Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 – 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 Czeslaw Milosz and Dante Alighieri.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 lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Question: Who are you?
Robert Pinksy: I am deeply from Long Branch New Jersey, probably the town in which American celebrity was invented. The old idea of high society went to Sarasota springs and to New Port, Rhode Island. Long Branch was near New York City and its where the patent medicine millionaires and the show business people went at a time not as high class gradually that has taken over and its what society used to be. President Garfield and President Grant went to Long Branch Garfield died in Long Branch. Diamond Jim Breedy took Lee Russell there. It was the summer white house with six or seven different Presidents including Woodrow Wilson. It’s a very historic resort town motto could almost be the town is in what it used to be. So I grew up surrounded by a kind of elegiac feeling. There is an ocean front. When I was a kid there was a boardwalk and honky-tonk and also my family had been in the town. I was the third generation. My mom and dad both graduated from Long Branch high school. As did my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my brother and sister at the same home room teacher is my dad. So Long Branch gave me a sense of the past perhaps the sense of elegy, a sense typically for small town a sense of belonging and a sense that one really want to get the hell out. My particular dream life takes place in a kind of large town or a small city. Everybody probably has it truly in which that takes place and for me it’s a place with streets, water near and ocean or river and its old.
Recorded On: 3/25/08
Robert Pinsky: I think skepticism toward things like titles, good reviews, what the world calls distinctions, recognitions, can become mechanical, but it’s a good armor too.