|Tues/Thurs 1:30-2:45 / West 108
Office: Robinson A-455A / 703-993-1191 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: T/R 3:00-4:00 & by appointment
Welcome to the workshop. In the next few months we will read and
discuss a variety of poems and poetic forms while also giving close
to the poems you are writing. You will be asked to read widely, to try
your hand (and ear) at a variety of poems, and to give and receive
criticism in a spirit of exploration and good will. Requirements
include two portfolios, an annotated anthology of poems from our
reading, written critiques of manuscripts by two of your classmates,
active classroom participation, and attendance at poetry readings.
books / class format / grading
& policies / assignments
An Exaltation of
Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. Ed.
Annie Finch & Kathrine Varnes. University of Michigan Press, 2002.
0-472-06725-7. $24.95 (Used copies are about half that.)
of Modern American Poetry. Ed. Cary Nelson. Oxford, 2000.
$59.95 (Some used copies are less than half.)
Poetic Meter and
Poetic Form. Paul Fussell. McGraw-Hill, 1988. 0-07-553606-4.
$31.88 (An outrageous price: they get away with it because this book is
a classic, widely read and assigned. Try to find it used.)
Dictionary. John Drury. Story Press 1-884910-04-1 $14.99
Most class sessions will be divided between discussion
of poems you have read and discussion of poems you have written.
Reading: Each week I
will assign readings related to a particular form or an aspect of
poetic craft. Some of these readings will be discussed in detail;
others may come up during workshop discussion. Several times during the
semester you will be asked to lead a short discussion of a particular
poem, concept, or aspect of craft.
Writing & Workshop:
Each week for most of the semester I will ask you to write a poem
employing a particular aspect of craft. Each of these poems
should be taken through at least a couple of drafts, making it as
presentable as possible in a few days’ time, then turned in to me and
e-mailed or photocopied for your classmates.
In the first half of the semester, you will write one
or two poems each week in response to these assignments. In the second
a few poems are specifically assigned, so the rest of your writing time
be spent on other poems and on revision.
these guidelines on workshop mechanics.
GRADING & POLICIES:
Grading will be based on three aspects of
your work in the course:
#1 : 20%
2) Your engagement
with the reading:
#2 : 20%
Anthology : 15%
3) Your engagement
with your classmates’ writing:
in class discussion of readings : 10%
class discussions : 10%
in workshop discussions : 15%
You are also
required to attend two poetry readings during the semester.
Readings on campus will be announced. Others can be found via
newspapers and web sites.
One reading may be a slam or performance.
includes reading & writing comments on poems ahead of time)
critiques : 10%
choose or be assigned two classmates to critique
reading, turn in a single typed page describing and commenting on the
Please identify the poet(s) with some biographical & publication
information, and include time and place of the reading, as well as the
organization or venue. These will not be graded, but must be handed in
by the last due date on the schedule in order to receive credit for the
Absence: University policy prohibits grading
based simply on attendance record, but please keep in mind that you
cannot participate if you are not present, and participation is part of
your grade. Thus, excessive absence will reduce your participation
grade. Please note that "present" means present for the full class
If you are absent on a day you were scheduled to have a poem discussed,
you may or may not be rescheduled for the next workshop session,
depending on our time constraints. In other words, you run the risk of
missing your turn entirely.
<>1) Late critiques of your classmates’ final
portfolios will receive an F. However, they must be completed in order
to receive a grade for the class.
Portfolios and anthologies will be accepted late in cases of
incapacitating illness or personal emergency. If turning work in late
for one of these
reasons, you must provide a written explanation and may be asked
for documentation. Other late work will be accepted up to one week
the due date but will be reduced by a full letter grade. Except in the
most dire of circumstances, no work will be accepted more than one week
late. If you expect
to be out of town when an assignment is due, you must turn it in before
2) If you are ill on
a day you were scheduled to lead a discussion and must miss class send
me your notes by e-mail by class time to avoid an F. You
will be rescheduled to lead discussion on another day. (Sorry, you
introverted poets who hate talking in class: you’ll have to do it
eventually. Prepare well at home & read part of your presentation
verbatum, if you wish.)
ASSIGNMENTS: leading discussions / annotated anthology
/ portfolio #2 / critique of final portfolios
Leading Class Discussion:
Each of you will be
called on several times during the semester to lead the discussion of a
particular poem, set of poems, or other assigned reading. Ideally, your
work on these little discussions will also help develop ideas for your
- Please give
some thought to both the content of what you want to present and the
process by which you want the class to engage with that content.
