Topic: Robert Pinsky
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In many ways, 2010 is a year you may want to relegate to the filing cabinet quickly. It began with a massive earthquake in Haiti and wound down with North Korea once again being an enfant terrible – bizarrely trying to conduct diplomacy through brinkmanship. In between came Toyota recalls and egg scares, pat downs at airports and unyielding unemployment numbers, too little money in the Irish treasury and too many bedbugs in American sheets. Oil gushed from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico for three months, mocking the best intentions of man and technology to stop it, while ash from a volcano in Iceland darkened Europe temporarily as much as its balance sheets. Yet not all was gloomy. The winter Olympics in Canada and the World Cup in South Africa dazzled with their displays of athletic prowess and national pride, becoming hearths around which the world gathered. In Switzerland, the world's largest atom smasher hurled two protons into each other at unfathomable speeds. Then came the year's most poignant moment – the heroic and improbable rescue of 33 miners from the clutches of the Chilean earth. There were many transitions, too – the return of the Republicans in Washington and the Tories in Britain, the scaling back of one war (Iraq) and the escalation of another (Afghanistan), the fall of some powers (Greece) and rise of others (China, Germany, Lady Gaga). To get the new year off to the right start, we decided to ask various thinkers for one idea each to make the world a better place in 2011. We plumbed poets and political figures, physicists and financiers, theologians and novelists. Some of the ideas are provocative, others quixotic. Some you will agree with, others you won't. But in the modest quest to stir a discussion – from academic salons to living rooms to government corridors – we offer these 25 ideas.
As poet laureate, W.S. Merwin is assuming a role with changing expectations.