First-Year Studies: The Distinctive Voice in Poetry


Contemporary poets face a dazzling range of stylistic options. This course is designed to help you develop not just your own ear and voice but your own sense of craft, intuition, structure, technique, and experiment. We’ll focus primarily—and profoundly humanistically—on students’ own work, with the knowledge that a mistake in art can be fascinating and the demonstration of competence can be irrelevant. We’ll read widely and often individualistically, exploring the origins of the contemporary in poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin, poets of today from Anne Carson to Yusef Komunyakaa, and young poets like Eduardo Corral and A. Van Jordan. In translation, we’ll enter the more vast world of poets like Neruda, Lorca, Akhmatova, Aime Cesaire, Zbigniew Herbert, and Pessoa; and we’ll study experimentalists. Though this isn’t primarily an exercise course—students will be encouraged to find their own directions—we’ll study the structure of the sonnet, haiku, ghazal, and prose poem. We’ll look at the blues line and the ballad, poems of political engagement, the dramatic monologue, proverbs, and riddles. This course will examine the poetic sequence: how poets use personae and engage with myth to expand their horizons and reclaim universal ideas. Expect to read voraciously, participate in a peer group of readers, and write your own portfolio of original poems.