One way to teach poetry is to have students buy a print anthology of poems, a book of poetic terms for terminology and reference, and perhaps a few books of poems by poets. These books then become part of a student’s library or, as often happens, are sold at the end of the term for a reduced rate by textbook buyers. For a seminar such as this one, the cost of these books would run about one hundred dollars or more. There are good reasons to buy books of poems, and I encourage you do so––but only insofar as you will treasure the book and perhaps make it a part of your personal library. For example, if I were to recommend an indispensable book for everyone’s library of American poetry it would be Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
Another way to teach poetry is to make use of open source digital materials. Because I am committed to reducing textbook costs for my students, we will be mostly using open access digital materials this semester. Rather than an expensive anthology, for example, I am asking each student to use the resources for readers of poetry on the Places to Go tab of this course site––resources that are free and open for public use:
Rather than buy New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, eds., I will encourage you to use the copy we have on the shelf in the Mason Library ( REF PN1021 .N39 1993) or access the Glossary of Poetic Terms at the Poetry Foundation web site. And rather than follow the lead of an anthologist choosing exemplary and representative poems, we will work together to gather and organize a tradition of poems speaking to one another and to us as readers. As you will see, too, these electronic resources allow us to access manuscripts; to cross-reference individual poets and poems with poetic terms (metonymy, soliloquy, elision, caesura) and types of poems (epics, ballads, lyrics, dramatic, elegies, pastoral, etc.); and to listen to poets reading their work (Penn Sound) or notable ways that poetry is circulating in our culture, such as Jennifer Crandall’s video documentary project Whitman Alabama.
All of this is predicated on the assumption that students have access to the web. If you do not have a laptop or tablet and web access, the College offers that access and I will work with you to make sure that the materials we are studying are available to you.