Be sure your
remarks focus primarily on the aspect of poetic craft under discussion.
are of course many other things to be said about poems, but we won't
time to include them all in every conversation.
our discussion, turn in your notes to me. These may be in any form that
makes clear the substance and process of your preparation, e.g. an
outline, a few paragraphs, marginal notes on the poems, etc. It need
not be a
formal paper, though it may take that form if you so wish. Your notes
will be especially important if a) you hate leading discussions and
reveal as much as you actually know on the topic, or b) your classmates
are especially unhelpful that day and little useful discussion develops
from your efforts.
1) In the first
of the semester you will write 7 poems specified on the syllabus: two
free verse poems using the line in different ways, a syllabic poem, an
accentual poem, an unrhymed iambic pentameter or iambic tetrameter poem
(stanzaic, couplets, or blank verse), a rhymed stanzaic poem (metrical
or f.v.), and a poem using rhyme & repeated sound in some manner
than end-rhymed stanzas.
Section 1 of your portfolio will be collecting these 7 poems and giving
them back to me, so I can see them all at once.
2) For the second
part of your portfolio, choose three of the 7 poems which you find of
most interest and continue to revise them. You needn’t turn in every
of revision, but be sure to turn in the poem as we first saw it, along
with its newest version.
3) If you wish, you
may turn in up to 3 additional poems if you have written or
substantially revised them this semester. Call that Section 3.
4) All work must be
typed. Use clear headers on every poem, so I know what I am looking at.
5) Place all the
above in a large envelope or pocket folder (NOT a loose folder and NOT
binder). Put your name, my name, and the course number on the outside.
Please also provide a table of contents.
requirement: At least five poems included in this portfolio must
have been substantially revised during the semester. This may mean a
lot of revision before the class ever saw them or it may mean a lot of
revision after the class saw them.
Make a Table of Contents for
the portfolio. List the poems in each section and clearly mark
the 5 poems (or more) you have substantially revised.
- If you want
credit for revision you did on your own, before workshop or feedback
you must include the drafts to demonstrate your process.
you want credit for revision done after workshop or critique from me,
you need only submit the poem as we first saw it and the current
Drafts in between are optional.
The revised poems
may be turned in only to me (in Section 1 or Section 3), or may be
included in what
give your classmates (Section 2).
OK, here's how to organize the portfolio.
1) Section One: All new
poems since your first portfolio. In the second half
of the course you will be required to write only three new poems
specified on the syllabus: a narrative, a poem representing a speaking
voice, and a poem written by one of the collage techniques. You
will of course write more than this, either
by trying more than one option on the assigned poems or by pursuing
your own interests. As always, these poems should be taken through a
few drafts before we see them.
So, Section One of
this portfolio should include copies of all the new poems you wrote
the second half of the semester for which you want credit or
in at least five and no more than ten new poems.
2) Section Two:
This section of your portfolio will be submitted for critique (and
celebration) by your
- Select five
poems which represent your best work of the semester. They may include
poems from your first portfolio or new poems from recent weeks. Choose
that show off your strengths, illustrate what you value most in your
and/or indicate how you hope to develop next.
- It is
probable that most of these poems will have been substantially revised,
but that is not required for inclusion in this section of your
portfolio. (Just be sure you meet the revision requirement detailed
Attach a short
statement (500-1000 words) to introduce these 5 poems. Please tell us
why you chose them, a little about the process of writing them, and
what kinds of feedback would be most helpful to you now.
5 poems will be read by your classmates and discussed in one of our
In addition, two
your classmates will write short critiques of these poems in the
of other work (of yours) they have seen this semester. (And you will do
the same for two of them.)
3) Section Three: any
additional revised poems from the first portfolio (any not included in
turn in your portfolio, you will need to do two things.
1) Make six copies of the second section
(5 for your
classmates and 1 for me). Include your statement on the five poems, and
clip, staple, or
bind each set for distribution. This is due on April 26 (Thursday) at the start
of class. Do not bring loose pages and do not bring heavy binders.
2) Prepare one complete copy of your
portfolio to turn in to me, including
all sections. Follow the
packaging directions for Portfolio #1. This is due on or before May 3
(Thursday) at the start of class. No, you may not turn it in late.
