Twentieth Century American Poetry and Poetics

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