Matthea Harvey

BA, Harvard College. MFA, University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Poet and author of Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000); Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004); Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, a New York Times Notable Book of 2008 and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and a children’s book, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel (Soft Skull Press, 2007). Contributing editor for jubilat and BOMB. Has taught at Warren Wilson, the Pratt Institute, and the University of Houston. SLC, 2004–

Undergraduate Courses 2021-2022

Writing

First-Year Studies: Poetic Form/Forming Poetry

Open, FYS—Year

Radial, bilateral, transverse: symmetries that change over a life; radical asymmetries. Sea shells unfurl by Fibonacci. Horn, bark, petal: hydrocarbon chains arrange in every conceivable strut, winch, and pylon, ranging over the visible spectrum and beyond into ultraviolet and infrared. Horseshoe crab, butterfly, barnacle, and millipede all belong to the same phylum. Earthworms with seven hearts, ruminants with multiple stomachs, scallops with a line of eyes rimming their shell like party lanterns, animals with two brains, many brains, none. —from The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers

This FYS course is part workshop, part an exploration of reading and writing in established, evolving, and invented forms. We will use An Exaltation of Forms, edited by Annie Finch and Katherine Varnes (featuring essays on form by contemporary poets), alongside books by a wide array of poets and visual artists to facilitate and further these discussions. You will direct language through the sieves and sleeves of the haiku, sonnet, prose poem, ghazal, etc. Expect to move fluidly between iambic pentameter, erasures, comic poems, and the lipogram (in which you are not allowed to use a particular letter of the alphabet in your poem). Expect to complicate your notion of what “a poem in form” is. We will utilize in-class writing exercises and prompts. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet every other week.

Faculty

Previous Courses

MFA Writing

Finding Delight—Poetry Workshop

Workshop—Spring

Throw into the little box /A stone /You’ll take out a bird /Throw in your shadow/You’ll take out the shirt of happiness —from “The Tenants of the Little Box,” by Vasko Popa

Perhaps we will continue this semester to see one another inside the little boxes of Zoom, but I take heart from Vasko Popa’s poem (quoted above) that, even within our new strange constraints, there is a place for transformation and delight. Perhaps we will, at some point, meet in person. In the meantime, there are pets to be met. This will be a workshop where we encourage one another to be the most ourselves in our writing, plotting out the poem’s most unique path according to the signposts that the rough draft gives us. We’ll help one another cram the little boxes of our poems with imagination, honesty, and discovery. We’ll read selections of contemporary poetry, which will be primarily discussed in breakout sessions of student pairs; and, occasionally, we’ll do in-class writing exercises guided by the signposts provided by Ross Gay’s “The Book of Delights.” Each student will have the opportunity to bring a question to class that they would like to discuss as a group. Students will write one poem per week.

Faculty

Poetry Workshop--Checkpoint Fact/Lyric

Workshop—Fall

In this class, we will look at the use of facts as the spring boards for poems and lyric essays. We will examine how facts can be transformed, distorted and framed by the various filters we use as poets (imagination, diction, formal strategies, etc). The course will be framed by readings from Things That Are by Amy Leach. We will also discuss Revolver by Robyn Schiff, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, Brain Fever by Kimiko Hahn, and Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald along with selected lyric essays. For their conference project students will choose an area of research (a historical figure, a cartoon character, news articles, etc.) and write a long poem, a series of poems, or an essay that straddles poetry and prose stemming from their investigations.

Faculty

Poetry Workshop: Metamorphosis

Workshop—Spring

Metamorphosis is a painful process. I imagine the exquisite agony of the caterpillar turning itself into a butterfly, pushing out eye-stalks, pounding its fat-cells into iridescent wing-dust, at last cracking the mother-of-pearl sheath and staggering upright on sticky, hair's-breadth legs, drunken, gasping, dazed by the light. —from The Untouchable by John Banville

He could feel his eyes leaning out of his skull on their little connectors. —from Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

In this poetry workshop, we will rigorously attend each poem’s metamorphosis, paying attention to whether it wants to sprout wings, antlers, or both. We will try to plot out the poem’s most unique path according to the signposts that the rough draft gives us. We will also read a book of contemporary poetry every other week. Students will be asked to extrapolate from those works, detailing the elasticities and limits of each poetic voice in order to further develop their own.

Faculty

Poetry Workshop: The Unknown

Workshop—Fall

What moves people’s hearts, in every case, is the unknown….If so, wouldn’t it be a good thing to unknow the world? —Kenya Hara

This is a class about curiosity and inquisitiveness, about walking forward into the unknown and backward into the unknown. We will read texts in this vein, taking inspiration from Kenya Hara’s design text, Ex-formation, and Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit. Students will be expected to undertake biweekly, class-created writing experiments, such as: “Go to a part of the city that you’ve never been to before. Spend one hour on a bench looking only at people’s feet. Write a poem.” Texts and themes will include: Ex-formation by Kenya Hara, Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, Time/Here by Richard McGuire, Animals/What did We Do Wrong? by Fanny Howe, Love Love, an Index by Rebecca Lindenberg, Language/Look by Solmaz Sharif, Size/Complete Minimal Poems by Aram Saroyan, and Sleep/A Pillow Book by Suzanne Buffam.
Faculty

The Unknown: Poetry Workshop

Workshop—Fall

What moves people’s hearts, in every case, is the unknown…. If so, wouldn’t it be a good thing to unknow the world? —Kenya Hara

This is a class about curiosity and inquisitiveness, about walking forward into the unknown and backward into the unknown. We will read texts in this vein, taking inspiration from Kenya Hara’s design text, Ex-formation, and Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit. Students will be expected to undertake biweekly ,class-created writing experiments, such as: Go to a part of the city that you’ve never been to before. Spend one hour on a bench looking only at people’s feet. Write a poem. Texts and themes will include: Ex-formation by Kenya Hara, Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, Time/Here by Richard McGuire, Animals/What did We Do Wrong? by Fanny Howe, Love/Love, an Index by Rebecca Lindenberg, Language/Look by Solmaz Sharif, Size/Complete Minimal Poems by Aram Saroyan, and Sleep/A Pillow Book by Suzanne Buffam.

Faculty

Writing

First-Year Studies: Forming Poetry/Poetic Form

Open, FYS—Year

Radial, bilateral, transverse: symmetries that change over a life; radical asymmetries. Sea shells unfurl by Fibonacci. Horn, bark, petal: hydrocarbon chains arrange in every conceivable strut, winch, and pylon, ranging over the visible spectrum and beyond into ultraviolet and infrared. Horseshoe crab, butterfly, barnacle, and millipede all belong to the same phylum. Earthworms with seven hearts, ruminants with multiple stomachs, scallops with a line of eyes rimming their shell like party lanterns, animals with two brains, many brains, none. —from The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers

This FYS course is part workshop and part an exploration of reading and writing in established, evolving, and invented forms. We will use An Exaltation of Forms, edited by Annie Finch and Katherine Varnes (featuring essays on form by contemporary poets), alongside books by a wide array of poets and visual artists to facilitate and further these discussions. You will direct language through the sieves and sleeves of the haiku, sonnet, prose poem, ghazal, haibun, etc. Expect to move fluidly between iambic pentameter, erasures, comic poems, and the lipogram (in which you are not allowed to use a particular letter of the alphabet in your poem). Expect to complicate your notion of what “a poem in form” is. We will utliize in-class writing exercises and prompts.

Faculty