SYLLABUS: POETIC FORMS / FORMING POETRY

WRIT-1040 Matthea Harvey

First Year Studies

“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.”

—The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers

"Here we have the principle of limitation, the only saving principle in the world. The more you limit yourself, the more fertile you become in invention. A prisoner in solitary confinement for life becomes very inventive, and a simple spider may furnish him with much entertainment.”

—from Either / Or by Kierkegaard

This course is part workshop, part an exploration of 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 of poetry by such writers as Baudelaire, Anne Carson, D.A. Powell, Haryette Mullen, W.S. Merwin, and Olena Kalytiak Davis 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 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.

BOOK LIST

Required (these books will be on reserve at the library)

A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

An Exaltation of Forms by Annie Finch and Katherine Varnes

Shattered Sonnets by Olena Kalytiak Davis

A Humument  by Tom Phillips

Vixen by W.S. Merwin

Sleeping with the Dictionary by Haryette Mullen

Skid by Dean Young

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan

The Most of It by Mary Ruefle

Wind in a Box  by Terrence Hayes

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Elements of Style by Strunk and White illustrated by Maira Kalman

Photocopied excerpts from:

Selected Odes by Pablo Neruda

I Remember by Joe Braina

Your Time Has Come by Joshua Beckman

Polyverse by Lee Ann Brown

100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings

Maraca by Victor Hernandez Cruz

Black Dog Songs by Lisa Jarnot

Translating Mo’Um by Cathy Park Hong

Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog  by Paul Monette

Tea by D. A. Powell

Goodbye Mister Easter Island by Jon Woodward

Ravishing Disunities, Real Ghazals in English, edited by Agha Shahid Ali,

Imagining Language: An Anthology edited by Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffery

Nets by Jen Bervin

Haiku: This Other World by James Wright

Selected poems by Donald Justice

Prose Poems by Baudelaire

Buffalo Head Songs by Tim Seibles

alongside many others…

FALL SEMESTER REQUIREMENTS 

1. You will write one poem a week, writing a minimum of ten poems in the fall semester.

2. You will keep a critical journal, in which you write informal but detailed responses to all of the reading. Include quotations, images, questions, ideas. Bring this journal to conference each week. These will be handed in at the end of the semester.

3. You will respond to your classmates’ poems by writing comments on their poems on the week they are  being workshopped.

4. Each student will do a creative process presentation (more on this later…)

5. Class participation is key. Please make sure that you are contributing no more or no less than your classmates!

6. Missed conferences will not be rescheduled. If you are going to miss conference, please email me beforehand.

7. There will be two field trips per semester. Attendance is required.

8. One missed class is permissable. If you miss more than one class, it will be noted in your evaluation and class grade. Grades go down by one half for every missed class or conference (or combination of the two).

If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the assignment from a fellow student.

The College provides reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities.  If you would like to request accommodations because of a physical, medical or learning disability that may have some

impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please let me know in conference.

FALL SCHEDULE 

We will workshop your poems on Thurdays. Every Tuesday you will hand one copy of your poem to me. The week you are going to be workshopped, please bring 14 copies of your poems to class on Tuesday. Students will read the poems before class and write comments on them, which will be handed to the poet at the end of class. This is an integral part of workshop.

Class field trips: Out of Hand: Materializing the Post-Digital / MAD Museum / 2 Columbus Circle

October 17th 7pm (leave at 6:30pm)

Thursday November 21: Neruda’s Odes: with Edward Hirsch, Philip Levine, Paul Muldoon and Ilan Stevens. 8:15 pm.

(for both visits, I have requested a van to drive you there—we’ll see if that works out…) 

September 2 : Intros

Read A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

Read Packet One / Form

Fill out the poetic terms worksheet. Look up these terms—write their definitions then create your own examples.

September 10: 20 poetry projects writing exercise / Twin photograph writing exercise / Discussion

September 12 : Library visit

Read Packet Two / Image

Read The Most of It by Mary Ruefle

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp. 359-365 (list poem) and pp.242-246 (litany).

Write a poem in which you pay close attention to image and the senses.

