English 619:003 / Spring 2005 / Susan Tichy / George Mason Univers/ity


   syllabus                  rock

On this page you will find the principal reading list, materials list, & a summary of requirements & grading. On the schedule page you'll find a summary of the semester, and on separate pages linked to the schedule you will find details for each week's reading and workshop. The bibliography is also important; and on the links page you'll find a variety of resources and curiosities not plugged into any particular week's work.

Once this syllabus and the detail pages are complete, all changes and updates to the course schedule, reading, or whatever, will be posted to the Updates page. You should check that page regularly throughout the semester. As of now, the dates of several possible class visits (by Brad Freeman, Eric Pankey, & others) have not be fixed. Some of you may also have an opportunity to collaborate with students in AVT courses, and that will require more adjustment to the schedule.

Most weeks we will begin class in small groups, discussing the poems you have brought to class. We'll then come together to discuss the week's reading. Last, we'll make something or do some i-class writing, individually or in groups. The balance of time devoted to each of these will vary from week to week. As we move toward the end of the semester, we'll devote more class time to conventional workshop discussion of poems & poem objects you are preparing for your portfolio.

      reading list

Why is there so much reading? In general, 619 is a hybrid course, part reading & part writing. In particular, my expectation is that for most of you this will be your first encounter with these modes of poetry. You will need models, and you will need concepts to back up and speed up your aesthetic responses.

If you don't care to purchase your books at the campus store, or if the campus store has fumbled the order, as they so often do, you can search for them elsewhere. At you can search hundreds of used book dealers (including Powells and other biggies) in one step. It will also show you what's on offer at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, so you can find out quickly if a book is in print and whether a used copy is a good deal. On the Search page, scroll down to "More Options" if you want to include new book sources outside the U.S.

Rothenberg, Jerome & Steven Clay. A Book of the Book. New York: Granary Books, 2000. 1-88713-28-8.
True to form, the bookstore informed me on January 10 that this book will not be available through them. (What do you suppose they did with my book order between November 1 & January 10?) So you will have to find it elsewhere.

Smith, Keith A. Text in the Book Format. Keith A. Smith Books.

Abrioux, Yves. Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer. Reaktion Books, 2001. 094846240x
[The 1992 edition will also do.]

Golden, Alisa. Creating Handmade Books. Sterling Publishing. 0-8069-8825-8
[This book is aimed as much as people who want to make birthday cards as at people who want to make art -- but all the basic book forms are there, as well as a few funky variations.]

The rest of these are works by individual poets.

Howe, Susan. Singularities. Wesleyan University Press. 0-8195-1194-3

Giscombe, C.S. Giscome Road. Dalkey Archive Press. 1056478-184-4

Jarnot, Lisa. Some Other Kind of Mission. Burning Deck. 1-886224-12-9

Streckfus, Peter. Cuckoo. Yale University Press, 2004. 0-300-10272-0

Retallack, Joan. Afterimages. Wesleyan University Press, 1995. 0-8195-1223-0.

Optional: Scalapino, Leslie, ed. War and Peace. O Books, 2004. 1-882022-52-1.

In class we will also use Altered Books, Collaborative Journals, and Other Adventures in Bookmaking, by Holly Harrison (Gloucester, MA, Rockport Publishers, 2003) 1-56496-995-9, so you may want your own copy.

In addition, we will have photocopied and online reading. Online reading is linked on this web site. Two packs of photocopied readings will be available for purchase in the bookstore. One is Required and the other Optional. I'll also hand out photocopies in class.

You should expect to put in some time with materials at the Johnson Center Reserve Desk, unless you want to acquire those materials yourself by other means. Other texts will be projected or shared in class but won't circulate.

materials list

It's hard to predict just what materials you may want, but you will probably need these, at least: a large-format pad of cheap drawing paper, pencils, markers, & a variety of pens, an artist's exacto knife, glue stick, scissors, transparent tape, white-out, a ruler, perhaps a drafting compass. A bone or plastic folding tool is also handy, but an old credit card will do in a pinch. Your group may decide to share materials.

You will also need a few books you want to alter. The books may be large or small but should have fairly substantial paper, so they will hold up to abuse. Children's books are sturdy & have few pages.

Start now saving visual & typographic images from books and magazines, as well as bureaucratic or medical forms, diagrams, advertising, and packaging. You may also want miscellaneous stuff that can be added to a collage for the sake of its shape, texture, color, or symbolic reference: emptied tea bags, buttons, burlap, sand paper, string, old keys, feathers, plants, hair, scraps of cloth, playing cards, postcards, ribbons, maps, embossed cards or paper, paper dolls ... You might also scrounge for other objects that can be turned into books: boxes, tins, jars, cosmetic compacts...

AC Moore Arts & Crafts: good prices on “memory paper” intended for scrapbooking, etc. Also in that aisle there’s a bin with 1 lb. bags of scraps (small pieces of paper) in a variety of colors, weights, and textures, selling for $3 or $4.

Other good buys: small lightweight unfinished boxes from $1 - $5. Some of the stickers are cheap. They also carry a wooden “doll trunk” for about $20 that would make a terrific portable altar.

If you want a small book sturdily bound, but lack the skills or funds to make a nice handmade binding, try a children’s board book. You can interact with the book’s text & pictures, or just cover all the boards with your own paper or cloth. Adapt the methods on pages 111 & 112 of Creating Handmade Books. If you want computer-printed text, print it first, and then use the pages to cover your book’s pages.

To make an even cheaper little book, try a kids’ stencil booklet, which generally sell for a dollar or two. If you cover alternating pages with paper / text and leave the others (or leave just one), you can read text through the cut-out shape. Also, the pages are perforated where they are folded and stapled, so you can slit one at the fold and slip narrow inserted pages through the opening.

The Dollar Store sometimes has dark papers for use with gel pens, kids’ board books, or bound journals… not to mention endless amounts of weird little stuff you can put in a book.

Zen, the Japanese housewares store in the Fair City mall, also has a lot of stuff, such as curved picture frames and bamboo sushi-rolling mats, that could be made into books.

      course requirements & grading

Poems & Exercises: 20%
Throughout the semester, you'll work on specific exercises, imitations, short poems, and small constructions -- some by yourself and some with your small groups. You should expect to complete one or two each week for the first part of the semester, tapering off somewhat as you begin to concentrate on the larger projects you want to comprise your portfolio. This part of your grade will reflect your engagement with and execution of these many small works.

Small group work: 20%
oyous exploration of new forms, active participation in workshop discussions & collaborations

Discussion of readings: 20%
You should expect to lead or co-lead discussions several times throughout the semester. You should also keep a detailed reading journal, as it will be your main resource in completing the required statements of context for pieces included in your final portfolio.
  • Last year I collected and assigned grades for the reading portfolio, which everyone found very annoying. This year I will leave it to you. But here's a word of caution: those who had extensive, detailed journals (and, needless to say, had done the reading) wrote very good statements on their final projects. Those with sloppy, disorganized journals (and who, god forbid, may not have done the reading) wrote slapdash statements and suffered accordingly.

Final portfolio (which will include objects no portfolio will hold): 25%
Statements of context: 15%
Your portfolio will include at least six poems or projects, for each of which you will also write a short statement of context. (You may include more than six projects in the portfolio, but you need not write a statement for more than six.) Some will be shown to me, to your group, or to the whole class as they are completed. Some will be revised or reiterated for the final portfolio. Some will be unique objects for which text is only one component. The portfolio grade is for the works themselves.
  • I strongly recommend that you turn in at least one project early in the semester, so you & I can both find out if you are writing the kind of statement I am looking for.