Singing school Learning to write (and read) poetry by studying with the masters

Robert Pinsky

Book - 2013

Quick, joyful, and playfully astringent, with surprising comparisons and examples, this collection takes an unconventional approach to the art of poetry. Instead of rules, theories, or recipes, Singing School emphasizes ways to learn from great work: studying magnificent, monumentally enduring poems and how they are made. This anthology respects poetry's mysteries in two senses of the word: techniques of craft and strokes of the inexplicable. Pinsky's headnotes for each of the 80 poems and his brief introductions to each section take a writer's view of specific works, finding intense verbal music, wild imagination in matter-of-fact language, surrealist aplomb, and subtlety in meter.--From publisher description.

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New York : W. W. Norton & Company [2013]
Main Author
Robert Pinsky (-)
First edition
Physical Description
xv, 221 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Freedom
  • Listening
  • Form
  • Dreaming things up.
Review by Choice Review

In a lecture titled "Good Readers and Good Writers," Vladimir Nabokov proposed that in order to be a good reader one must have a dictionary, memory, imagination, and some artistic sense. He was speaking of fiction, but Pinsky seems to make a similar observation about poetry in Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters. This refreshing volume features four parts ("Freedom," "Listening," "Form," "Dreaming Things"), with plenty of accompanying poetry but without the "usual suspects"(here one finds Mina Loy, Robert Herrick, and Michelangelo) or cliched writing assignments. Instead, Pinsky precedes each sample poem with suggestions, observations, or insights, some that read like his private annotations (for example, "The ballad raised, as in algebra, to the ballad power: hyperballads ... H. D.'s poems maybe?" in describing Robinson's "Eros Turannos"), some that are direct addresses to the reader ("I dare you to read this poem aloud without being moved by it," challenges Pinsky in his introduction to Greville's "Elegy for Phillip Sidney"). Pinsky says that writing poetry is "a process of daydreaming," a view that should be praised as much as this book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. R. Alibegic Mohawk Valley Community College and Pratt MWP

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

In this sparkling teaching anthology, Pinsky poet, poet laureate (1997-2000), and poetry editor for Slate focuses on how poets read poetry in order to learn how to write poetry, taking his instructive title from William Butler Yeats: Nor is there singing school but studying / Monuments of its own magnificence. Pinsky has selected a tremendously fresh and exciting variety of salient poems and organized them into sections titled Freedom, Listening, Form, and Dreaming Things Up. He introduces each of the 80 selections with an illuminating bit of analysis (Robert Frost is a sexier, more adventuresome poet than he may get credit for) and a challenge: Can you write something as master-of-fact, yet as far-out as Emily Dickinson? Knowledgeable and puckish, Pinsky seeks to foster a deeper sense of the meaning of words and a fuller understanding of their feel and aroma while praising the imagination for how it transfigures perception. With brief bios of the poets, from Sappho to Andrew Marvell, Langston Hughes, and Marianne Moore, this stimulating and creative guide will intrigue and enlighten everyone interested in poetry.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.