23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Ellen Hinsey
© Adine Sagalyn

Ellen Hinsey

The poet Ellen Hinsey was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1960. She studied Literature at Tufts University and the Université Paris VII. She has lived in Europe for almost thirty years, where she previously taught at the Ecole Polytechnique and currently teaches in Skidmore College’s program in Paris. Hinsey’s departure from the United States coincided with a turning away from the predominantly confessional tone of contemporary American poetry. In Europe, she found her voice, which draws on an ongoing dialogue with philosophy and history.

In 1996, Hinsey’s first volume of poetry, »Cities of Memory« (1996) received the Yale University Series Award, the most distinguished American tribute for a poetic debut. »Cities of Memory« explores the connection between individual experience and the events that make up historical consciousness at the end of the twentieth century. Sequences with powerful images investigate, among other subjects, Freud’s departure from Vienna, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva’s exile in the Paris suburb of Clamart. In 2002, »The White Fire of Time« was published and was chosen for the 2002 United Poets for Peace December book selection. In preparation for her work »Update on the Descent« (2009) and in poetry’s venerable tradition as a witness to history, Hinsey spent three years researching at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. In 2007, this volume of poetry was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. She has written a collection of essays on democracy in Central and Eastern Europe entitled »Mastering the Past« (forthcoming). A number of the essays from this volume first appeared in »The New England Review«, and were nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2012 and 2013. Hinsey has also edited and co-translated »The Junction« (2008) by Tomas Venclova. Her book-length dialogue with this author »Magnetic North: Conversations with Tomas Venclova«, will appear in German translation (2016). Hinsey’s translations of contemporary French authors were honored with Poetry’s Union League Civic and Arts Poetry Prize. Hinsey’s translation of Zhu Xiao-Mei’s autobiography »The Secret Piano: From Mao’s Labor Camps to Bach’s Goldberg Variations« appeared in 2012.

Hinsey has been the guest of many literary events, including the Dublin Festival of Literature, and has been invited to read at the Universities of Bonn, Bayreuth, and London, among other venues. In 2015, she is a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.


Watch Ellen Hinsey at the 20th ilb on our YouTube-Channel: https://youtu.be/05_hqVmKrPM




Cities of Memory

Yale University Press

New Haven, 1996

The White Fire of Time

Wesleyan University Press

Middletown, 2002

Update on the Descent

Bloodaxe Books

Northumberland, 2009

Der magnetische Norden

Gespräch mit Tomas Venclova in: Schreibheft 81 (2013)


Berlin, 2016