Robert Pinsky

American poet, editor, literary critic, academic

Robert Pinsky (born October 20, 1940) is 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.

Robert Pinsky in 2005



The Sounds of Poetry 1998

  • There are no rules. However, principles may be discerned in actual practice; for example, in the way people actually speak, or in the lines the poets have written.
  • No aspect of a poem is more singular, more unique, than its rhythm.
    • 'The Sounds of Poetry' Farrar,Strauss & Giroux 1998

WPFW-FM inteview with Grace Cavalieri 1995/96 season

  • I am very interested in memorization which is the process of incorporating a poem, so, I would say the kind of poetry I write is the kind that emphasises the physical qualities of the words.
  • I think what holds a poem like this together for me, if it’s held together, is largely meter; this one is in iambic pentameter and iambic pentameter whatever else it is, can be a very good glue. It is a very good way to hold things together. It’s like 4:4 you know.

The Art of Poetry - interview 1995 with Downing & Kunitz

  • Poetry is the most bodliy of arts, the medium of poetry is the column of breath rising from the diaphragm in the individual's chest to be shaped into meaning sounds inside the mouth of whoever undertakes to say the poem.
  • All the mysteries of consciousness flower in the body.
  • Poetry is a vocal art for me, not neccessarilyperformative, it might be reading to one self or recalling some lines by memory.The speaker bringing their own experience to it,changing it with their own sensibility.
  • That physical tingle, that powerful audible experience(not with poets projecting their work to an audience) but more intimate, less planned than that.
  • Craft is something you learn by studying models.When a student asks, what is a good book about traditional iambic verse, The Collected Poems of Ben Jonson. What is an excellent book about free verse? The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams. What is a good book about short line in ballad metre? The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.
    • Interview at Skidmore College Aug 1995,published 'Paris Review' no 144 Fall 1997

Poetry and the World, Ecco Press,1988

  • It is the nature of poetry to emphasize that the physical sounds of words come from a particular body , one at a time, in a particular order.
  • An artist needs not so much an audience, as to feel a need to answer, a promise to respond....a good feeling about his art.

Singing School

  • Each work of art generate its own rules
  • There are no rules but uniformity can make it seem as though there are rules.
  • A poem is free, and it shows its freedom by establishing its own principles.
  • The voice recognizes movements and pause, similarity and difference, recognizes and understands it in a mental and physical process.
  • The poet is a particular kind of expert.
  • Part of making a poem is a process of day- dreaming.
    • Singing School -Learning to Write (and read) Poetry W W Norton, New York 2013


  • The poetry I love is written with someone’s voice and I believe its proper culmination is to be read with someone’s voice. And the human voice in that sense is not electronically reproduced or amplified.
    • Sleigh, Tom. "Robert Pinsky", ‘’BOMB Magazine’’ Summer, 1998. .
  • An underestimated element in poetry, that reading aloud makes clear, is the pause. I mean especially the force of a pause or a couple of pauses close together, contrasted with a longer unit of grammar.
    • Article-Poems Aloud April 2009
  • Every word is an abstraction or category, not a particular.
    • The Situation of Poetry - Contemporary Poetry and its Traditions Princeton University Press 1976
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