Feature Poet: Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky 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. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

Interview with Robert Pinsky by Deborah Leipziger

Who are your biggest influences?
The list is very long: Jane Austen, William Blake, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, Alan Dugan, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Nikolai Gogol . . . Homer . . . Kurosawa . . . Charlie Paker . . . Preston Sturges . . . Mark Twain . . . William Carlos Williams . . . .
I guess "biggest" is hard for me.

What advice do you have for poets?
Read aloud. Compose with your voice. "Compose" is probably more accurate a term for poetry than "write."

Which are your favorite literary journals?
The ones I read are Threepenny Review, Salmagundi, Agni.

What most inspires you?
Great work. It might be a movie or a piece of music as well as a poem-- some things are so wonderful they kind of remind me of the motives for wanting to make a work of art.

What cultures or traditions have shaped your poetry?
Jewish comedy of the twentieth century (eg, Sid Caesar).
Christian poetry of the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries (eg, Fulke Greville.)
Jazz (eg, Dizzy Gillespie).
I like passionate skeptics like Twain and Bishop.