T/Th 11:00-12:15 Foust 111
Office: McIver 201
Office Phone: 336-334-4696
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-4:30, and by appointment
McClatchy, J.D., ed., The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry (second
Wallace, Robert and Michelle Boisseau, Writing Poems (fifth edition)
Deutsch, Babette, Poetry Handbook: A Dictionary of Terms
“The poet makes silk dresses out of worms.”
“All of our ideas come from the natural world. Trees = umbrellas”
“Literature is based not on life but on propositions about life,
of which this is one.”
Wallace Stevens, from Adagia
This class is devoted to poetry by you and others. It is a workshop-based class. You will be given writing assignments and readings designed to unleash your creativity and spark your powers of observation, imagination, and memory. We will discuss what makes a poem, what makes it work well, and why/how it does so, and we will workshop one another's poems with enthusiasm and care. We will also read an extensive amount of poetry by modern and contemporary poets.
You will be expected to turn in approximately one poem every week. ALL VERSIONS
OF POEMS AND OTHER ASSIGNMENTS presented to me and to the class must be TYPED,
with your name clearly legible in the top right-hand corner. (Please proofread
your work before turning it in; typos and spelling and grammatical errors are
distracting and take up your poems’ workshop time.) At the end of the
term, you will collect all of your poems (first and revised drafts) into a
We will be reading poems from the Vintage Anthology, and I will also bring in poems. These are meant to offer you a variety of styles, approaches, techniques, and perspectives, and to provide a fertile background for your thinking and writing—they are for your benefit and delight. I have also assigned chapters from Writing Poems, a text that covers the creative process and technical aspects of writing poetry. Your engagement with the assigned readings (even if you don’t fully understand them—that’s an important part of the conversation in class too) is as important to your grade as the workshop itself. Furthermore, your engagement with a text doesn’t stop at just reading it. Therefore, you will also be responsible for:
LEADING CLASS DISCUSSION
You will pair up with two other students to lead a 20-25 minute discussion of the readings for the day you sign up. The three of you may choose one of the poets to focus on, or you may look at poems by different poets. Leading a discussion does not mean a presentation of that poet’s biography or a detailed analysis by you of a particular poem. It means opening a discussion with the rest of the class. In order to do this, you will need to spend time with the work, thinking about what interests you and what baffles you. Come up with several questions that you genuinely want to hear your peers discuss. You might proceed from simple to complex (e.g., “What’s happening in the poem?” to “What do people make of the image in line 10?”). Sometimes questions go over well, sometimes they don’t. Have enough questions and material to discuss so that if one question does not generate responses, you can ask another. Important advice: Once you ask a question, make sure you pause and give your peers plenty of time to think about the question. (If no one responds after a couple of minutes, you might rephrase the question.) If one student does answer a question, give others a chance to respond and interact (you can ask, “What do other people think of Julia’s comment? Or about the question?”) before moving on. Finally, you can always resort to simple questions if more complicated ones aren’t working (“Did you all like this poem? What did you like about it?” etc.).
This consists of a folder with typed loose entries (folders with pockets or binders work best) arranged in chronological order, with the most recent on top. Unless otherwise noted, you will write journal entries in response to the work assigned from the anthology. Journal entries consist of a stanza (or more) in imitation of or influenced by one poet’s work, and a few sentences about the process. Your journal entry should also consist of a few lines on the technical aspects of the poem chosen. When TWO poets are assigned, you may write a response to only one; however, do note why you chose one over the other. On the same page, answer the following questions:
1) What was a defining characteristic of this poet’s work?
2) How did you incorporate into or how did it influence your lines?
3) What was the most difficult thing about imitating or responding to this poet?
I will take these up, unannounced; your keeping up with them is an important part of your grade .
I have also assigned terms from The Poetry Handbook. They are meant to inform you about the tradition and the craft of poetry, and will help you perform better in all areas of the class. They can also clear up any confusion you may have about a term used in class.