Critiques of Final Portfolios
You are responsible for taking part in oral critique of all
portfolios presented to the class. In addition, you will be assigned to
critiques for two of your classmates. Here are the guidelines for
critiques. You may use these, as well, to help you prepare what you
to say in oral critique for portfolios you won't be writing on.
- For each portfolio, your critique should be at least 750
long, not counting lines you quote from the poems you are discussing.
include a word count on the copy you turn in to me. You may also make
on the poems, of course, as you usually do.
- Each portfolio will be prefaced by a short statement from
poet explaining why these poems were selected and what kinds of
he or she most wants right now. You should try to respond to questions
poets ask of us, but you need not limit your comments to those issues.
- You will not have time (or words enough) to do a close
to all five poems in each portfolio. You may choose to write in detail
one or more of the poems, but your remarks should also address the
as a group.
- In all your comments, please remember that not all poets
not all poems have the same goals. That you are a fan of clear
for example, doesn't mean that a nonnarrative poem is a failure. Try to
out what the poems are trying to do before you begin a discussion of
they ought to do. This may be as simple as stating what kind of poem
think you have before you, e.g. "I read the first three poems as
narratives," or "This poem has an impersonal voice and depends on its
- Your critique should be designed to help the poets do two
-- assess and appreciate their own poems and improve their poems.
- Toward the first goal, please describe what you think
best in the poems, what you as a reader most appreciate in them. This
not mean merely laying on the encouraging adjectives. Put yourself in
poet's position and assume that you need to know exactly how and why a
or a passage is "great" or "good." Young poets with talent often work
the gut and don't understand very well exactly why a thing is or isn't
successful poem. Is it vivid imagery? original metaphor? rhythm? sound?
breaks? humor? a speaker who seems particularly strong? an effective
Do the poems surprise you? move you? unsettle you?
- Toward the second goal, again be as specific as you can.
the same problems showing up in several poems? Or do the poems vary in
quality, with strengths and problems unique to each? You might consider
these questions: Are the images dull or vague
or absent? is the metaphor tired? are the lines lacking rhythm? is the
too obvious? or would a little rhyme and sound play improve the poems?
you know who is speaking? are the poems too predictable? too wordy? too
too private, so a reader just isn't let in on what it's about? And
is there a direction you wish this poet would take? More poems of a
type? More development of something the poet has just begun to explore?
- If there are poets you think your peers should read, please
note of them.
- And, please show off what you know about poems and the
used to describe them. As in your annotations, I will be looking for
that you recognize formal features and know their names. Use your
dictionary to clarify your terms.
In this project you
will select ten poems from our readings and briefly discuss the
relationship between form and meaning in each poem. You will turn these
in in increments throughout the semester.
poems and make notes on them as the weeks go by. You should
more possibilities than you will need, and the sophistication of your
should rise as you encounter more poems and more ideas about poems. If
you lead class discussion on some of your chosen poems, this may also
develop your ideas. As each due date approaches, make your selection
on your preferences, my guidelines for selection (#5 below), and which
poems have yielded the most interesting ideas.
This assignment is
meant to work like a funnel: the end product is relatively small but to
arrive at that product you need to compress a lot of thought into very
few words. Keep this in mind as you work and don’t be fooled by the
short format of each discussion. Simply filling a couple of paragraphs
with general statements or off-the-cuff responses won’t satisfy the
You do not have to
use outside resources in preparing your annotations, but if you choose
to do so, you must use MLA format to acknowledge them. This link will
to a helpful site on MLA
format. And this link will take you to definition of plagiarism. If you have questions on these
don't hesitate to ask.
Here’s the anthology format. Please read this carefully.
1) Type the poem
(or a portion of it, if it’s very long). This is required because
physically reproducing a poem, letter by letter, teaches you a lot
about how it’s made. It makes you a good observer. You are on your
2) Write one or
two paragraphs explaining some specific ways form creates meaning in
poem. "Form" in this case can mean a basic formal choice, such as
iambic pentameter, sonnet, enjambed free verse, etc. It can also mean a
specific use of form, such as alternating slant rhyme or hyphenating
words across a line-break to preserve a pattern.
Your discussion can
begin with the implications of a basic formal choice and move to
moments, or vice versa. In most cases it will be best to focus on one
or two aspects of the poem, rather than trying to include everything
might be said about it.
you are interested in formal tactics and the creation of voice. More
specifically, you are interested in formal tactics in the creation of
voice in poems by African Americans.
