Reviews for Singing School : Learning to Write (And Read) Poetry by Studying With the Masters

Book News Reviews
Poet and translator Pinsky offers this unconventional guide to self-teaching poetry. Rather than writing in a systematic instructionalframework, Pinsky presents classic poems along with deliberately vague suggestions for learning from them. Four sections entitled "freedom," "listening," "form," and "dreaming things up" contain brief introductory material on each idea, followed by example poems with suggested exercises or the author's reflections. The preface and open-ended tone of the book emphasize that foremost for a student of poetry is to create their own collection and their own artistic exercises, for which the book in hand is only a model. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
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. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2014 May
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. General Readers; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty. R. Alibegic Mohawk Valley Community College and Pratt MWP Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 March #2

"Nor is there singing school but studying/ Monuments of its own magnificence." So said William Butler Yeats in "Sailing to Byzantium," and his point is well taken: we come to understand not just art but the very act of creation by studying the greats. Former U.S. poet laureate Pinsky picks up on the idea in a collection offering 80 poems, with headnotes that clarify compositional aspects so that we can feel what it was like to have written each piece.

[Page 93]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.