Course Description

Conservative and liberal critics alike have referred to poetry as a "gift economy." Poets do not pursue this art by merely writing verse; they must read, review, research, criticize, perform, publish, teach, and otherwise passionately engage the entire range of poetry being written in order to participate in it. In this class, exchange attention and develop faculties and practices through experience with the ways poetry is made and read. This understanding is poetry's gift.

More Description

This course is a seminar in reading poetry which results in each participant writing approximately 20 pages of reviews which will be if not publishable, at least of publishable quality.

Required Texts

course reader

five books of poetry (as described in first class; bring $10)

either The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Ed, Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

or, if you already own it (don't buy it, if you need one of the two, buy the Encyclopedia) The Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms. Ed. Alex Preminger. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Online Resources

In addition to the readings in the reader, in the Princeton reference works, and in the books of poetry, you will be reading and researching online. Among the resources available to you there are The Boston Review, Rain Taxi, Poetry Flash, and HOW2. Pro-Quest through the Los Angeles Public Library has Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, which review in capsules most American poetry books, as well as Parnassus: Poetry in Review, American Poetry Review, academic journals such as The Kenyon Review and the Antioch Review. OhioLink at Antioch makes addition review organs available.


You will read five books of new poetry, poetry so new you must rely on your reading and interpretation, not critical works or emotional impressions, to participate in it as a reader.

You will become familiar with the process of reading a book of poetry, including reading for performance, information (for your own work), form, literary/cultural context, for review, and as a poet.

You will become familiar with the reviewing process. In order to accomplish this writing, participants will have to read and interpret books of poems. Interpretation will involve learning the terminology of the field and reading other reviews and essays written by poets and critics about poetry.

You will draft and revise five 1,000 word (four page) capsule reviews of new poetry books with an aim of publishing them online or in print.

Generic Policies
• Reviews are late after December 11; no late reviews are accepted.
• More than two absences result in no credit; students absent from class must contact me before or after class to discuss remedy; missed assignments are still due -- no assignments may be missed. All assignments must be in by December 11.
• No incompletes.
• Please let me know if you would like a letter grade. Please also let me know if you intend to drop the course: do not simply cease to attend class.
• There is a great deal of assigned reading and writing in this class. It will be obvious to all of us if you have not read the assigned reading.
• Reviews will be read and evaluated for grammar, reasoning, and standard quoting. Additional standards will be continually mentioned and discussed in class.

Specific Policies
• Reviews are 1,000 words (4 pages double spaced). They are not response papers, journal entries, or poems. You will write five of them.
• You will revise four of the reviews according to comments.
• You must make two copies of each review: one for me and one for you to put in your portfolio.


I am an adjunct; feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have at I am available for office hours immediately before or after class on campus. I would very much like to meet each of you outside of class to discuss you work in class and progress; we can arrange to meet at another time.
Week One
Reading Aloud / Performing Poetry / Listening to Poetry

Reading poetry aloud is a means to understanding its sound and sense. Actors know this: they must understand the motivation and context of the speaker, the meaning of the speech, before delivering it.

Attentively reading poetry others have written, listening to poets read poetry at readings, and writing reviews of books is part of understanding poetry, as well as part of belonging to the community of poets.

In Class:
Distribution of books for reviews due week three. Choice of books.
Link sheets and hard copy of existing reviews of these books.
from the Princeton Handbook or Encyclopedia: "Voice"
Read aloud selections from books. Discuss possible avenues to reviewing.

For Week Two:
from the reader: T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent."
Read the book of poetry, making notes.

Write an outline of the review due week three, including possible quotes from the book. Or, write a draft of a review. Make enough copies for everyone in the class.

Week Two
Continuation of the discussion of Voice, Individuality, and Tradition in light of poetry.

Standards in reviews: is it possible to evaluate poetry? In terms of the expectations it sets up or in terms of another set of standards? How can points made in review be supported? Why is poetry good or bad? What about reviewer feelings and impressions rather than thoughts or arguments?

In Class:
Distribute and discuss questions from the essay outlines. Further discussion of avenues to reviewing and special terms. Questions regarding the books under review.
How to quote from poems in a review.
Handouts from the MLA handbook, Chicago Manual of Style, and other style manuals regarding citations and quotes of poetry in reviews.

For Week Three:
from the reader, William Matthews, "Personal and Impersonal"
from the Princeton book, "Lexis"
Bring a dictionary to class.

Week Three
Dictionaries and Reading Words, Reading Language

Relying on "context clues" "sounding it out" and other fuzzy techniques is insufficient for a close reading of a review or of a poem. Practice with various etymologies, dictionaries including dictionaries of symbols, word hoards, and other reference works.

You must bring one copy of each review to class, but you must maintain a copy for yourself, for your portfolio, which will contain one original and one revised copy of each review.

In Class:
Discussion of "Personal and Impersonal"
Discussion of first reviews.
Choice of new books. Consider writing an omnibus review.

Etymology of the word "dictionary." Dictionary exercise. You have access to the OED through Antioch Online and/or through the Los Angeles Public Library.

For Week Four:
Princeton, "Projective Verse" and "Sound" or "Sound Effects"
from the reader, Charles Olson, "Projective Verse"
Read the book, with attention to words.

Week Four
Wordplay. Constellations of meaning. Place, ideas, form, and poems. Familiarity, clarity, description.

In Class:
Discuss the essay and the Princeton entry on it.
Discuss projective verse in light of personal writing.

For Week Five:
Your review.
from Princeton, "Free Verse"
from the reader, Denise Levertov, "Some Notes on Organic Form."

Week Five

What is "going on" in a poem? Does poetry have a structure? Should it? How much or little of this does a poet control? If not the poet, does the subject control the poem?

In Class
Discussion of free verse and form number one: poetry versus prose.
Hand in review. Discussion of second reviews.

For Week Six:
from the Princeton Handbook or Encyclopedia, "Line," "Line Endings."
from the reader, Joan Alshire, "Staying News."
choice of books

Week Six

In Class:
Stresses, wordplay, and how and why to scan.
from reader, Scansion handout.
Discussion about poetry and form number two: versification.

For Week Seven:
from the Princeton book, "Scansion"
from the reader, Queneau, "Potential Literature"

Week Seven
Metaphor, Simile

Reading systems into a poem with analogies; "dictation" and "intention" in poetry; what else does a metaphor or simile say? What about meaning?

In Class
Discussion of "Potential Literature" and forms. Re-discuss "Personal and Impersonal."
Hand in review.

For Week Eight
from the Princeton Handbook or Encyclopedia, "Metaphor."
from the Princeton Handbook or Encyclopedia, "Symbol."
from the Princeton Handbook or Encyclopedia, "Imagery."

Week Eight
Image and Imagism

In Class:
Discussion of Manifesti and intention, "dos and don'ts" and manifesti.

For Week Nine:
from the reader, Ernest Fenollosa
Hand in review.

Week Nine
Style, Originality, Camps, Schools, Aesthetics

How can you tell what the poet is doing? What types of language can you use to describe and evaluate what the poet and poetry is doing?

In Class:
Hand in review.

For Week Ten:
Princeton: modernism and postmodernism
from the reader, Prevallet, "Procedure"
Another review! This one should be an essay review.

Week Ten
How to publish reviews online.

In Class:
Reviews re: aesthetics.

For Final:
Hand in portfolios, which include revisions of four of the five essays.


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