‘Just be hungry’: New clip features Springsteen at FDU in Madison in 2010 (WATCH HERE)

Springsteen Pinsky nebraska

Bruce Springsteen and Robert Pinsky perform together at the Dreyfuss Theater at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham campus in Madison, on May 6, 2010.

In 2020, I did a post on three videos featuring a conversation between Bruce Springsteen and poet Robert Pinsky (moderated by Wesley Stace) at Fairleigh Dickinson’s University’s 2010 WAMFest Words and Music Festival at the Dreyfuss Theater in Madison, which also featured some music by Springsteen and some poetry readings from Pinsky. A week later, I did a second post, on a clip Springsteen and Stace performing Springsteen’s “Wreck on the Highway,” from the same event.

Yesterday, on the 14th anniversary of the event, a fourth, nearly 16-minute video was posted on YouTube. You can watch it below. (Chronologically, this segment takes place after the clips in the other post, and before “Wreck on the Highway”).

Two of the most moments that make this new video a must-see for any Springsteen fan come when Springsteen performs his dark masterpiece “Nebraska” after Pinsky reads a portion of his own “An Explanation of America,” and when Springsteen talks about mortality in a way that foreshadows the themes he is exploring on his current tour.

There is also an interesting moment when Springsteen is talking about the drive to create, and says “You’re on the trail of something, something … I don’t know … big, little, important, not important, important to me. And so it’s the raw enthusiasm, the raw hunger, need, desire for living … that’s what we want to give you. Just be hungry. Get out there and be hungry.”

Here is a partial transcript of what was said and, below it, the video.

Stace: WAMFest is all about words and music … (talks about some of the event’s other participants) … it’s been a wonderful coming together of people, but this combination of words and music (by Springsteen and Pinsky) is just absolutely perfect. (audience applauds)

Springsteen: This is a stanza from (Pinsky’s) “Explanation of America,” which, once again, if you haven’t read, I press on everybody to read. Because what I’ve been trying to write about for 40 years, Robert manages to get in a single poem. It’s just amazing. So we figured these two might go well together.

Pinsky recites, with Springsteen playing guitar behind his words:

There are perils in living always in vision —
Always inventing entire whatever paves
Or animates the innocent sand or snow
Of a mere locale. What if the place itself
Should seem a blank, as in a country huge
And open and potential? … the blank enlarges,
And swelling in concentric gusts of quiet,
It absorbs the imagination in a cloud
Of quiet, as smoke disperses through a mist,
A vague chimera that engulfs the breath.

That quiet leads me to a stranger’s dread
Of the place that frightened settlers might invent:
The customs of the people there, the tongues
They speak, what they have to drink, the things
That they might imagine, might falter in such a place,
Or be too few; and men would live like Cyclopes,
“With neither assemblies nor any settled customs” —
Or like the Laestrygonians, who consume their own kind
And see a stranger as his meat and marrow,
They have no cities or cultivated farms.

(Springsteen performs a solo acoustic version of his song, “Nebraska.”)

Stace: This level of rehearsal between the backing singing and what Bruce and Robert are doing, this could only possibly have happened if they had met, only an hour and a half before this. (Springsteen laughs)

(lights go out in the theater for a moment, and Stace and Springsteen joke about it.)

So I’ll ask another question, and we’ll sing another song, and then we’ll have a Q&A before we go … thank you so much to Robert and to Bruce for just their generosity in coming down here and doing this. It’s fantastic. (audience applauds)

(To Springsteen) When we were talking recently, you said that when you were a young man, and you mentioned this right at the beginning, you kind of wanted to cram everything in the world into every single song, possibly because you were afraid of dying the very next day, and you wanted to get it all out there. But now, as it were, you’re more open to a song that you see fits into this or that space, on a particular record.

Springsteen: Well, first song, first record … (sings a bit of “Blinded by the Light.”)

Stace: You’re actually trying to get every word in the world …

(Springsteen sings some more)

Springsteen: Yeah, I was trying to … I was getting it all in, right out of the box. (laughs)

Stace: Both of you, really, what has getting older — which, of course, you’re not …

Springsteen: Thank you.

