How do poems work? Who, and what, are they for? This course will introduce you to the pleasures of poetry in English, seeking to develop the tools and vocabulary in order to better appreciate the full range of what verse can do. In the first two-thirds, we will read key poets from the Renaissance to Modernism, including Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams. In the last third, we will turn to contemporary American poetry and song in order to consider how they intervene in ongoing national conversations about democracy and identity. The poets and lyricists studied include Mos Def, Bob Dylan, Rita Dove, Claudia Rankine, Kendrick Lamar, Richard Blanco and Beyoncé.