English 62 (20th century not U.S.), 253 (modernist
262 (after 1975), 288 (1940-1975), 269 (modernist)
Class Requirements

Class Web for positng:
Google group forums/listserves:
Re-Wreading Group for English 288
Spoon River for English 269

The first thing to do it to join the the Google Group (links above) to be used for all posts. I will send an initial invitation or you can sign up direct. (If you wish to use your own site or blog, that's fine, then just send a link to that for each new post.)

All work for the class should be posted to the Google Group.This also means that you will be able to read your fellow student's submission on-line, and respond to them. You can customize Google Group settings.

Please note that this is a web-based course. The web-based syllabus is the primary course text, along with the anthologies. The web syllabus will be revised over the course of the semester; final assignments will be posted by at least one week ahead of the date listed. While there are many assigned readings from the anthology, many others will be available only via the web. Some may wish to print-out the on-line readings; where possible, on-line texts that are being dicussed in class will be projected onto the screen (but you may prefer to bring your own hard copies with you).

In addition to the assigned reading, there is ONE WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT PER WEEK, consisting of a critical response to the reading AND a creative response to each of the 13 sections of the course. (If you prefer to break this up into two responses, that is ok, but one preferred. In that case, post your second response by Wednesday at noon.)

Please post your responses by Monday at noon for both the Tuesday and Thursday class.

A note on the reading: The amount of reading varies from week to week and inevitably much of the reading will not be discussed in class. What is discussed in class will be determined, in part, by posts to the list. If you find there is too much reading for a given week, stop after an alloted amount of time. In such cases, you will need to use your own judgment as to whether it is better to read everything quickly to pick a few pieces to read in depth.

Weekly INFORMAL responses to the assigned readings -- usually a notebook or journal entry. These are meant to be spontaneous, unedited responses, NOT expository essays or drafts for papers. Wherever possible, use the POEM PROFILER (or use EZ format).. Length from three to ten pages each week. Fragments, lists, incomplete thoughts are fine.

Wreading Experiments. These exercises (something like lab work) are designed to provide interactive engagement with the assigned reading. Each week, suggestions are given for possible experiments but you may substitute at any time from the larger list. And you can always do an imitation in place of one the listed experiments or simply type or handwrite the poem or read it out loud.. Do at least one of these each week. For each experiment please provide a short commentary on the process, the results, the relation to the original, and your assessment of (the value of) the experiment. PLEASE NOTE: the point of these "wreadings" is not for you to create poems of your own, though that may well happen. These exercises are designed to create a greater engagement with the assigned reading and a greater understanding of the structures of, and possibilities for, poetic composition.

Comments on the posts of fellow students. Each week respond to at least one post in the Google discussion group, more if possible.

•Respondents: In an effort to keep the focus on in-class (and virtual) discussion, I would like each of you to pick three poets for which you will be the "respondent." Please do this during the first week of class: email me your choices; otherwise I will assign the poets to you. I am not asking for long presentations or papers about the poems. Rather, you can present what you have posted to the list –– informal, speculative –– and this will give a chance to focus on your response in more detail and have a discussion related to it: I'd prefer you not read your response but summarize orally. If you want to direct attention to a particular poem then we can read that poem together in class, with you taking a lead in the disuccsion. I will also be active in the discussions! If the reponse concerns an issue of poetics or aethetics, we can take that up for consideration. It's best if we can spread the responses equally throughout the semester, but it's likely there will be multiple responses in each class. For those who might want to respond collaboratively or performatively -- that would be very welcome. IN SUM: we will start the discussion with you addressing some aspects of the assigned reading.

In addition, each of you should respond, on Google Groups, to at least one post each week. Provide a cogent commentary on the post, noting what you found interesting, what you question, and further reflections prompted by the post. Please resond to a different student each week. Of course, you are welcome (and encouraged!) to respond to multipe

Please date and number each response.
The responses are open-ended and can be in whatever form you choose -- they are meant to encourage interaction with the poems and also serve as a record of your reading.
For each week, I have provided a set of questions to answer: it is not necessary to answer each and every question but to use these questions as guides for your own response. If you have other things to write that seem more useful to you: go ahead.
A good way to fulfill this requirement is to keep a journal noting responses, comments, opinions of readings, lectures, class discussion, and poetry readings. The journal -- or notebook -- is an open form in which you can feel free to record your impressions in an informal manner. It's best to keep an actual diary or notebook. Then, each week, you can select the material you wish to submit.
Use the journal /response papers to document what you are reading -- both assigned and unassigned reading; and also any literary events, especially poetry readings, that you attend.

