Born in Long Branch, New Jersey into a Jewish family, Robert Pinsky studied music throughout his youth, and the influence of music and melody is an integral part of his verse. He studied at Rutgers University and Stanford University.
Pinsky served as the Poet Laureate from 1997 until 2000. During his tenue, he began the “Favorite Poem” project, asking ordinary Americans to send their favorite poems to him as well as a few sentences why they chose that poem. More than 18,000 Americans responded. The project also included high quality video recordings of Americans reciting their favorite poems. Many of these videos can be viewed online on the “Favorite Poem” website (listed at right). Pinsky’s goal was to show that poetry is an integral part of American culture, residing in the hearts of American citizens and not just in academia or small bohemian niches.
Besides his many celebrated volumes of poetry, Pinsky also translated Dante’s Inferno to much critical acclaim.