Once the course gets underway I will be asking you to write and submit a Research and Writing project proposal. The project may take a number of forms:

  • Individual work with me and with the archivists in the KSC Modern Poetry Collection and Archive
  • A longer (10–15 page) essay
  • A series of shorter essays on American poetry and poetics
  • Or?

We will talk about the proposal and the options later in the course.

On Writing

I would like you to consider incorporating the following elements in your project proposal:

  • Practicing frequent short writing, both to explore and express, as well as to prepare for discussion and/or extend in class work;
  • Designing an individualized process that builds from shorter to more developed writing with feedback from peers and professor;
  • Imagining authentic writing and purposeful collaboration as opposed to routine assignments;
  • Learning from the diverse interests and strengths of individuals in the class through writing and intellectual collaboration;
  • Striving toward an ambitious writing project of some kind that includes historical, cultural, and professional contexts and discourse;
  • Producing writing that is intellectually rigorous and rhetorically sensitive to readers and teachers;
  • Working with and adapting formal conventions as tools for exploration and expression

On Reading Poems

A project-based course requires each of us to embrace a more self-directed process of reading. Here are a few general recommendations for your work in this class:

  • Read Poems: the most effective way to learn about poetry is to read poems. As William Butler Yeats puts it, in “Sailing to Byzantium,” “Nor is there singing school, but studying / Monuments of its own significance.” Not every poem or poet will engage you, and that is to be expected. But other poems and poets will. Your responsibility—to yourself primarily, but also to the class—is to follow those poems that take you in. Learn from the poems that capture your attention; learn to attend to poems that awaken you (feeling, attention, thought) and spend some time with the form that awakening might take in rereading, discussion, and writing;
  • Read poets on poetry: it will not be surprising that among the most illuminating commentaries on poems, and on the practice of poetry, are written by poets themselves. I expect that we will be reading, at the recommendation of other students in the class, other prose by poets about poems and poetry;
  • Think with criticism and theory: reading in the ongoing conversation among readers of poetry about the meaning and significance of poetry in our lives, for some readers, can be as exciting as encountering poems. Surely there is commentary that will be elusive or only relevant along narrow lines of inquiry. But there is powerful and engaging commentary out there that has been sparked by poems and poets. Use this writing in your commentaries and in your other writing;
  • Read as a writerwrite for a reader: please attend to your own writing, and the writing of your classmates, with care, intelligence, and generosity