On the day a poem is due, you will bring to class enough copies for the class. We will make packets for workshop. Poems will be workshopped in the order they are arranged in the packet, with 10 during the first week, 10 during the second week. However, you should be prepared to discuss the first 10 poems in the packet, in case there is an unexpected absence. We will spend from 10-15 minutes on each poem, and it will take us approximately four periods of 1 hour to workshop the entire class. Some days we will workshop as a large group and some days we will divide our class in half or in groups of five students.
Before the workshop, read over each poem at least twice, and make comments on the poems themselves for discussion and for the writer of the poem to see. After each workshop, the drafts with comments will be handed back to the writer for their use. Keep all of your copies of drafts with comments: you will turn in two original drafts with comments attached to two of your final drafts and include in your portfolio.
As is traditional for poetry workshops, during the workshopping of your poem you will not take part in the discussion. At the end of the discussion, you will have 2-3 minutes to answer any questions or to ask us questions that we have not addressed.
Let us all remember: showing our work makes us vulnerable, especially in an introductory class where many of you may not have shown your poetry to a group before. Be constructive and kind, even when your goal is to let a writer know what can be improved.
ATTENDANCE AND CLASS PARTICIPATION
A good workshop depends on all of its participants. Missing more than 10 minutes of any class will count as an absence, and frequent tardiness will affect your participation grade. You are allowed two absences. I will not excuse you for work due on a day you are absent; it is your responsibility to retrieve the assignment from another student and to turn in any work as soon as you are able. Please, no ringing cell phones, pagers, beepers, watches, etc., during class.
We are very fortunate to have many readings at UNCG by accomplished writers. I will announce readings as they come up. Your attendance is encouraged. Write a few sentences in response to each reading you attend for your journal.
Participation in workshop and class discussion: 25%
Written assignments (poems, journals, quizzes, any other assignments): 25%
Effort put into your own poems: 25%
Final Portfolio: 25%
Subject to change
AUG 8/17 Introductions, syllabus, discussion of course.
8/19 Metaphor exercise
Terms due: figurative language, metaphor, simile
8/24 Readings due: Chapter 8 (selected poems will be assigned from each chapter)
(WP); Charles Simic, Elizabeth Bishop, Mark Doty (VB)
Terms due: tone
8/26 Poem 1 Due (object)
8/31 Readings due: Chapter 6 (WP); Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, Louise Glück
Terms due: enjambment, end-stopped line
SEPT 9/2 Poem 2 Due (memory)
9/7 Reading: Chapter 7 (WP);Mark Strand, Donald Justice (VB)
Terms due: form, free verse
9/9 Poem 3 Due (place)
9/14 Reading: Ai (handout), John Berryman, Philip Levine (VB)
Terms due: symbol, stanza
9/16 Poem 4 Due (persona)
9/21 Reading: Chapter 9 (WP); Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery (VB)
Terms due: rhyme (alliteration, assonance, consonance, etc.)
9/23 Poem 5 Due (dream)
9/28 Reading: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton (VB)
Terms due: confessional poetry
9/30 Poem 6 Due (from myths/fairlytales)
OCT 10/5 Reading: Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg (VB)
Terms due: meter
10/7 Poem 7 Due (on art)
10/14 Readings: May Swenson, Adrienne Rich (VB)
Terms due: neologism, onomatopeia
10/19 Reading: Chapter 5 (WP); Theodore Roethke (VB)
10/21 Poem 8 Due (sound)
10/26 Reading: Li-Young Lee, Mark Doty (VB)
10/28 Poem 9 Due
NOV 11/2 Reading: Chapter 3 (WP); Jorie Graham, Frank Bidart, Edward Hirsch (VB)
11/4 Poem 10 Due
11/9 Reading: Chapter 4 (WP); James Wright, W.S. Merwin (VB)
11/16 Reading: A.R. Ammons, Dave Smith, Charles Wright (VB)
11/23 Revision Workshop
11/30 Revision Workshop
12/2 Portfolio Due