Skip to content

ENGL 522: MFA Poetry Workshop

Syllabus

ENGL 522-001, Poetry Writing, Fall 2009
6:00–9:00 pm W / EDU-320
Professor Janet Holmes
LA-233 . 426-3134 (office and voice mail)
jholmes [at] boisestate.edu or holmes.janet [at] gmail.com
Office hours: By appointment. I am in my office daily and you’re free to drop by, but to ensure that I’m there when you are, it’s best to make an appointment.

“I was constantly struck by how many poems published in magazines today are personal to the point of suffocation. The columnar, anecdotal, domestic poem, often with a three-stress line, can be narrow in more than a formal sense.” (from “Defying the Space That Separates,” Adrienne Rich, in Arts of the Possible)

“The work of art is a copula: a bond, a band, a link by which the several are knit into one. Men and women who dedicate their lives to the realization of their gifts tend the office of that communion by which we are joined to one another, to our times, to our generation, and to the race.” (from “The Commerce of the Creative Spirit,” Lewis Hyde, in The Gift)

“To write is to contribute to the ongoing creation of the world.

To write one must withdraw from the page enough to allow the poem to exist.

To do so, one might put on a mask. ‘Call me Ishmael.’”

(from “Tzimtzum,” Dan Beachy-Quick, in The Whaler’s Dictionary)

“We noticed things like a lot of the books had dogs in them. And angels also. And many of them had references to classical art. And there was, as we expected, a reigning quiet, free verse aesthetic most of the time. And when there wasn’t, there was a sort of quiet poem in a form that had developed in Europe in some past century. And there was no work in the modernist tradition at all in the ones we read. And there were no poems in other Englishes. And no poems of resistance or revolution. And there were no poems about the war at all. These are things I think anyone who follows the poetry prize circuit expects.” (from “Clear-Dark,” Juliana Spahr, in The Poker #9.

Required texts:
Rae Armantrout, Next Life
Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, I Love Artists
Lewis Hyde, The Gift
Robert Fitterman and Vanessa Place, Notes on Conceptualisms
Shanxing Wang, Mad Science in Imperial City
Louis Zukofsky, Selected Poems

Course Objectives

  • You will write new poems and, using the modules detailed below, critique each other’s new poems.
  • You will give thought to your aesthetic preferences in the hopes of articulating your individual poetics.
  • You will use the techniques of literary criticism to discuss the course readings as well as the workshop materials.
  • All this work will support or create a community of writers.

Policies and Grading

Syllabus. This syllabus is a course document. Be familiar with its contents as well as with any updates or changes that may develop during the course of the semester.

Active participation / attendance. You cannot participate effectively if you miss class, arrive late for class, leave class early, or ignore the discussion; doing so will affect your final grade. If you believe you cannot attend regularly, you should rethink your enrollment in this class. If you are contagious, coughing, or have flu-like symptoms, please do not come to class.

Please do not bring your dinner or other snacks into the classroom. Water, soft drinks, & coffee, OK.

No ridicule, malice, or competitive aggression will be tolerated either in class or as written comments.

Modules. The workshop will be conducted through four modules, most of which are borrowed or adapted from other poets:

  1. Education. Each respondent will present a course of study of some sort to the author. This course of study could be books, music, art, film, websites, or whatever you come up with. It should be some sort of cultural study (not self-improvement suggestions). Each plan should have five or six items on it. Each respondent should write a few sentences about each suggestion and why the author might want to study it. The goal here is to tell the author something about the work the author might not know or might not yet recognize.
  2. Debates. As it matters, poetry provokes debate. For this module, you will be asked to write a poem that is in some way provocative. As a respondent, discuss the sorts of arguments that could be made for and against the poet’s work. Please describe both sides of various arguments. I am not asking you to complain about the work and I am not asking for evaluations about whether the work is bad or good.
  3. Dètournement. Dètournement can refer to many sorts of appropriation. We’ll take a look at Guy DeBord and Gil J Wolman’s essay “Notes on Dètournement” as well as examples from Ben Friedlander’s Simulcast: Four Experiments in Criticism (available on reserve). As a respondent, take some criticism as your source text and rewrite it so it is about the poet’s work you are critiquing. You need not rely on a single source.
  4. Close reading. Each respondent will offer a line-by-line close reading of the poem, studying it as a piece of literature.

