On Form

Advanced, Intermediate—Spring

In this class, we will begin to investigate the mysteries of poetic form via the abecedarium, blues, ghazal, haiku, lipogram, sonnet, villanelle, random integer generators, and the I Ching—and via questions like: What is form? Is it separable from content? Is it a fascistic imposition of order on the freedom of chaos? What’s the relationship between randomness and form? Do its prototypes exist in a transcendental realm beyond the physical senses? (Is this what Plato meant when he described poetry as “concerned with something third from the truth”?)  Did it disappear in English poetry of the United States with Walt Whitman? Or with T. S. Eliot? Is what’s called free verse formless? Is form “old” and formlessness “new”? Is language itself a form? You’ll be asked to memorize, do two readings, and make a final portfolio of 10 pages of formal poetry that you’ve read over the course of the term and 10 pages that you’ve written. At least one previous poetry class is required.