First-Year Studies in Poetry


This course is designed to help students appreciate the writing of others, as well as to give them tools to improve their own work. We will read and discuss a broad range of contemporary poets, essays on craft, and poetic process—but equal emphasis will be placed on the student’s own writing. We’ll “workshop” poems together and examine prosody (especially scansion, use of linebreaks, etc.). Both essay and poetry assignments will be given—a minimum of eight poems each semester will be required. But there are larger questions to be answered: What makes a poem “work?” How do we evoke rather than state feelings? What is the optimal relationship among word, rhythm, and idea? And why, as Dickinson put it, “tell all the Truth, but tell it slant?” In our effort to answer these questions, we will write, revise, and learn to read closely and generously, seeking to develop our own poetics, to gain access into the boldest and most profound regions of the imagination, and, of course, to find a sense of sheer delight in the poems themselves.