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