Biography of Robert Pinsky
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 a collection of poems by Czesław Miłosz and Dante Alighieri. He teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor at Slate.
Robert Pinsky was born on October 20, 1940, in Long Branch, New Jersey, where 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. in Philosophy from Stanford University, where he was a Stegner Fellow in creative writing. He was a student of poet & critic Yvor Winters at Stanford.
Early on, Pinsky was inspired by the flow and tension of jazz and the excitement that it made him feel. He said it was an incredible experience that he has tried to reproduce in his poetry. The musicality of poetry was and is extremely important to his work.
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. He now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University.
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.
Honors and Awards
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
Robert Pinsky's Works:
Sadness and Happiness (1975)
An Explanation of America (1981)
History of My Heart (1984)
The Want Bone (1990)
The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (1996)
Jersey Rain (2000)
Samurai Song (2001)
Gulf Music: Poems (2007)
Impossible to tell(...)
Landor's Poetry (1968)
The Situation of Poetry (1977)
Poetry and the World Ecco Press,(1988)
The Sounds of Poetry (1998)
Democracy, Culture, and the Voice of Poetry (2002)
The Life of David (2006)
Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town (2009)
Death and the Powers, an opera by Tod Machover (2010)
The Separate Notebooks by Czesław Miłosz, with Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass (1984)
The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (1995)
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)
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Robert Pinsky Poems
Impossible To Tell
Slow dulcimer, gavotte and bow, in autumn, Bashõ and his friends go out to view the moon; In summer, gasoline rainbow in the gutter,
Not a "window on the world" But as we call you, A box a tube
The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams, The nearly invisible stitches along the collar Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians
Ode To Meaning
Dire one and desired one, Savior, sentencer-- In an old allegory you would carry
At Pleasure Bay
In the willows along the river at Pleasure Bay A catbird singing, never the same phrase twice. Here under the pines a little off the road In 1927 the Chief of Police
The Night Game
Some of us believe We would have conceived romantic Love out of our own passions With no precedents,
". . . our language, forged in the dark bycenturies of violent pressure, underground,out of the stuff of dead life." Thirsty and languorous after their long black sleep
Poem With Refrains
The opening scene. The yellow, coal-fed fog Uncurling over the tainted city river, A young girl rowing and her anxious father Scavenging for corpses. Funeral meats. The clever
A monosyllabic European called Sax Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah, a kind of twisted Brazen clarinet, but with its column of vibrating Air shaped not in a cylinder but in a cone
Felicity the healer isn’t young And you don’t look him up unless you need him. Clown’s eyes, Pope’s nose, a mouth for dirty stories, He made his bundle in the Great Depression
When I had no roof I made Audacity my roof. When I had No supper my eyes dined.
The Green Piano
Aeolian. Gratis. Great thunderer, half-ton infant of miracles Torn free of charge from the universe by my mother's will. You must have amazed that half-respectable street
First Things To Hand
In the skull kept on the desk. In the spider-pod in the dust.
Pindar, poet of the victories, fitted names And legends into verses for the chorus to sing: Names recalled now only in the poems of Pindar:
The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians
Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band
Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,