Mapping Twentieth Century Poetry and Poetics (November 1, 2018)

Introduction You have chosen a poem or poems, and a poet: (y)our job is to explore the available poetry and prose statements by the poet, learn from the particular formal features of the poems, bring into the light relevant historical and cultural particulars that would be useful for a reader, and discover interesting connections and comparisons to more fully understand and appreciate the chosen literary and cultural work.

Exploration, learning, bringing into the light, discovery, understanding, and appreciation—these will be your activities in the coming weeks. These activities will require you to spend a good deal of time in the library, or in the archive, working with the materials at hand. While I appreciate in advance your self-directed learning during the classes dedicated to your project work, as you work over the next few weeks you will want to reach out to me with questions, or to find materials; the staff in the library, and in the archive, are excellent resources for you as well.

Project Description This project begins with your blog. It will develop from there. There are three dimensions of the project: The Blog, the Class Discussion, the Final Project.

Your Blog Your blog is a working space for you in this course. And at this point you have five commentaries on the blog. On the blog and the syllabus I say that this course is dedicated to “exploring the terrain of modern poetry and the excitement and attendant controversies that circulate among readers and writers of poetry as they grapple with broader questions about language, culture and imagination.” Your job of work in the next two weeks is to bring that excitement and conversation into the light.

How you bring to light this conversation is something I want you to think about. While the blog will be your working space, what you do will be up to you. You might post on your blog brief short-form essays on the materials you are working with, interesting and/or surprising documents or artifacts that will help us appreciate and understand the poems and poetics you are studying. One way to think about these blog posts is as exhibits that you are curating. That is, the exhibit might include poems and commentary by readers of the poems, manuscript pages that are available and in the public domain, images and poems, sound or video. It might include reading lists of the poets works (with links), or secondary materials for further study of the poems and poet. It is really up to you. My expectations can be put in a simple form: Be thoughtful. Be creative. Be engaging.

Finally, your work on the blogs will also allow the course to continue developing through your ongoing work during the time our class will not meet. Between Thursday November 8 and Monday November 19 you will post no fewer than two posts or exhibits on your blog. On the 19th I will read the material to see what you have been thinking about and to find inspiration in what you create.

Class Discussion The engaged and engaging material that ends up on your blog will make visible your intellectual work as well as prepare you for the class session in which we will be discussing the poems and prose you have been exploring. The first class discussion is Tuesday, November 27th. So think about what you can accomplish in preparation for the class session in a little less than a month.

One week before the class session featuring your poems you will meet with me and the others scheduled for the class session to talk about how we want to use the class time. This conversation will focus on pedagogy: for the class may involve assigning readings to complete before the class session, asking for digital annotations on the texts, reading and thinking about the materials on your blog, spending time in the library reading relevant materials, reading poems aloud, creating digital texts to use in the class sessions, etc.

Here is a rough schedule. The first thing I need each of you to do is email me with updates. Do this each week if you have new discoveries that you want to share. For in fact what we have below is rough, and in some cases we still need a preliminary list of particular poems and prose. I fully expect that each of the days, the weeks, and the chosen poems and texts will change as you dig deeper into the primary work (poetry and prose) and the ongoing critical commentary on the poems and poets. (In fact I might even be concerned if you do not discover what you did not know when you started.)

Week 14         

Tuesday November 27

  • Robby Gertrude Stein: “Composition as Explanation” (prose), “Susie Asado”, “Matisse,” “If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso,” “A Little Called Pauline,” “Sugar” “Study Nature,” “Christian Berard,” “How She Bowed to Her Brother,” “New,” “Yet Dish.”
  • Mariah Isabella Gardner, “It Rained Last Night,” “Lines to a Seagreen Lover,” Mary Oliver, “Storm.”
  • Trish          Conrad Aiken, “Electra”

Thursday November 29

  • Fletcher    Gwendolyn Brooks, The Bean Eaters
  • Nick            Rita Dove from On the Bus with Rosa Parks: “I Cut My Finger,” Once on Purpose,” “‘The situation is intolerable,’” “The Enactment,” and “Rosa”
  • Asia            Theodore Roethke and David Waggoner

Tuesday December 4

  • Meaghan     Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton
  • Lexi           Adrienne Rich

Thursday December 6

  • Alexa          Alan Ginsberg
  • Cam            Bob Kaufman
  • TJ              Gary Snyder

Final Project Your blog will help you prepare for your contributions to the class in which we will discuss the poems and the poet. Your blog and class presentation will, further, provide you time and space to develop whatever culminating form your inquiry will take—a longer piece of prose, a few more shorter pieces of prose or a curated exhibit, a combination of visual and verbal artifacts and analysis, a hypertext of a poem or poems. These are just a few of the examples of the forms your project might take. As you proceed, and complete your work, keep in mind the following coordinates that you might find useful and which I will use as general criteria for determining the depth and scope of your work:

Literary Production Historical Themes, Perspectives, Relevant Biography

Literary Form What are the notable stylistic contributions of the poet, and exemplary poems? What are the constituent features of this poet’s poetics

Literary Reception How has the poet been understood/interpreted by readers?

