Intro to Poetry

Course OverviewPoetry (Winter Semester, 2016)

I created this course to illustrate how social media (i.e. Mightybell) can be integrated into a traditional course at the CEGEP or university level. The course will serve as an introduction to the art and craft of reading poetry. We will be using MightyBell as the social networking site for the class. The blogs, class discussions and assignments will all posted here.  Here’s list of poems to be covered from the anthology.

Together, we will read a wide variety of poems (old and new) as we learn how the various elements (structure, diction, figurative language, prosody, etc.) contribute to deeper meaning and significance. 

Poems are meant to be heard and the most direct way of 'getting' the language of poetry in its totality is to initially read the poems out loud. I have included links to audio versions of the poems (usually read by the poet) when available.

Poems not only talk to us as readers, but they talk to other poets and each other through space and time. For example, the narrator in Marvel's To His Coy Mistress (written in the 1600's) finally gets a response from his mistress (Coy Mistress) in the 21st century. These 'dialogues' or 'echoes' greatly enhance and increase our appreciation.

The course is roughly divided into 3 parts:

  1. Introduction (2 weeks ~ 4 classes)
    1. Why Poetry? What is Poetry?
  2. The Language of Poetry (4 weeks ~ 8 classes)
    1. Focusing on the 'whole' poem --> action-centered, idea-centered, or image-centered poems
    2. Diction
      1. Denotation, Connotation, Concrete & Abstract, Historical changes, Allusion
    3. Figurative Language
      1. Simile & Metaphor
      2. Personification & Apostrophe
      3. Metonymy & Synecdoche
      4. Symbol & Allegory
    4. Prosody
      1. Rhythm, Rhyme
      2. Free verse
      3. Sound
    5. Case Study on 1 of the following: Prufrock OR Fern Hill OR Cambridge Ladies..., OR poem(s) by Plath or Dickinson 
  3. The Relevance of Poetry (6 weeks ~ 12 classes). I hope to cover 5 or 6 themes in greater depth using a 'close' reading approach with a couple of poems in each class. Students will vote and pick 5 themes from the following list:
    1. Time
    2. Love/Desire
    3. Death/Dying
    4. Nature
    5. Creativity/Art/Beauty
    6. Loneliness/Alienation
    7. Gender/Sexuality
    8. Family

If we don't fall behind, I hope to also try 'distant' reading analysis with one of the selected themes. For students who want to know more about the two methods you may read the following article: comparison of the two methods (reading this article is optional ~ don't let it keep you from registering). One of the main goals of the class is also to have 'fun' with poetry.

Classroom Mechanics:

I will usually assign 5 to 8 poems per class and we will discuss several of them in greater detail. Students are expected to come to class prepared by:

  • bringing the textbook
  • having read the poems
  • having completed the weekly journal/blog
  • being ready to actively engage with the other students

We will look at approximately 100 poems (throughout the semester) taken from the textbook and several other sources (Poetry FoundationFavourite Poem ProjectPoets.org). 

The students are encouraged to share other poems in the weekly blog and/or Twitter (use hashtag ?????). Don't worry this will be explained in detail during the first class.

Purchase the required textbook and download the free "Socrative"(http://www.socrative.com) app as we will use this throughout the semester to complete some quick polls, answer questions, and to facilitate group discussion.

Yes, you read right. You will be using your smartphone for some of the class work. For students who don't have a smartphone you will be able to use your browser on you laptop/tablet to complete the activities.

Course Meeting Time: TBD

Location: TBD
Office: TBD
Office Hours: TBA
Email: TBA

Required Course Textbook:  The Seagull Reader: Poetry (3rd edition, 2015) edited by Joseph Kelly. published by Norton.

Mark Breakdown:

You are expected to write a weekly blog/journal on the Mightybell site. You will write a response to a question posed by me or a comment that came up in the class discussions. The blog will be graded on your ability to synthesize the class discussion with your personal thoughts and interpretation of the poems. I am not necessarily looking for 'right' answers but for your honest/thoughtful/ creative responses.

The mid-term exam will consist of short answer questions and an short essay that will be based on a particular poem. The poem will be available a week before the exam.

The final essay (5-7 pages) will be based on a question I will give you two weeks in advance of the due date. The essay will be based on one of the poems we covered in class.

Blog/Journal 25%

Participation 15%

Midterm Exam 25%

Essay 25% ~ 5 to 7 pages due last class.

Favourite poem anthology 10% ~ if students choose NOT to do this then the midterm exam and the essay will be worth 30% each.

Please purchase the textbook in the bookstore and try to look over the introduction BEFORE the first class.

"I’d say poetry wants to be contagious, to be a contagion. Its syntax wants to pass something on to an other in the way that you can, for example, pass laughter on. It’s different from being persuasive and making an argument. That’s why great poems have so few arguments in them. They don’t want to make the reader “agree.” They don’t want to move through the head that way. They want to go from body to body."  

Jodie Graham in The Art of Poetry, Paris Review (No. 165, 2003)

Here's what will NOT happen in this class: Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins !

© Sam Bruzzese 2017