September 17 : Discussion of The Most of It /write group list poem

September 19: Workshop

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp.  1-14 (intro) pp.15-31 (accentual, syllabic)

Read Packet Three / Villanelle

Read in An Exaltation of Forms p.314-324 (villanelle)

Write a villanelle

September 24: Line break exercise / Discussion

September 26: Workshop

Read Packet Four / The Line

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp. 73-80.

Read Vixen by W.S. Merwin

Write a poem in which you pay particular attention to line breaks. Write in incredibly long or short lines. Invent a new kind of line break.

October 1: Workshop

October 3: Read Packet Five / The Haiku and other compressed/minimalist forms

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp.206-210, 238-241 (epigrams, limericks, clerihews), pp.394-5 (the low coup)

Write three short /compressed poems. Think about why a particular subject might lend itself to a short form.

October 8: Discussion

October 10: Workshop

October 15: Creative Process Presentations (six students)

October 17: Visit Museum of Art and Design. 7-8:30pm / leave SLC at 6:30 (no class in the am)

No class October 22 & 24th. October Study Days

October 29: Creative Process Presentations (seven students)

Read Skid by Dean Young

Write a poem (any form)

October 31: Discussion

November 5: Workshop

Read Sleeping with the Dictionary by Haryette Mullen

Read Packet Six / Language

November 7: Discussion

November 12:  Workshop

Read A Humument  by Tom Phillips

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp.198-205, 352-358.

Write a visually based poem. You may use Phillips’ model if you wish. Another great resource for looking at concrete poems is www.ubuweb.com

November 14: Discussion (bring in other erasure examples–Nets by Jen Bervin etc.)

November 19:  Workshop

Read Selected Odes by Pablo Neruda

Read Packet Seven / Odes

Write an ode.

November 21: Neruda’s Odes at the 92nd St Y. 8:15pm (no class in the am) Leave SLC at 7:30pm

Read Packet Eight / Sonnets

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp. 297-307 (sonnet), pp.39-45 (iambic meter)

Write a sonnet. If you want to explode the form once you have written a formal sonnet, feel free. Include both versions.

November 26 Discussion

November 27-Dec. 1st: THANKSGIVING BREAK

December 3: Workshop

Read Shattered Sonnets by Olena Kalytiak Davis

Look at http://www.growndodo.com/wordplay/oulipo/10%5e14sonnets.html (Queneau’s 100,000 sonnets)

Write a poem (any form)

December 5: Discussion

December 10: Workshop

Read The Most of It by Lynda Barry

Write a poem inspired by one of Barry’s exercises.

December 12: Discussion

December 17: Workshop

December 19: Reading

“My mind is bent on telling stories of bodies changed into new forms.”

—Ovid, Metamorphoses

“Hokusai tried to paint without the use of his hands. It is said that one day, having unrolled his scroll in front of the shogun, he poured over it a pot of blue paint; then, dipping the claws of a rooster in a pot of red paint, he made the bird run across the scroll and leave its tracks on it. Everyone present recognized in them the waters of a stream called Tatsouta carrying along maple leaves reddened by autumn. “

—Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art

“The architectural shorthand for alternating variations in a row of brownstones is A-B-A-B-A-B, when two patterns repeat, and A-B-C-A-B-C, if there are three.”

—From “A Dozen 1888 Brownstones, Where Variety Reigns” by Christopher Gray,The New York Times, Jan 8, 2006

This semester we will continue investigating different forms of poetry (the ghazal, sestina, the prose poem, the renga) with an eye to inventing our own forms.  What formal strategies are used in the creation of a form? What strategies have not yet been used but could be? We will also continue to look for metaphorical representations of forms  in the world around us, such as the A-B-A-B pattern of the brownstones described above.

FIELD TRIPS  (if you cannot attend these field trips you are responsible for going to the museum on your own by the date of the field trip)

Art Spiegelman at the Jewish Museum Thursday Feb 20 (leave SLC at 4:30pm, leave JM at 7pm) 1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.

