock model.”
While at Boston College Polito also participated in "Inside the BC Studio," resulting in a lively discussion of his career and artistic influences, and read poetry at the launch of the new Stylus, of which Robert Polito was Editor-in-Chief for two years.
At "Inside the BC Studio" BCHeights.com writes that Robert Polito:
described his poetry collection Hollywood and God as an exploration of “what happens to the American impulse toward transcendence coming out of the 18th and 19th century when it bumps up against celebrity culture.” He’s written extensively about classic film noir and crime fiction, and is currently writing a book about late-career Bob Dylan, seeing Dylan’s recent work as part of a literary tradition extending far beyond the realm of folk music.
Above all, though, Polito is a poet, and he spoke with enthusiasm about his ambitions to harness the power of the Internet—through interactive ebooks and digital mapping projects, for example—to spread appreciation for the form. In a Q&A session following Rotella’s interview, one older woman tried to elicit a reactionary response from Polito about technology’s harmful role on the current generation of students, but he wouldn’t take the bait. Instead, Polito seemed far more optimistic about the matter, and he even shared the humorous insight that “The Internet is basically modernism,” since both rely on “fragmentation, collage, and unreliable narration.”
At the launch of Stylus BCHeights.com writes:
Polito kicked off by reading four poems, all of which drew on his diverse range of influences, including the films of Jean-Luc Godard, the classic poem Beowulf, and the seedy film noir classic Detour. The biggest hit was the aptly titled “Paris Hilton Calls on Jesus,” a 23-line poem which manages to be both humorous and darkly disturbing. Polito’s ability to extract poetic meaning from the life of a mindless celebrity was a testament to his unique artistic talent, and the perfect way to kick off an event that brought together the publication’s past and present in perfect harmony.
Born in Boston, Robert Polito is a poet, biographer, cultural critic, and editor who received his Ph.D. in English and American Language and Literature from Harvard. His most recent books are the poetry collection Hollywood & God, which was selected one of the top five poetry books of the year by Barnes and Noble, The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber (editor) and David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and '50s (editor). His other books include Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award and an Edgar; Doubles (a book of poems); A Reader's Guide to James Merrill's The Changing Light at Sandover; and At the Titan's Breakfast: Three Essays on Byron's Poetry. He is also the editor of Library of America volumes Crime Novels: American Noir of the 30s and 40s, Crime Novels: American Noir of the 50s, and The Selected Poems of Kenneth Fearing, as well as the editor of The Everyman's Library James M. Cain and The Everyman's Library Dashiell Hammett.