Robert Pinsky (b. 1940), at a 2005 event.
October 20, 1940 |
Long Branch, New Jersey United States
|Occupation||poet, literary critic, editor, academic|
|Genres||poetry, literary criticism|
|Notable work(s)||Selected Poems (2011)|
|Spouse(s)||Ellen Jane Bailey (m. 1961; 3 children)|
Robert Pinsky (born October 20, 1940) is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Pinsky is the author of nineteen books, most of which are collections of his own poetry. His published work also includes critically acclaimed translations, including The Inferno of Dante Alighieri and The Separate Notebooks by Czesław Miłosz. He teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor at Slate.
Pinsky was born on October 20, 1940, in Long Branch, New Jersey, the son of Sylvia (née Eisenberg) and Milford Simon Pinsky, an optician. He attended Long Branch High School. He received a B.A. from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and earned both an M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, where he was a Stegner Fellow in creative writing. He was a student of Francis Fergusson and Paul Fussell at Rutgers and Yvor Winters at Stanford. Pinsky married Ellen Jane Bailey, a clinical psychologist, in 1961. They have three children. He now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. Before moving to Boston University, Pinsky taught at Wellesley College and at the University of California at Berkeley.
Early on, Pinsky was inspired by the flow and tension of jazz and the excitement that it made him feel. As a former saxophonist, he has said that being a musician was a profoundly influential experience that he has tried to reproduce in his poetry. The musicality of poetry was and is extremely important to his work. In addition, Pinsky revealed in a 1999 interview with Bomb Magazine that he enjoys jazz for its "physical immediacy, improvisation and also the sense that a lifetime of suffering and study and thought and emotion is behind some single phrase."
Rather than intending to communicate a single or concrete meaning with his work, Pinsky anticipated that his poetry will change depending on the particular subjectivity of each reader. Embracing the idea that people's individuality will fill out the poem, he has said, "The poetry I love is written with someone’s voice and I believe its proper culmination is to be read with someone’s voice. And the human voice in that sense is not electronically reproduced or amplified; it’s the actual living breath inside a body—not necessarily the second life of reception—not necessarily the expert’s body or the artist’s body. Whoever reads the poem aloud becomes the proper medium for the poem." Pinksky observes 'the kind of poetry I write emphasizes the physical qualities of the words' for poetry to Pinsky, is a vocal art, not necessarily performative,but reading to one self or recalling some lines by memory. No aspect of a poem, Pinsky observes, is more singular, more unique, than its rhythm, for there are no rules.
He received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1974, and in 1997 he was named the United States Poet Laureate and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, being the first and so far only poet to be named to three terms. As Poet Laureate, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, in which thousands of Americans of varying backgrounds, all ages, and from every state share their favorite poems. Pinsky believed that, contrary to stereotype, poetry has a strong presence in the American culture. The project sought to document that presence, giving voice to the American audience for poetry.
Pinsky wrote the libretto for Death and the Powers, a ground-breaking opera by composer Tod Machover. The opera received its world premiere in Monte Carlo in September 2010, and its U.S. premiere at Boston's Cutler Majestic Theater in March 2011. Pinsky is also the author of the interactive fiction game Mindwheel (1984) developed by Synapse Software and released by Broderbund. Pinsky guest-starred in a 2002 episode of the animated sitcom The Simpsons TV show, "Little Girl in the Big Ten", and appeared on The Colbert Report in April, 2007, as the judge of a "Meta-Free-Phor-All" between Stephen Colbert and Sean Penn.In 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Selected Poems by Robert Pinsky. In 2012, Circumstantial Productions released the CD, PoemJazz by Robert Pinsky and Laurence Hobgood.,
Published works 
- PoemJazz (2012) Circumstantial Productions
- Sadness and Happiness (1975) Princeton University Press
- An Explanation of America (1981) Princeton University Press