Stace: … added to your art. Has it changed your approach? How do you keep things fresh? I mean, in a sense, we’ve answered that. But what about getting older? You’ve been creating words and songs and lyrics and poetry for a long time. (Springsteen laughs) I won’t even mention how long.

Pinsky: Did I ask you to point that out?

Stace: Well, how has it changed your approach? What has it done for you?

Pinsky: Thank God there are new things that you can experience. People ambitious to make art of one kind or another here should know that the issues stay the same. I say to the young poets I talk to, “You can’t just take a poll of all the smartest people you know and decide what to do. You’re driving the car, you have to decide.” And I still find myself wanting to show something to three or four poet friends I trust. “What do you think? What do you think?” And I know, really, I have to decide it. Things like that. …. “Have I gone dry?” You worry about it when you’re 18. You worry about it when you’re 78. You worry about it forever. I think that all the main issues of making art stay the same, but there’s new things to think about. And I perceive time differently.

I’m at an age where I have some good friends who have died. I am now at an age … my mom is actually alive, she must be 170 or something. But she is alive. And I have passed the age that I can remember my parents being, very well. That gives me new things to think about. And fortunately, as you get older, there are interesting things about it. Just as, like, there are interesting things about being 20 years old and wishing you were screwing on the beach.

Springsteen: What do you think about being 60 and wishing you were doing that?

Stace: That’s bad!

Pinsky: (in elderly voice) “I can’t remember! I think I was 60 once.”

The material is always new, because new things are happening to you. It’s not that I’m glad to have lost a friend last summer … I haven’t written about it, but I know it changed me. An artist who had done illustrations for some of my work died. He was close to me. And I know that’s now in the landscape, that I have to look around at, in here (pats chest), when I think, “What next?” You know, ” What am I going to do next?” Time brings new things into that landscape, and though you’re not eager for the whole movie to play, thank God there are new scenes, and they’re … your work is cut out for you.

Springsteen: I on the other hand believe I’m immortal (laughs), so I’m not worrying about any of those things. No …

Stace: You’re not looking that good (Springsteen laughs).

Pinsky: When I get to your age, Bruce, I hope I feel the same way.

Springsteen: I think what Robert is saying is, is that an oncoming train focuses the mind. You have a line in one of your poems that says, (paraphrases) “Death is the chalk-line that we’re all racing towards.” So, yeah, I have found myself hurrying. It’s like, I actually kind of find, the last 10 years have been really creative, and part of it must have to do with the idea that, like, “Man, you’ve got things you want to say, you’ve got things you want to do.” So it does become a part of just the lay of the land. And then there’s just … to write something new, you have to have a new thought, or a new idea, or a new point of view, at least. Even if it’s … they say, each songwriter, you’ve got one or two songs, you write ’em over and over again , maybe three if you’re lucky. I believe that that’s true. But you don’t look at those subjects the same way, over and over again. And time and age passes, and that increases your ability, hopefully, to perceive the things that are bothering you, or that interest you, in a deeper and a truer fashion. And at this point, those things, whatever they may be … it’s like, I’ve been through a lot of years of analysis, and I still can’t get the bulldog off my ass. So it’s whatever that thing is.

But I know one of the things it does do is, it makes me want to write. What is that? You stay real. You are on the trail of something, and I think that that remains exciting, and that’s obviously, you (Pinsky) have and you’ve maintained in your work. You’re on the trail of something, something … I don’t know … big, little, important, not important, important to me. And so it’s the raw enthusiasm, the raw hunger, need, desire for living … that’s what we want to give you. Just be hungry. Get out there and be hungry. You have to remember, the two of us, realize … we’re both doing our second choices in occupations. So don’t worry about not getting to whatever that thing is you thought you might want first. I thought I was going to be a writer, he thought he was going to be a musician. So these are our fallback positions. (laughs) So I think that’s what just keeps it all rolling, I guess.


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