Synopses & Reviews
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— in terms borrowed from the “singing school” of William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”
Robert Pinsky’s headnotes for each of the 80 poems and his brief introductions to each section take a writer’s view of specific works: William Carlos Williams’s “Fine Work with Pitch and Copper” for intense verbal music; Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” for wild imagination in matter-of-fact language; Robert Southwell’s “The Burning Babe” for surrealist aplomb; Wallace Stevens’s “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm” for subtlety in meter. Included are poems by Aphra Behn, Allen Ginsberg, George Herbert, John Keats, Mina Loy, Thomas Nashe, and many other master poets.
This anthology respects poetry’s mysteries in two senses of the word: techniques of craft and strokes of the inexplicable.
"Singing School is nothing like the usual anthology of safe and sane selections. Instead, it is a gathering of poetry designed to stimulate the young and startle the old practitioner, with a surprise around every corner. Where else might you find Sterling Brown's 'Harlem Happiness' next to Queen Elizabeth I’s 'When I Was Fair and Young,' and two poems away from Plath's 'Nick and the Candlestick'?…a book that will instruct and charm every reader." Alicia Ostriker
"Robert Pinsky is, everyone knows, one of the great poetry teachers of our time. The tone of his discussion always combines patience and delight, and he is especially valuable to us because the knowledge he imparts is systematic—to read one of his explications of a poem is to understand something more about all the poems you'll read from that moment on." Tony Hoagland
A bold, innovative introduction to reading and writing poetry based on great poetry of the past, presented by a former poet laureate.
“There are no rules”: these are Robert Pinsky’s first words in Singing School, a title taken from William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium”:“Nor is there singing school but studying / Monuments of its own magnificence.” Instead of rules or recipes, this collection proposes that attention to great poetry is the best path to fresher, more pleasurable writing and reading.
Pinsky’s headnotes for each of the 80 poems and his brief introductions to each section take a practical, even technical approach: encouraging the reader to read poems with informed pleasure and a sharp interest in the craft. He cites William Carlos Williams’s “Fine Work with Pitch and Copper” as a model for music in plain speech and Wallace Stevens’s “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm” as an example of the hypnotic flux of iambic pentameter. Included are poems by Emily Dickinson, George Herbert, Mina Loy, and many other master poets.
A bold new approach to writing (and reading) poetry based on great poetry of the past.
About the Author
Robert Pinsky is the author of eight collections of poetry including, most recently, his Selected Poems. His translation The Inferno of Dante won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. His CD PoemJazzAmericans’ Favorite Poems and An Invitation to Poetry, with each poem accompanied by readers’ comments. Pinsky teaches at Boston University.