Reading Poetry

Reading Poetry

An introduction to poetry in English, chiefly by British and American poets. We will explore Renaissance, eighteenth-century, Romantic, and Modernist poetry in particular detail. Though the organization of the subject is chronological, our focus will be less on names and dates than on cultivating skills in careful reading and effective writing. Poets to be read may include Shakespeare, Sidney, Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, and Elizabeth Bishop.

How do you read a poem? Intuition is not the only answer. In this class, we will investigate some of the formal tools poets use – meter, sound, syntax, word-choice, and other properties of language – as well as explore a range of approaches to reading poetry, from the old (memorization and reading out loud) to the new (digitally enabled visualization and annotation). We will also think collectively about how to approach difficult poems. In the process, we will read a wide variety of work in English, from the early middle ages up through the present; the spread might include T.S. Eliot, Derek Walcott, Elizabeth Bishop, Gregory Pardlo, Walt Whitman, James Weldon Johnson, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks, Dr. Seuss, W.C. Williams, John Milton, Nick Montfort, Louise Gluck, Wallace Stevens, Tyehimbe Jess. The last two weeks will be devoted to readings proposed and presented by the class.