- History of My Heart (1984) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- The Want Bone (1990) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966–1996 (1996) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Jersey Rain (2000) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Gulf Music: Poems (2007) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Selected Poems (2011) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Landor's Poetry (1968) University of Chicago Press
- The Situation of Poetry (1977) Princeton University Press
- Poetry and the World (1988) Ecco Press
- The Sounds of Poetry (1998) Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Democracy, Culture, and the Voice of Poetry (2002) Princeton University Press
- The Life of David (2006) Schocken Books
- Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town (2009) University of Chicago Press
- Death and the Powers, an opera by Tod Machover (2010)
Interactive fiction 
- Mindwheel (1984)
As translator 
- The Separate Notebooks by Czesław Miłosz, with Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass (1984)
- The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (1995)
As editor 
- Handbook of Heartbreak (1998)
- Americans' Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology, with Maggie Dietz (1999)
- Poems to Read (2002)
- An Invitation to Poetry (2004)
- Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud (2009)
Honors and awards 
- PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry in 2004
- Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1997–2000)
- National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1974)
- Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University
- Saxifrage Prize (1980) for An Explanation of America
- William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America
- Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism (1988) for Poetry and the World
- Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1996) for The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966–1996
- Ambassador Book Award in Poetry of the English Speaking Union
- Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize (1997) for The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966–1996
- Los Angeles Times Book Award (1994) for The Inferno of Dante
- Book-of-the-Month Editor's Choice (1994) for The Inferno of Dante
- Academy of American Poets' Translation Award (1994) for The Inferno of Dante
Notes and references 
Notes and citations 
- D'Amato, Anthony. "Jersey: 'The Most American State?' - What does a three-term United States Poet Laureate have to say about growing up in New Jersey? Find out in this month's Q & A with Robert Pinsky.", New Jersey Monthly, May 7, 2010. Accessed September 6, 2011. "My aunts and uncles and cousins and parents all attended Long Branch High School, as did my brother and sister and I."
- Stanford citation
- New Page 1
- Sleigh, Tom. "Robert Pinsky", ‘’BOMB Magazine’’ Summer, 1998. Retrieved on June 19, 2012.
- Interview with Grace Cavalieri,The Poet and the Poem, on WPFW-FM 1996-96 season
- The Art of Poetry -interview 1996 with Downing & Kunitz
- Pinsky, Robert The Sounds of Poetry -A Brief Guide Farrar, Strauss and Giroux New York 1998 ISBN 0374266956
- McKinley, Jesse. "People (Not All Famous) As the Greatest Poem", The New York Times, April 3, 1998. Accessed September 6, 2011.
- Eichler, Jeremy. "Second Life: ‘Death and the Powers’ from ART", Boston Globe, March 21, 2011. Accessed September 6, 2011.
- Interactive Fiction
- us.macmillan.com, washingtonpost.com, nybooks.com
- Jazztimes.com, Boston Article , 
Books and printed materials 
- The Art of Poetry LXXVI: Robert Pinsky" The Paris Review No. 144 (1997), pp. 180–213 (interview)
Online Resources 
- Library of Congress Online Resources
- "Modernism and Memory," Pinsky's lecture from the 2010 Key West Literary Seminar
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Robert Pinsky|
- The Favorite Poem Project site
- Concord Academy 2012 Commencement Address
- LA Times story on PEN Center Lifetime Achievment award
- Audio, Bruce Springsteen reads “Samurai Song”at Wamfest
- The PBS NewsHour 5/20/11 Interview
- Newark Star-Ledger Springsteen/Pinsky story
- Video, Colbert Report, Pinsky with Sean Penn and Colbert
- The Nation review by Jeremey Bass
- David Kaufman Review in Tablet
- Poet Robert Pinsky Takes on King David in a public radio interview on ThoughtCast!
- Robert Pinsky's interview about his time and inspirations in Maine
- Cortland Review Interview with Robert Pinsky
Poetry readings 
- Pinsky read 'Shirt' aloud on youtube
- Robert Pinsky reads his poem "Street Music".
- Interview with Robert Pinsky for Guernica Magazine
- Watch Robert Pinsky read "Book" at Open-Door Poetry
- IPA: Robert Pinsky reads a selection of his poetry
- Pinsky poetry readings
- Essential Pleasures: Robert Pinsky's column on Poems Out Loud (April 2009)
- Boston University Press Release
- Modern American Poetry on Robert Pinsky
- The Academy of American Poets on Robert Pinsky