Intro to Poetry

COURSE DESCRIPTION/PRINCIPAL TOPICS: Poetry Matters is a creative writing and theory of poetics course where students have an opportunity to compose original poems while studying basic craft, form, and critical elements of poetry from the 20th and 21st century canons. Taking to heart former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove’s tenet “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful”, this course invites students to express themselves through language and hone their overall writing skills as they explore contemporary/modern poetry by reading and analyzing work from its historical movements. In turn, students will demonstrate techniques observed through the writing they generate and their attention to work-shopping collaboratively with fellow students. Strong focus will center on developing a foundational understanding of craft (line, image, syntax, rhythm, language, metaphor), a critical vocabulary for in-class discussion of poetry and poetics, and a sense of poetry’s connection to vital personal/political forces of the past and present. Students will respond to in-class exercises and prompts designed to develop flow, innovation, and play. Lectures, craft workshops, anthology poems, theoretical writings, and single poet collections stimulate critical discussion and inspire new student work.


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STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of this course, students will be able to

identify and apply the key complementary components of poetry. They will also be able to

identify and describe various styles, structures, and modes of contemporary/modern poetry and apply this knowledge in both classroom critique and revision. They will be able to identify and explain the uses and effects of metaphor, imagery, rhyme, rhythm, and scansion in master works of poetry as well as in their own work and the work of their classmates. They will design and formulate their own poems using modern and contemporary poems as models. Students will demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the poetic canon, its “players” and movements, and the various works studied in relation to the topic of this course: Poetry Matters. They will be able to demonstrate skill and proficiency in discussing poetry and poetics both orally and in writing.


PREREQUISITES/RECOMMENDED BACKGROUND: Completion of Freshman Year Seminar & Rhetorical Arts with a minimum grade of  ‘C’.


REQUIRED TEXTS: The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry: Rita Dove; The Poet’s Companion: Eds. Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio; All American Poem: Matthew Dickman; River Hymns: Tyree Daye; The Creative Habit: Twyla Tharp. In addition: various articles, essays, interviews to be posted on Brightspace course content


COURSE WORK/EXPECTATIONS: Students are expected to attend class regularly, read all

assigned creative and critical work, and to engage in group and Brightspace discussions. New poems will be drafted regularly and poets should revise as instructed towards the creation of a mini portfolio. Students are expected to read the material deeply and with precision and to complete all writing assignments. In addition to poem critique, there will be reflections on the reading turned in via Discussion Board posts as well as weekly quizzes. Students will write one longer (8-10 pg.) essay inspired by themes discussed. Students will memorize one poem from any of the sources studied for recitation and provide brief “field notes” on a public poetry reading they “attend”. This course is not open to English majors or minors.

Grading: Your final grade will be based on the following points :

                        Poetry Portfolio (10 pieces of writing)                                            100

DB posts & responses (10)                                                                100

Quizzes (10)                                                                                       100

Final Essay                                                                                          50

Attendance, participation                                                                  50

Total:             400

Work Load Expectations: A 4-unit class is comprised of 3 hours of class time each week and another 9 hours per week (average) of time devoted to the course outside of the classroom—that is, 180 hours. What we do in the classroom is essential, yet is also just the tip of the iceberg. Plan your outside time accordingly.


Attendance: Regular attendance is required. Three late arrivals by more than 10 minutes equals one absence. In accordance with departmental policy, after three un-excused absences, a student’s final grade is lowered by one grade interval for each additional day missed (for example: B+ to B). Unjustified excessive absences may result in failure. Students are strongly encouraged to contact the instructor and provide evidence of health related problems when missing class due to sickness. Family emergencies are not excused absences.


Communication: EMAIL COMMUNICATION: I will communicate with the entire class and individual students using Brightspace/MyLMUConnect, so it is essential that you regularly check your email account. While I am not on-call 24/7, I would love to speak with you at office hours (or by appointment) as needed and will respond in a timely manner to your e-mail inquiries. Use LMU addresses (yours, mine) for LMU questions and contact, via Brightspace, and expect periodic updates that I’ll send to the class as a whole, using Brightspace. Make sure that you can receive these and understand how to apply their content.


Grading: Completion of all assignments and class participation are expected of all students in order to earn an average grade. A better-than-average grade is earned with unusual effort and participation.


