Photo Credit: Scott Davidson

Robert Pinsky

b. 1940

Current City, State, Country

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Long Branch, New Jersey, USA


Robert Pinsky is a poet, essayist, translator, and one of America’s foremost poet-critics. Often called the last of the “civic” poets, Pinsky has dedicated his life’s work to identifying and invigorating poetry’s place in the world through his criticism and verse. Pinsky was elected Poet-Laureate of the United States in 1997, and he received so much enthusiasm and praise that he was appointed to an unprecedented third-term by The Library of Congress, serving until 2000. His tenure was marked by his efforts to prove the power of poetry, and its importance as an art form.

Pinsky is known for tackling important themes, for “standing up for civilization, against decadence and discontent, and the drama of being a citizen, a son, a parent and a Jew in the United States today,” notes fellow poet David Lehman, editor of the series The Best American Poetry. “He writes about the largest of subjects: America, the Judaic imagination, the meaning of meaning, jokes and their relation to language and the unconscious.”

He is widely commended by the poetry community; poet Joel Brouwer has said that “[n]o other living American poet — no other living American, probably — has done so much to put poetry before the public eye.”

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, and some entrants were asked to read for a permanent audio archive at the Library of Congress. Pinsky set a goal of recording one hundred people, but he was inundated with letters and e-mails from all over the nation, and explained in an interview with the Progressive, “The Favorite Poem Project is partly to demonstrate that there is more circulation of poetry and more life of poetry than there might seem with the stereotype. I must say that the Favorite Poem readings, beyond my expectation, are very moving.”

With Maggie Dietz, Pinsky edited a representative volume of reader responses called Americans’ Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology. A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that “the selections are as diverse as the nation that chose them.” Americans’ Favorite Poems proved so popular that two subsequent collections have appeared: Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology and An Invitation to Poetry: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology.

Pinsky’s work has earned him the PEN/Voelcker Award, the William Carlos Williams Prize, the Lenore Marshall Prize, Italy’s Premio Capri, the Korean Manhae Award, and the Harold Washington Award from the City of Chicago, among other accolades. His anthology The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

His landmark, best-selling translation of The Inferno of Dante received the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Howard Morton Landon Prize for translation. Pinsky has said that he became fascinated with Dante’s works after participating in a reading of Inferno in 1993. “This was like being a child with a new toy. I called the translation a feat of metrical engineering, and I worked obsessively. It’s the only writing I have ever done where it’s like reading yourself to sleep each night. We have pillowcases stained with ink where my wife took the pen out of my hand at night.” Pinsky 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.

One of Robert Pinsky’s motivations is seeking to bring poetry to a broad audience, and is the only member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters to have appeared on “The Simpsons” and “The Colbert Report.” For years a regular contributor to PBS’s NewsHour, he publishes frequently in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Threepenny Review, and The Best American Poetry anthologies, a popular series for which he also served as editor of the 25th anniversary volume, The Best of the Best American Poetry. Pinsky is currently working as a Professor of Creative Writing in the graduate program at Boston University. In 2015 the university named him a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed on senior faculty members who are actively involved in teaching, research, scholarship, and university civic life.

(Biography courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, Robert Pinsky’s Website, and Hadassah Magazine)

Published Works

At the Foundling Hospital (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016)
Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011)
Death and the Powers: an opera by Tod Machover (libretto, 2010)
Ephemera: Poems; with Karen Kunc (Blue Heron Press, 2009)
Gulf Music: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007)
Canto V; collaboration with Ezra Laderman (libretto, 2007)
First Things to Hand (chapbook; Sarabande Books, 2006)
Jersey Rain (Farrar, Straus & Giroux2000)
The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966–1996 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1996)
The Want Bone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1990)
History of My Heart (Farrar, Straus & Giroux1984)
An Explanation of America (Princeton University Press, 1979)
Sadness and Happiness (Princeton University Press, 1975)
Landor’s Poetry (University of Chicago Press, 1968)

Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet (W. W. Norton & Company, 2022)
Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters (W. W. Norton, 2014)
Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
The Life of David (Schocken Books, 2006)
Democracy, Culture, and the Voice of Poetry (Princeton University Press, 2002)
Image and Text: A Dialogue with Robert Pinsky and Michael Mazur (Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, 1994)
The Sounds of PoetryA Brief Guide (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998)
Poetry and the World (Ecco Press, 1988)
Mindwheel: An Electronic Novel (Synapse Software, 1984)
The Situation of Poetry: Contemporary Poetry and Its Traditions (Princeton University Press, 1976)

Translated Works
Friedrich Schiller’s Wallenstein (Dog Ear Publishing, 2013)
Lines from the Inferno of Dante (Mummy Mountain Press, 2004)
The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994)
Czeslaw Milosz, The Separate Notebooks; with Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass (Ecco Press, 1984)

Edited Works
A Book of Poetry for Hard Times: An Anthology (W. W. Norton & Company, 2021)
The Mind has Cliffs of Fall: Poems at the Extremes of Feeling (W. W. Norton & Company, 2019)
The Best of the Best American Poetry (Scribner Poetry, 2013)
Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud (W. W. Norton, 2009)
An Invitation to Poetry: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology; with Maggie Dietz (W. W. Norton, 2004)
William Carlos Williams: Selected Poems (Library of America, 2004)
Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology; with Maggie Dietz (W. W. Norton, 2002)
World’s Tallest Disaster: Poems by Cate Marvin (Sarabande Books, 2001)
Americans’ Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology (with Maggie Dietz) (W.W. Norton, 2000)
The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow (Rob Weisbach Books, 1998)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Professor and Creative Writing Director, Boston University


Rutgers University, B.A., 1962
Stanford University, M.A. in Philosophy, 1966
Stanford University, PhD in Philosophy, 1966

Languages of Publication(s) and Poets Translated

Italian: Dante Alighieri; Polish: Czesław Miłosz

Subject Matter


Profile Created By

Shelby Sizemore, Yetzirah Intern