For each week, provide a dertailed description of one poem, using the Poem Profiler, but synthesizing your response. What are the specific physical (size, word count), formal, styllistic, and thematic features of the work: no evaluation, just description.
Then go on:
What do you think of the poem? Give as much detail as you can as to why you feel the way you do. What does the poem sound like, what does it remind you of? Quote specific lines or phrases that seem relevant. Being specific is the hardest part of this assignment and I almost always request descriptions of the form and style of the different poems: which can be as simple as a description of the visual shape of the poem, its length, the type of lines (long, short, metrical, enjambed), the sort of style or rhetoric or vocabulary (unusual, common, pastoral, urban, urbane, fast-paced, slow-moving, pictorial, bombastic, introspective, descriptive, narrative, fragmentary, etc.).
The point is not for you to analyze or explain the poem but rather to try to react to it. Cataloging the features of the poem won't explain it but it may enable you to enter into the poem more fully.

  • Of the poems read for this week, which is your favorite? Why? Which is the best. Why? Are favorite and best the same? Rank the poems in your order of preference.
  • Of the poems read for this week, which did you like least? Why?
  • Of the poems read for this week, which is the worst. Why? What are your criteria for deciding the quality of poem. Can poems that you don't like or understand still be good poems?
  • If you have heard the audio performance, describe the performance and how it extends or contradicts the written version of the poem


    The "Poem Profiler" (click on link above or use EZ format) asks a number of specific questions that should enable you to give detailed, rather than general, responses to a particular poem. Use the Profiler to help specify your responses. Initially, run the Profiler on several poems; after that, use it only selectively to further your reading and if and as you find it useful. After the first couple of tries, don't use it if you don't find it useful. Since the profiler is a work in progress, please send me suggestions for additions.

    Here's an alternate way of profiling:
  • Pick one poem. Describe (or catalog) its features. What kind of vocabulary does the poem use? What kind of diction or syntax is used? What is the mood of the poem? What is the most unusual feature of the poem? What does the poem sound like - give some examples of sound patterns in the poem. Detail any literary "devices" used.
  • Compare poems in terms of continuity (hypotactic) / discontinuity (paratactic); fragmentation / unified; symmetrical/asymmetrical, smooth flowing / jerky or abrupt movement.
  • Detail the connection between the elements of a poem: expository (a discursive argument), narrative (temporal sequence of beginning, middle end), associative, surreal or dream-like, disjunctive, etc.
  • Do you see anything that all the poems assigned for this week have in common?
  • How does the set of poems for this week differ from the poems from last week?
  • What issues of poetics - how a poem means or how it is made - are brought up by the readings. What were some of the issues raised along this line in last week's class discussion?
  • [Try this one sometime after midsemester] Looking back on your previous responses, have you changed your opinions about any poems. How?

It is not necessary, or practical, for you to comment on every assigned poem. But if you choose to focus on one poet or poem, or to do the experiments, preface your response with a very quick take on the reading overall (likes/dislikes, general features, etc.).

  • Try imitating the style of the poem, or parodying it. Try the wreading experiments!
  • To become more involved with the writing, try typing out some of the poems and include your reactions to that process. Read poems aloud to friends, relatives, or whomever, and report on your and their reactions. Write poems in response to the poems.
  • Keep a running account of your reaction to the class as whole - what's working, what's interesting, what's not. After each class, write a paragraph describing your reactions to the discussions that took place.
  • Include the contexts in which you are reading or writing in your notebook. What's your mood, what's on your mind. oHow do the poems affect or interact with that, if at all.
  • Include, if you like, "diary" material about your life or general or poetic observations, interspersed with comments about the readings. Don't be afraid to go off on tangents, associated thoughts. Include shopping lists, dreams, travel notes, etc.

In addition to the general responses discussed above,over the course of the semester, your weekly assignments should include these three elements:
1. Write about some poems not discussed in class.
2. Pick one poem from the readings and keep a running commentary on it - that is, write about this same poems several times over the course of the term.
3. At least once in the semester, compare or contrast a poem by two different authors and two by the same author (from the assigned readings).

MEMORIZATION: Memorizing a poems and reciting in class is always welcome.