In a Claude McKay
sonnet you might begin with the general effects of form by briefly
discussing the use of the sonnet for an angry poem about race, in which
a black man addresses whites. You could then move to the specific by
a couple of locations in the poem where form is part of meaning, such
as the way lines move at a different pace in different quatrains,
the voice and creating a mounting emotion; or the way meter jams two
together, thus creating a closer relationship between them; or how
creates two simultaneous meanings within a sentence, one safe and
and one more angry or threatening.
In a Lucille
poem you might begin with particulars by pointing out how repetition,
line and line break are used to create apparently simple but
complex meanings, then relate these techniques to the lack of capital
letters and the minimal use of punctuation, arriving at an idea of how
all the above techniques position the speaker in relation to her
and her audience.
Yup, you can do all
that in a few sentences if you’ve thought it through clearly before you
3) You may want to
include marginal notes or diagrams on the poem. This is often
the most efficient way to point up formal features or thematic
If you mark the
rhyme scheme, for example, then you needn’t spell it out in your prose
paragraphs, but can proceed directly to whatever comments you have on
how the rhyme scheme contributes to the poem’s meaning. Similarly, if
several words and write ‘death images’ in the margin, your prose can
with the assumption that you and I have both noticed that the poem is
of death images.
4) However you
choose to combine prose with marginalia, your aim should be concision
For example, if you
want to write about rhyme & meaning do not waste space stating that
"the rhyme scheme contributes to the meaning." This is too general to
be useful, and though in a longer paper it might stand as an
introduction to more specific comments, in this format it is just
taking up space. You might say instead something like "the rhyme words
underscore a connection between death and passion," or "the slant
rhymes make it impossible for a reader to feel that death is restful,"
or "the rhyme words seem arbitrary, which makes this death feel
though sometimes tedious to learn, greatly advance the cause of
and specificity. "Anaphora" written in the margin takes up a lot
less space than a sentence explaining that several lines begin with the
**The format of
assignment is short: you won’t need to turn in a large number of words.
However, the grading standard will be high in terms of how much
you present. Simply filling up a couple of paragraphs with general
comments or personal responses won’t satisfy the requirement.
5) In making your
selections, keep in mind that your anthology will be strongest if
it addresses a variety of formal problems or ideas. I won’t specify
that each poem must address a specific aspect of form off a check list,
but I will be
looking for a range of forms and for an engagement with several kinds
Here are the
minimum guidelines for selection:
- at least 4
poems we did not discuss in detail in class
at least 3
poems: one must be iambic or trochaic, the others can be iambic,
syllabic, or accentual
at least 3 free
in the course of
the semester, you should be sure to include EITHER one pair of poems in
similar form, in which form is used in notably different ways to create
meaning OR one pair of poems on similar subjects or themes, but in
quite different forms. Examples--
traditional and an experimental sonnet
a free verse
in which open form is celebrated and a free verse poem in which open
form seems to express fragmentation or loss
poem in which rhyme reinforces stops and conclusions and a poem in
which rhyme creates surprise and a feeling of being off-balance
poem in which meter creates a feeling of order, safety, and full
expression and a poem in which meter creates a feeling of enclosure, a
sense of mockery, or some other negative or parodic idea
two poems whose
metrical scansion is similar or identical, but whose pace and spoken
rhythm differ markedly
- a poem that
uses collage at the level of the phrase, and a poem that uses collage
at the level of the stanza or paragraph
nature poems, elegies, or ekphrastic poems in different forms
6) No unifying
theme is required. However, if you prefer to construct your
anthology around a unifying idea, such as "how stanzas work" or "poems
about childhood," or "how voice is created in African American poems,"
you should be able to do so while still meeting these guidelines. Feel
free to talk over
your ideas with me as they take shape.
- two dramatic
monologues in different forms
poems about a childhood experience
two poems about
two war poems
poems examining an inanimate object
7) I will collect your annotations in three installments, as noted
on the schedule. For each of the first two I will assign an in-progress
grade and provide feedback on how you can develop or improve your work.
In some cases I may ask you to revise or expand an annotation and turn
it in again. In assigning a final grade for the anthology I will take
and/or revision into consideration. However, that last sentence should
not be interpreted to mean that you can throw together slap-dash work
in the semester and then make up for it in the last installment.
/ class format / grading & policies / assignments