Graffiti show at the Museum of the City of New York Thursday April 3 (leave SLC at 9:30am, leave MCNY at 12pm) 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St

Dinner at my place: Thursday May 1st (leave SLC at 6pm, leave Brooklyn at 9pm)

BOOK LIST

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen

M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau

Wind in a Box by Terrance Hayes

The Most of It by Mary Ruefle

Elements of Style by Strunk and White, illustrated by Maira Kalman

SPRING SCHEDULE

January 21 Discuss registration / meetings

January 23 Discuss What It Is /ideas for conference projects

Read Poetry Comics packet. Make a poem-comic. Bring thirteen copies to class.

February 4 Discuss comics packet and class comics.

Read Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen

Write a poem informed/inspired by her formal decisions.

February 6 Discuss Sleeping with the Dictionary

February 11 Workshop Group 1

Read Prose poem packet.

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp262-71 (prose poem)

Write a prose poem.

February 13 Workshop Group 2 / prose  poem discussion

Read The Most of It by Mary Ruefle

February 18 Discuss The Most of It / Workshop Group 3

February 20 NO CLASS. MEET AT JM

February 25 Discuss  form possibilities/ GA

Read Packet Nine / Invented Forms

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp/ 325-351, 366-390, 396-399.

Invent a form. Write a list of its restrictions/qualities, and name the form.

Write a poem in the form you’ve invented.

Print out one copy of your form to give to a classmate

February 27 Workshop Group 1

Write a poem in your classmate’s invented form. Bring a copy to give to that student on March 4th.

Read Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

March 4 Discuss Autobiography of Red

March 6 Workshop Group 2

Read Packet Thirteen / Ghazal

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp. 210-16 (ghazal)

Write a ghazal.

March 11 Discuss ghazals & The Most of It

Conference project updates

March 13 Workshop Group 3

Read Wind in a Box by Terrance Hayes

Write a poem (any form)

April 1 Discuss Wind in a Box

April 3rd NO CLASS. MEET AT MCNY

Write a poem based on one of the pieces of graffiti—this can be a visual piece if you want.

April 8 Workshop Group 1  (do not bring visual pieces to workshop if you do not intend to revise them)

April 10 Workshop Group 2  (do not bring visual pieces to workshop if you do not intend to revise them)

Read Packet Ten / Sestina

Read An Exaltation of Forms pp. 290-96 (sestina)

Write a sestina

April 15 Discuss sestinas. Bring Elements of Style by Strunk & White to class.

April 17 Workshop Group 3

Read Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau

Write a poem using one of Queneau’s ideas.

April 22 Discuss Exercises in Style

Read fairytale packet

Write a poem based on a fairytale from any culture

April 24 Workshop Group 1

[April 25-27—SLC POETRY FESTIVAL] You must attend at least two readings (see requirements)

Your one page responses to each reading are due on the 29th.

April 29 Workshop Group 2 / Hand in reading responses

May 1 NO CLASS –dinner at my place

Read M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan

Write a poem based on a form used by Jordan.

May 6 Discuss M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A

May 8 Workshop Group 3

Read selections from Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian

Make four versions of sorted books, photograph. Bring 13 copies to class.

May 13 Renga / exquisite corpses

May 15 Last class. Conference project, critical journal and revised poems are due.

SPRING SEMESTER REQUIREMENTS

1. You will come up with a creative conference project and work on it throughout the semester.

2. You will continue to keep a  journal in which you write informal but detailed responses to all of the reading.  If your journal is handwritten, you should average about 3 pages per packet or book, typewritten should be a minimum of one page. Include at least three questions at the end of each entry and discuss three peoms per book or packet in detail. These responses must be done by the day of class discussion, not afterwards! You must bring your critical journal to every class meeting and every conference meeting.

3. You will respond to your classmates’ poems by writing comments on their poems on the week they are  being workshopped.

4. The Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival is April 25-27th. You are required to go to two readings and write a one page response to each one.

ATTENDANCE POLICY

You may miss one class over the course of the semester. Class starts at 9:30—anyone arriving after that time will be counted as late. Three late arrivals = an absence. For each absence (beyond the first) your grade goes down by half. If you are absent four times you will fail the class.

***Note: the class meeting before you are workshopped, you must bring 13 copies of your poem to class. If you do not bring copies, we will not discuss your work.