Literary Networks What connections and comparisons—to other poems, especially, but also to writers, literary movements or trends, other artistic fields—will help readers appreciate the poet’s cultural contributions?

When I return from China we will have one class meeting on Tuesday November 20th. We will also have individual conversations in my office on Tuesday November 20. We will use these conversations to touch base about your unfolding work and to talk about the class session and the final project.




Twentieth Century American Poetry and Poetics (October 1, 2018)

The second half of the course will be devoted to the study of twentieth-century American poetry. We will focus our attention on poems published in the period between 1900–1950.

Getting Started We will be reading poems and some prose together that will be posted each Thursday beginning Tuesday October 23. I will be circulating materials to get us started and will gather materials from you (see below) and post them each Friday for the following weeks.

Your task:

  • From the list below, choose a poet (or a pair or a small group or a “school” of poets) for class discussion. Make your choice by Friday October 19 and send Mark notice of your choice. If we need to change your choice or combine the work described below in working pairs I will let you know.
  • Learn all you can about that poet using materials in the library or online. You may use whatever materials you find useful, though I recommend starting with the shelves of books of poems in the Mason Library. You may also consult the bios and selected poems at the Poetry Foundation web site, the more comprehensive materials in the Mason Library, including the Dictionary of Literary Biography (in digital or print versions), or the American poetry materials through Credo Reference. A useful portal to these resources is the English Library Guide.
  • Choose a group of poems (Ten is a good number, but it can be more or less. If the poet has a long or a book-length poem, an excerpt will do).
  • Send Mark the author’s name, list of poem titles, and any prose writing on poetry by the author no later than Friday October 26

Looking Ahead We have nine class meetings between Tuesday October 23 and December 6. (One of those days will be a visit to the Modern Poetry Collection in the Mason Library Archive.) When I receive your poets and list of poems, I will complete the timeline schedule. I will also add and shape the trajectory of poems to be discussed based on my expertise in this field of literary and cultural history. Finally, I will provide links to the poems. In some case we may need to work with paper copies.

When we discuss the poems you have chosen your role will be a “discussion partner.” This designation means that you will have studied the poems and will be an active leader in the discussion. I will reach out to each of you before your scheduled class discussion, too, to prepare for how we want to use the class time and to have a preliminary conversation about the poems and poet(s).

There is no presentation requirement, although you may want to provide Mark with ancillary materials to post on the class site so that others in the group will have relevant biographical and contextual information so that our time in class can be spent on the poems.

Ezra Pound Personae; Cantos; Selected essays
T. S. Eliot Collected Poems, Selected Essays
Wallace Stevens Collected Poems, The Necessary Angel
William Carlos Williams Collected Poems, Paterson; Selected Essays
Marianne Moore Collected Poems, Selected Prose
Gertrude Stein Tender Buttons, portraits, Stanzas in Meditation, selected essays
H.D. Selected Poems
Mina Loy Last Lunar Baedeker
e. e. cummings Selected Poems
Hart Crane  White Buildings, The Bridge
Robert Frost Collected Poems, Selected Prose
Langston Hughes Selected Poetry
Jean Toomer Cane— Selected Poems (selectively)
Louis Zukofksy Short Poems, “A”
George Oppen Collected Poems
Charles Reznikoff Selected Poems
Laura Riding Selected Poems
Charles Olson Selected Poems, Maximus Poems, selected essays
Robert Lowell Selected Poems; selected essays
Theodore Roethke Collected Poems; Poet and his Craft
John Berryman Selected Poems, Dream Songs
Elizabeth Bishop Selected Poems, selected prose
John Ashbery Selected Poems
Frank O’Hara Selected Poems; “Personism”
Kenneth Koch On the Great Atlantic Rainway
Allen Ginsberg Collected Poems 1947-1980
Gary Snyder Riprap, Back Country, Turtle Island, No Nature
Amiri Baraka Selected Poems
James Wright Collected Poems
Robert Creeley Selected Poems
Adrienne Rich Fact of a Doorframe, selected essays
Sylvia Plath Selected Poems
Gwendolyn Brooks Selected Poems
James Merrill Selected Poems
A. R. Ammons Selected Poems
Charles Bernstein A Poetics