Recent American Poetry

What's required

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Quick grade summary:

6 Short Papers 45%
Creative Responses 15%
Participation in Discussion including participation in small groups 25%
Notes & outlines & occasional short presentations, for weeks you don't write a paper 15%
Poetry Readings not graded, but you must attend at least two

The class will be divided into four groups. Each week, two groups will turn in a paper, one group will turn in (or perform) a creative response, and one group will prepare discussion notes for a particular aspect of the reading.

If you want to create a more substantial creative project or portfolio in response to the readings, it may be possible to raise the "creative" grade percentage and drop the percentage for another component. It will not be possible to substitute creative work for a paper. If you think you may want this option, talk to me about it before Spring Break. In most cases, this will only be available for students who have prior experience in creative writing or the arts.

For all written work include a header with your name, your e-mail address, the name of the book for that week, and the specific prompt or project you were working with. For papers, include a word count. Remember that I have a limited amount of time to spend with each paper: be sure I spend it reading and responding to your work, not trying to figure out what it is.

Short Papers
: Every other week you will write a 500-700 word response to the week's reading, due on the Tuesday of the week we discuss the reading. Most weeks, this response will be guided by a question or problem posed by me.
In your header, include the number of the prompt you are responding to, and a word count.

I will grade each paper as I receive it. At the end of the semester I will drop your lowest grade on a paper you actually wrote (that is: I won't drop an F for a paper you never turned in) and assign a composite grade for your response papers. For the most part I will be averaging your grades, but if you showed significant improvement I will weigh your later grades more heavily in reaching the final grade.

Creative Exercises: Each week, one group will be asked to bring in a creative response to our reading, either written or performed. Please choose from this list of creative prompts; or, if you have an idea of your own, e-mail me for an OK.

For each creative response you turn in or perform in class, please also turn in a page or so of notes about how you created it and what it taught you about the poet we were reading and/or the method of composition you used. Some of the prompts include suggestions for this part of the assignment.

It's OK to be a beginner in these exercises, and I will not grade them as I would a paper. Grades will be assigned based on work completed, level of engagement with the process, and whether you can articulate what you learn.

Notes & Outlines for discussion
. Each week, one group will be asked to prepare notes on a particular aspect of our reading, such as the book's structure, or the poet's ideas about writing and reading. Often, this will require some online reading of interviews and other background material. This will provide a focus for engagement with the reading, in weeks when you have no other assignment. Most weeks, a few people from this group will make a short presentation to the class, based on this work, but all should expect to take part in discussion.

You must turn in your notes, whether or not you made a formal presentation. This is especially important if you tend to be quiet in class, as I may have no other way of knowing that you did the work and were well prepared.

Participation in Discussion: Everyone is responsible for creating a good discussion in class. If you've written a paper that week, you can contribute the ideas explored in your paper. If you did not write a paper, you will have been asked to prepare for class in another, specific, way, either by compiling some notes on a particular aspect of the book, or by responding creatively. Not everyone will have a chance to lead  a small group or make a formal presentation every week, but everyone should be prepared to contribute to discussion. GMU does not allow us to grade attendance, per se, but you cannot Participate if you are not present, so frequent absence, tardiness, or early departure will lower this grade substantially.

Poetry Readings: You are required to attend at least two poetry readings during the semester and are encouraged to attend more. One of the two may be a poetry slam. For each reading you attend, turn in a single page, double-spaced, typed response. You may focus on any aspects of the experience that interest you: the poems read, the experience of listening to poems (instead of reading them), the culture of poetry readings, etc. The first is due at our last meeting before Spring Break. The second is due on the last day of class. They are not graded, but you must turn them in to receive a grade in this course.

Due Dates & Late Policy:

Papers are due at class time on Tuesday of the week in which we discuss the book.

For creative work, you must have a draft on Tuesday of the week it is due. Final copy is due to me on Thursday.

Notes & outlines are due on Tuesday of the week in which we discuss the book, and may be collected on either Tuesday or Thursday, at my discretion. Some Tuesdays, I may just check that you have them.

Nothing will be accepted late unless you bring me a letter from a doctor, a police report on your latest car wreck, or similar evidence that you have been seriously incapacitated.

Exception: Each of you gets one get-out-of-jail-free card, which means you may turn in one assignment up to a week late with no penalty. You may not use this exception for the first two books (Collins or Giscombe) nor for anything due on the last day of class.

Present means present for the full duration of the class.

Absence: If you miss a class, you've missed a week of class; absence for reasons other than illness or emergency will have a significant impact on your grade for participation in discussion. Work missed through absence cannot be made up.