The book gets its title from Yeats' Sailing to Byzantium, specifically the lines:
Nor is there singing school but studyingMonuments of its own magnificence;
The thrust of Pinsky's book is , that there is no substitute for study, not dabbling nor doing short courses. He suggests that:
If you want to learn singing, you must study—not just peruse or experience or dabble in or enjoy or take a course in, but study—monumental examples of magnificent singing: study not just a pretty good poem in a recent magazine, or something that seems cool or seems to be in fashion, or that you have been taught in school, but examples that you feel are magnificent. “Magni-ficent”: the Latin roots of the word mean “making great.Rather than prescribing a list of poems/poets/genres, Pinsky places you, the neophyte poet, in the decision making chair, encouraging you to seek out poems that you think are magnificent, to study and read them closely, create an anthology of personal magnificence and significance.
I thought that this was an astonishingly good idea; that I should take it up (fill up one of my many flash, writing-free, journals). Then of course I realized that I was in essence already doing this as part of my own close reading.
I observed also that this is effectively what Anthony Wilson had done in his book Lifesaving Poems.
So far my Anthology of Magnificence is small but in case you are interested here are the three poems to date:
- Mandy Coe's, When We Found Flowers Could Speak
- Helen Mort's, Fox Miles. (link will take you to her poetry archive page)
- Seamus Heaney's Digging.
So, have you any particular poem you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments.