ENGL 7140 Poetry Writing
Graduate Poetry Workshop
A good lyric poem has a body, and it has a soul. The poem is a physical thing, alive on the page; it has a pulse and breath. And mystery resides within it. That does not mean the poem itself is unnecessarily obscure; it means the poem in some way communicates the force and strangeness and ultimate inscrutability of existence itself. As Fernando Pessoa reminds us, an untrustworthy poem is one in which "no notion of the seriousness and mystery of life passes like the wind." This course will not teach you to be a poet; it will not teach you vision. (Can such things be taught?) However, if there is already a poet in you, it might help that poet speak more clearly. The course will at least give you an opportunity to think about how various aspects of poetic language--image, rhythm, sound--combine to give a poem its physical and metaphysical power.
The course work will involve a balance of reading and writing. You will read a number of contemporary American poems, as well as some essays by poets, with these readings occuring mainly during the first half of the semester. You will submit short (1-2 page) written responses to these readings, with an eye toward issues of craft. In the meantime, when possible, we'll engage in writing exercises in class designed to help you explore how language can work to give a poem its body and soul. Outside of class, you will write a number of poems to be critiqued in a workshop format. At the end of the term, you will submit a final portfolio of revised poems, along with a short essay discussing a particular aspect of poetic craft that you have found yourself grappling with meaningfully throughout the writing and revising of your poems.
Hall, Donald, ed. Claims for Poetry. U Michigan, 1982.
Oliver, Mary. A Poetry Handbook. Harcourt, 1994.
Poulin, A., Jr., and Michael Waters, ed. Contemporary American Poetry. 7th ed. Houghton-Mifflin, 2001.
Brief written responses to assigned readings; 8-10 drafts of poems for workshopping; final portfolio of revised poems; short essay (4-6 pages) on your own experience writing the poems.