A=94-100 A-=90-93 B+=87-89 B=84-86 B-=80-83 C+=77-79 C=74+76 C-=70-73 D=60-69 F=0-59










Dear Students,


We will meet each week via Zoom (and/or in-person depending on campus developing protocols) and discuss the assigned reading material from craft books, single- author collections, and handouts. There are 12 modules on Brightspace with three sections per module. I will go over this when we “meet” our first week, so be sure you know how to navigate the Brightspace and Zoom forums. Basically, the first meeting hour of our weekly class times will be “live” lecture and Q & A; the second meeting hour will either be an in-class writing session or group workshopping; the third meeting hour will be discussion, sharing, and review of module content. Don’t worry if you are already familiar with any of the craft books–even the most seasoned writers need to review what’s contained in these pages and it’s good to have the basics on hand. There will be plenty of material to chew on and ideas proffered your direction that will inspire and supplement what you are beginning to know. We will dive deeply into our discussions concerning creative and critical thinking concepts, so please be prepared! We will all get so much more out of this if we get into dedicated writer tribe mode. Believe me. I respect your art and your opinions. If you show up, read and complete the assignments, you will do well in this class. Effort is everything. It is my great joy to help you develop your writing as you expand your understanding of the Modern/ Contemporary poetry canon, your individual work’s place in it, and our collective place in the greater conversation in today’s very active and rapidly changing literary landscape.


I will go into this more when we meet (and I will provide brief weekly videos and VoiceThreads to guide you) but BASICALLY your Poem drafts will be due on MONDAY (or the opening day of the module) each week. That gives you the weekend to finish working on drafts before submitting them. Your weekly Discussion Board posts are due on THURSDAY (or the 4th day of the module) so that you are ready for our FRIDAY (5th day) discussions & review. Your Quizzes should be completed by Friday Midnight. NOTE: For the Welcome Module assignments you will not be counted late for anything submitted after the due date up to seven days. You have until the following Monday to catch up and get on track. After the Welcome Week, deadlines apply.


EVERYTHING—poem drafts, discussion board posts, quizzes, and papers will have a location on Brightspace for submission.


NOTE: For the individual collections for this class, please be reading those as we go along and pay attention to when the syllabus indicates discussion of each author or supplemental reading I’ve attached in the module. These are all wonderful, inspirational authors writing today and I think you will really enjoy them. We will discuss it all in tandem with our craft book readings and discussions. While I realize you are not English majors, I guarantee that what you do and learn here will help you in your other courses as you sharpen your writing, observational, and personal human skills. You might even find it inspirational and confidence-building. I know we will have fun, so enjoy!













READ/REVIEW: Rita Dove Anthology Intro; Atlantic Article; Creative Habit chps 1 & 2



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Navigating the Course; Video: I’ve Never Told Anyone; Video: Intro to Twyla Tharp  



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Ice Breaker Quiz; “I’ve Never Told Anyone” VoiceThread (write, post, read? On film? (bonus for that!)  ANSWER: 2 DB Posts





READ/REVIEW: PC: 19-39; PP: 9-41; CH: chaps 3 & 4



WATCH/LISTEN: Jericho Brown: “The Art of Words”; Video: Filling Out Your Personal Universe



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: DB Posts; Personal Universe; Weekly Quiz





READ/REVIEW: PC: 85-103; PP: 41-67; CH: 5&6



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: “I Remember” poem; Video: “Workshopping poems”



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: “I Remember” poem; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: PP: 72-117; Triggering Town 3 chaps;



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Austin Kleon; Video: Poem of the Moment; Video: Rhiannon McGavin “Angel Coda”


COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Poem of the Moment; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Tyree Daye (River Hymns) first ½; PP: 151-182; PC: 104-115



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Tyree Daye; Video: Naming Exercise; Video: Sara Borjas



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Naming Exercise; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Tyree Daye second ½ River Hymns; PP: 118-150; PC: 39-72



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Poem of Witness; Video: Poem of Death/Grief



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Poem of Witness, Death, or Grief; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Matthew Dickman first ½ All American Poem; PP: 240-263; PC: 129-135



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Imagining, Metaphors & More exercise



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Metaphors/Abstract Noun exercise; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Matthew Dickman second ½ book; PP: 183-224; PC: 138-170



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Terrance Hayes 24 hr poem; Video: Scansion Video: Meter



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: 24 hour poem exercise; DB posts; Quiz








READ/REVIEW: PP: 224-240; PC: 171-198; Aimee Nex on the Haibun Jericho Brown on The Duplex



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: On Writing a Poem in Form; Video(s): On Poetic Forms (Villanelle, Pantoum, Sestina) Jericho Brown: The Duplex



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Poem in Form; DB post; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Readings on Canon poets Part One; Read posted R Dove Antho poems



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Negative Capability Video: Romantics



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Begin Revisions Turn-ins; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Readings on Canon poets Part Two; Read posted R Dove Antho poems



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Patterson Video; Video: Surrealists; Video: The Final Paper



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Revisions; DB posts; Quiz





READ/REVIEW: Readings on Canon poets Part Three; Read posted R Dove Antho poems



WATCH/LISTEN: Video: Nicki Giovanni “How to Become a Poet”; NYer Podcast/Young



COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Final Paper topic; DB Posts; Final Quiz; Revisions (if you have)





READ/REVIEW: Readings on Canon poets/movements; Readings on Contemp poets


WATCH/LISTEN: Zoom reading of student poems; Poetry L.A. Videos


COMPLETE/SUBMIT: Final DB posts; Revise Poems; Work on Final Paper

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