The Sounds of Poetry A Brief Guide

Robert Pinsky

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

144 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

A critic, author, translator, and former Poet Laureate of the United States, Pinsky is one of America's most active advocates for the art, craft, and ongoing tradition of poetry. In this book, writing plainly and specifically—that is, for general readers as well as for poets and students of all levels—he explains in detail how the various sounds of poetry embody the work of art that is "performed" in us when we read it aloud.

The Sounds of Poetry devotes clear, erudite, and informative chapters to the sonic (or "technological") elements of verse itself: accent and duration, syntax and line, rhythm and diction, like and unlike sounds, and blank verse and free verse. Pinsky illustrates these with examples from the work of some fifty English-speaking poets—from Shakespeare, Milton, and Emily Dickinson to William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Glock, C. K. Williams, and Frank Bidart.

As one reviewer noted in The Atlantic Monthly, this guide is an "authoritative yet accessible introduction to the tools of the poet's trade [that] can be read with profit by the serious student and the amateur alike."


Praise for The Sounds of Poetry

"A profoundly uplifting book . . . Pinsky reutrns to language a sense of possibility and delight."—Brian Gunn, San Francisco Chronicle

"Pinsky hears America singing . . . [This book is] deeply personal [and] beautifully perceptive . . . A keenly idiosyncratic account of the place of poetry in our time . . . Not only interesting but suspenseful to read."—James Longenbach, The Nation

"Pinsky's primer is like no other—clear, thorough, provocative, and alive with the wit and passionate engagement of a great teacher. The Sounds of Poetry is sure to remain the most inspiring and most serviceable book of its kind for a long time to come."—Joshua Weiner, Tikkun

"A painless journey through the foothills of poetry . . . One of the marvelous things about this book is Pinsky's deep recognition that a poem is successful not because of the poet's ambition or sense of purpose but because of the effect it creates in the reader, and in many readers over time."—Graham Christian, Boston Phoenix

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Robert Pinsky

  • A former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University and has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include History of My Heart: Poems, The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide, Jersey Rain: Poems, and The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996.

  • Robert Pinsky Juliet van Otteren
    Robert Pinsky