United States Poet Laureate (1997–2000)
Translator, Essayist, and Teacher
Robert Pinsky’s first two terms as United States Poet Laureate were marked by such visible dynamism, and such national enthusiasm in response, that the Library of Congress appointed him to an unprecedented third term. Throughout his career, Pinsky has been dedicated to identifying and invigorating poetry’s place in the world.
As Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, in which thousands of Americans — of varying backgrounds, all ages, and from every state — shared their favorite poems. Pinsky believed that, contrary to stereotype, poetry had a vigorous presence in the American cultural landscape. The project documents that presence, giving voice to the American audience for poetry. The anthology Americans' Favorite Poems, which includes letters from project participants, is in its 18th printing. The most recent anthology, An Invitation to Poetry, comes with a DVD featuring 27 of the FPP video segments, as seen on PBS. In April 2009, WW Norton published Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud.
Elegant and tough, vividly imaginative, Pinsky’s poems have earned praise for their wild musical energy and ambitious range. Selected Poems, (spring 2011) is his most recent volume of poetry. His The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and received the Lenore Marshall Award and the Ambassador Book Award of the English Speaking Union.
Pinsky’s Tanner Lectures at Princeton University were published as Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry (Princeton University Press, 2002). His other books about poetry include Poetry and the World, nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, and The Sounds of Poetry, a brief guide treasured by many young poets.
Robert Pinsky’s landmark, best-selling translation of The Inferno of Dante received the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry and the Howard Morton Landon Prize for translation. He is also co-translator of The Separate Notebooks, poems by Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. Pinsky’s prose book, The Life of David, is a lively retelling and examination of the David stories, narrating a wealth of legend as well as scripture. Pinsky also wrote the libretto for Tod Machover’s opera Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant, which premiered in Monaco in fall 2010. His book, Selected Poems, was published by Farrar Strauss & Giroux in spring of 2011. Pinsky's next book, due in August 2013, will be Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters. He is also editing The Best of the Best American Poetry, the twenty-fifth volume of the popular Best American Poetry series. In March – June 2013, the Shakespeare Theatre Company performed a newly commissioned adaptation and translation of Friedrich Schiller’s Wallenstein by Pinsky.
The poetry editor for the online magazine Slate, Pinsky appears regularly on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and publishes frequently in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Threepenny Review, American Poetry Review, and The Best American Poetry anthologies. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. Robert Pinsky is also the winner of the PEN/Voelcker Award, the William Carlos Williams Prize, the Lenore Marshall, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 2006 Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in Literary Arts, and the 2008 Theodore M. Roethke Memorial Poetry Award. He is one of the few members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters to have appeared on “The Simpsons.”
"“Pinsky is our finest living specimen of this sadly rare breed, and the poems of “Gulf Music” are among the best examples we have of poetry’s ability to illuminate not only who we are as humans, but who we are — and can be — as a nation.”"— The New York Times Book Review
"“In his poems Pinsky talks, with democratic warmth and intimacy, to the common things of this world. His extraordinary poems remind us that he has always embodied the very ideal he proposes for what a poet can do.”"— Lloyd Schwarz, The Boston Phoenix