". . . our language, forged in the dark by centuries of violent pressure, underground, out of the stuff of dead life." Thirsty and languorous after their long black sleep The old gods crooned and shuffled and shook their heads. Dry, dry. By railroad they set out Across the desert of stars to drink the
On October 20, 1940, Robert Pinsky was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. He received a BA from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and earned both an MA and PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University, where he was a Stegner Fellow in creative writing, and studied under the poet and critic Yvor Winters.
He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011); Gulf Music: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 2007); Jersey Rain (2000); The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (1996), which received the 1997 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a Pulitzer Prize nominee; The Want Bone (1990); History of My Heart (1984); An Explanation of America (1980); and Sadness and Happiness (1975).
He is also the author of several prose titles, including Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters (W. W. Norton, 2013);The Life of David (Schocken, 2006); Democracy, Culture, and the Voice of Poetry (2002); The Sounds of Poetry (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Poetry and the World (1988); and The Situation of Poetry(1977). In 1985 he also released a computerized novel, Mindwheel.
Pinsky has published two acclaimed works of translation: The Inferno of Dante (1994), which was a Book-of-the-Month-Club Editor's Choice, and received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award; and The Separate Notebooks by Czeslaw Milosz (with Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass).
About his work, the poet Louise Glück has said, "Robert Pinsky has what I think Shakespeare must have had: dexterity combined with worldliness, the magician's dazzling quickness fused with subtle intelligence, a taste for tasks and assignments to which he devises ingenious solutions."
From 1997 to 2000, he served as the United States Poet Laureate and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. During that time, he founded the Favorite Poem Project, a program dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry's role in Americans' lives.
In 1999, he co-edited Americans' Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology with Maggie Dietz. Other anthologies he has edited include An Invitation to Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2004); Poems to Read (2002); and Handbook of Heartbreak (1998).
His honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, both the William Carlos Williams Award and the Shelley Memorial prize from the Poetry Society of America, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He is currently poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate.
Pinsky has taught at both Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He served as a Chancellor for The Academy of American Poets from 2004 to 2010. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.