There are seven participants in the workshop, plus one instructor, so please bring enough copies for everyone to take one home.

Grading. There are three components to your grade:

  • Your new work (34%)
  • Your participation in critiquing the work of others (33%)
  • Your critical discussion of the readings (33%)

Academic integrity. Familiarize yourself with Boise State’s plagiarism policy. Plagiarizing in a creative writing course is a particularly sad enterprise.

Office of Disability Services. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is responsible for ensuring that Boise State University maintains an educationally and physically open, accessible environment for students with disabilities. If you have needs that are not being met in our classroom or need assistive technology, please contact the DRC.

Course Schedule

Week 1
August 26: Class introduction, Syllabus
Charles and Kate will come to class with 5-10 pages of work for the Sept. 2 workshop.
Please begin reading Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.

Week 2
Sept. 2: Module 1
Charles will be educated by Genna and Dustin.
Kate will be educated by Merin and Zach.

Zachary will lead the discussion of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.

Genna and Merin will come to class with 5-10 pages of work for the Sept. 9 workshop.

Week 3
Sept. 9
Genna will be educated by Dustin and Kate.
Merin will be educated by Zach and Charles.

Merin will lead the discussion of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift (Whitman)

Dustin and Zach will come to class with 5-10 pages of work for the Sept. 16 workshop.

Week 4
Sept. 16
Dustin will be educated by Kate and Merin.
Zach will be educated by Charles and Genna.

Kate will lead the discussion of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift (Pound)

Charles and Genna will come to class with 5-10 pages of provocative work for the Sept. 23 workshop.

Week 5
Sept. 23: Module 2
Charles’s work will be debated by Dustin and Merin.
Genna’s work will be debated by Kate and Zach.

Dustin will lead the discussion of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s I Love Artists

Dustin and Kate will come to class with 5-10 pages of provocative work for the Sept. 30 workshop.

Week 6
Sept. 30
Dustin’s work will be debated by Genna and Zach.
Kate’s work will be debated by Charles and Merin.

Genna will lead the discussion of Rae Armantrout’s Next Life

Merin and Zach will come to class with 5-10 pages of provocative work for the Oct. 7 workshop.

Week 7

Oct. 7
Merin’s work will be debated by Charles and Dustin.
Zach’s work will be debated by Genna and Kate.

Charles and Merin will come to class with some work for the Oct. 14 workshop.

Week 8
Oct. 14: Module 3
Charles will receive detournements from Genna and Zach.
Merin will receive detournements from Dustin and Kate.

Dustin and Zach will come to class with some work for the Oct. 21 workshop.

Week 9
Oct. 21
Dustin will receive detournements from Genna and Kate.
Zach will receive detournements from Charles and Merin.

Genna will lead the discussion of Robert Fitterman’s and Vanessa Place’s
Notes on Conceptualisms.

Kate and Genna will come to class with some work for the Oct. 28 workshop.

Week 10
Oct. 28
Kate will receive detournements from Dustin and Merin.
Genna will receive detournements from Charles and Zach.

Charles will lead the discussion of Shanxing Wang’s Mad Science in Imperial City.

Charles and Merin will come to class with 3-5 pages of work for the Nov. 4 workshop.

Week 11
Nov. 4: Module 4
Charles will receive close readings from Kate and Zach.
Merin will receive close readings from Genna and Dustin.

Kate will lead the discussion of Louis Zukofsky’s Catullus (pp 245–319 in Selected Poems).

Genna and Zach will come to class with 3-5 pages of work for the Nov. 11 workshop.

Week 12
Nov. 11
Genna will receive close readings from Charles and Merin.
Zach will receive close readings from Dustin and Kate.

Ashley will lead the discussion of Louis Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers and “Gamut” (325–355 in Selected Poems)

Dustin and Kate will come to class with some work for the Nov. 18 workshop.

Week 13
Nov. 18
Dustin will receive close readings from Charles and Kate.
Kate will receive close readings from Genna and Merin.

Week 14
Nov. 25 Thanksgiving Week — no class meeting

Week 15
Dec. 2 TBA: conferences or extra workshop.

Week 16
Dec. 9 Reading.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: