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This article is taken from PN Review 123, Volume 25 Number 1, September - October 1998.

Robert Pinsky in Conversation Caroline Sylge

London, 25 July 1997

As Poet Laureate of the United States of America, Robert Pinsky would prefer the old sobriquet, 'Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress'. 'It's a more noble title, because it means you are a consultant to the representatives of the people,' he says. Such a preference says a great deal about the poet. In a 1981 essay on the difference between T.S. Eliot's prose and poetry, he wrote: 'it seems to me that as a form, writing about poetry is doomed to be misunderstood and garbled. True poetry, on the other hand, is very really misunderstood or discarded, because its basis is in pleasure. Explanations and theories are misunderstood; pleasures are either had, or not' (Poetry and the World, Ecco Press).

Now as then, for Pinsky the poet's task is to write interesting poetry in an interesting way for whoever might like to read it. Despite being Professor of English and Creative Writing at Boston University and an essayist on poetry, his attachment to his art is as an artist rather than as a critic. 'The artist's job is to be a good artist, is to do something that's not dull,' he says. 'At the intersection of sex, manners, individual character and art there are a lot of opportunities for posturing: writing too patently as a male of a certain time and place is boring; writing as somebody whose standards of language and good thinking are rarefied and exquisitely excellent ...

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