The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 04, 2011

Robert Pinsky Answers a Few Questions

Instituting a National Poetry Month is a controversial topic for many poets. What are your thoughts?

It’s harmless, and may do some good. If it sends a few more people to poems (or to the videos at, then fine.

I confess that personally I feel maybe it has—as the expression used to go—gotten old. Somebody told me that it is also National Cheese Month and National Tire Month.

We need to remember that the art is large and fundamental—not a mere product. As long as that’s the main idea, there’s no harm in joining cheese and tires.

What was it like to return to past work for Selected Poems?

In the process of choosing what to include, I found myself muttering lines and phrases to myself—exactly as when I’m composing a poem. In that sense, I wrote the book—tested it in my voice as when writing new work. Louise Glück helped me a lot by suggesting that the order of poems within each volume represented could be different—and that, too, made it feel like creating something new.

On April 6 you’ll be at the FSG Reading Series with Paul Muldoon. In your opinion, what makes a great poetry reading?

When I am in the audience, the best feeling for me is when my desire for poetry itself is kindled. In other words, not just a good show or an appealing personality or absorbing monologue, but a feeling of love for or awe of or desire for poetry. I feel reminded why poetry exists.


Robert Pinsky teaches in the M.F.A. program at Boston University and is the poetry editor of Slate. In addition to his books of poetry and The Inferno of Dante, he has written prose works, including The Life of David and The Sounds of Poetry. 



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