Warning: Let the Buyer Beware
The structure of this class doesn’t eliminate hierarchies or make it possible for everyone to contribute equally or in the way that suits each one best. The structure favors some forms of participation and pushes participants in directions that may be difficult or even intellectually uncomfortable (without I hope ever being stressful). I don't think it's possible to fully balance the range of needs/desires/abilities in any seminar group. But I want to be as explicit as I can about my criteria for what get discussed in class sessions. For some students, often those new to modernist and contemporary poetry, posting to the list can be difficult, especially if you compare yourself to others, who may be more engaged or more familiar with the reading. There is no solution to this but I recommend … doing the best you can and asking questions when possible (or using the Poem Profiler!) Class discussion are often dominated by those whose posts 1) ask questions with the request that we respond in class, 2) raise problems with the reading, and, primarily, 3) elucidate or make most palpable the work of the poets being read. I take my cues from the listserv discussion, so if something doesn't come up in the posts, it's less likely that it will come up in class. Class discussions are overly weighed toward those posts that speak substantively about the reading. This is not a lecture course and it does foster a dialog, but often among those who have been more explicit in their responses or raise concerns/interest in class. The seminar is a much a course in writing as reading. It’s easy to feel silenced or sidelined if you don’t make your concerns present on the list discussion before the class or make a point of intruding into the discussion (interruption always welcome!). I’m convinced that there is as much to be learned from the listserv posts as reading professional commentaries, so the list is a constant “teach-in” on each poet. And as much as I am interested in the views and reactions of each seminar member, my primary focus is on the poets’ work under discussion and not on the discussion itself.

Extensions: You will see that through the syllabus, there are a number of readings marked "Extensions." These are primarily to guide further reading after the class is finished. These reading are OPTIONAL! However, you may wish to substitute one of these for an assigned set of readings or provide responses to these reading as extra credit.

The most important requirement is attendance and participation at all class meetings. Grades will be based primarily on responses, experiments, and class participation.

At mid-term and final, I will ask you for a self-assessment, in which you will compile the number of responses posted and the number of times you commented on a classmate's post.

In order to get an A or A-, at minimum, 11 of the 13 assignments (if you do one a week) need to be posted by Monday at noon of the weeks they are due (or, if breaking the posts into two parts, the second part posted by Wednesday at 8pm) (any late responses need to be posted within one week).

You may also wish to do supplemental work for the class, for example extra responses to the optional "extensions" reading or a final or semester project. But this is not necessary for those of you who do a thorough job with the weekly assignment. There is no final exam or paper in this class.

All work is due one week following the last class, but it is preferable to have it all finished by the final class.

Generally, I will not give a grade for your responses each week or even a mid-term grade. If there is a problem, I will let you know; otherwise, the aim in engagement and conversation, not agreement or right answers. If your response is fine, I will often simply say so; while I do read all the responses carefully, I do not always make extensive comments. If your midterm grade falls below "B-" I will notify you of a possible grade problem. If you don't get such a notice, you can assume your grade is above "B-". If you require more detailed information about your grade, email me.

Mid-term assessment. A good way to assess how you are doing is to consider how you might have reacted to the reading you are doing now, versus six months ago. In other words, is the class giving you a way to respond to a wide range of poetry in a way you didn't have available previously? That's my criteria for if the class is working, if I am doing what I can, and if you are doing what you can. I would welcome you to email your assessment.

Response to Frequently Asked Question:
Grading for this class is not based on competition with the other members of the class or on objective standards of quality that apply equally to everyone (in other words, the class is not graded on curve). As Blake says: “One Law for the Lion & Ox is oppression.” Those for whom this is a first modern poetry (or modern art) class will not be expected to provide the same kind of responses (at least in the first half of the course) as English majors with a some experience reading poetry. But this is not to say that the responses of those new to modern poetry will not be, or should not be, as valuable or good or insightful as the responses of more experienced hands. The primary grading criteria would be better described as how much you are learning from the course; everything about the course is designed to maximize the amount you can learn about this complex field in a very short period of time.

A Note on Sound Files
Often, specific PennSound files are listed on the syllbus: links ot particular poems and texts or interviews. If no specific file is listed and you are sent to the PennSound author page, please write to the list to ask for recommended files if you feel some recommendations would be useful!
Most of the sound files that are listed on the syllabus are MP3s—you can download them to your computer and they will play in almost any media player or portable MP3 player. If a sound files is not working, please email me immediatey and I will try to get the problem fixed.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that the audio text of a poem may differ from the written text; in some cases, there will be audio files without corresponding texts; in those cases, respond simply to audio, treating it as a work in its own right. If you wish more informaiton about a particular poem, please ask.