Advanced Poetry

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.
~Mark Twain

Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.
~Simone Weil

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
~Oscar Wilde

If I feel physically as if the tip of my head were taken off, I know that is Poetry.
~Emily Dickinson

Course Goals
This course will explore poetry in its many variations as we critically read the assigned essays to understand the form and the craft of the genre. We will also read to critique the writing of our peers to help us find ways to improve our own writing. And as students of poetry, we will also compose our own works for publication. Memory, observation, self-discovery, and research—these are the main tools of writing that will help us to investigate various traditional and non-traditional forms of writing about people, places, and things. Through these writing exercises, we might find that we are better able to locate our own perspectives on the richness of our lived experiences.

Course Outcomes
Below is a series of questions which will get you started at thinking about the process of creation, and how you approach the craft and art of creative nonfiction. Answer them as best as you can, then come back at the end of the course and see how your answers have changed.

  • What is your vision of the life of a writer? Pick an image, symbol, or metaphor of yourself as a writer, then write it down. Where are you? How do you spend your days? Where do you want to go? How and why is writing important to you. Does your image fit your ideal?
  • What is creativity? Describe the creative faculty, and discuss where that faculty is located (in your intellect, emotions, soul, etc.).
  • Are the processes of learning and creativity linked? If so, how are they linked? Discuss the value of discipline to creativity—are they connected? Does one feed the other? How? Are the activities of creativity and discipline important to your image of being a writer? How does discipline fit into your image or metaphor as writer?
  • Does looking at the world through the lens of “poetic” imagination change the way you see the world? How?
  • Is there a link between your creativity and your experiences? If so, what is that link, and how would you use it in your work as a writer? If not, from where does your creativity originate? How do you access it?
  • Does your experience with creativity value the fleeting, “beautiful” moments over the everlasting “truth”? Are either, or both, important aspects of your own creative vision?
  • How do you handle writer’s block? Do you think that writing about specific moments in time is easier than writing about more generalized thoughts or ideas? Which fits with your ideas the best?
  • When you face an unknown experience, do you do so with dread or excitement? Describe such an experience, and discuss how it fits into the way you approach writing.
  • What is your right hand touching? Name it. Now erase the name and turn what you’re feeling into a process by describing what your hand is feeling.
  • How were you able to tell what your hand was feeling? Was it through an absolute level of knowledge like a “known” fact, or did your mind move down into your hand to feel what it was feeling? Or did your mind stay in your head while your hand told your brain what it felt?

I look forward to seeing you all in workshop. Let’s have fun!

…Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.
~Dylan Thomas

Course Requirements
Attendance is required and necessary since this is a participation-oriented class. More than three absences are grounds losing letter grade and even failure. There will be times in the semester when you really need the days off, so don’t miss class without good reason.

If you know you are going to miss a class, let me know. You are responsible for finding out what you missed and what assignments are due for the next class. If you miss a class, FIRST, ask your classmates, then feel free to ask me. Missed assignments will not be excused because of absences. Athletes: any special arrangements for athletes must be made with the professor at least two week prior to the event.

Do not come late to class. If you arrive more than 10 minutes late, for any reason, you will be marked as absent. Likewise for leaving class early. Also, three times tardy equals an absence. Late attendance and absences will affect your participation grade. If you miss more than four (two, TR) classes, you will not receive an “A” for your participation grade.

You are expected to be prepared for every meeting. This means completing all reading and writing assignments on time. Failure to do so will greatly affect your participation grade.