Reading Poetry

How do you read a poem?  Many people find poetry “difficult” – and almost everyone finds some poetry difficult, sometimes pleasurably and sometimes less so. But within that category of the difficult resides much that is of use and of value to us as readers and human beings.  Among the goals of the class will developing and practicing some of the skills, habits, and knowledge to approach poetic texts – difficult or otherwise – so that you can judge for yourselves what they mean for you.  We’ll take a close look at the nature of evidence that can be used for thinking and talking about poetry:  the formal properties of poetic language as well the use of context.  We’ll read a wide variety of poetry from 1900 through the present, with some glances further back, and we will explore a variety of tools and approaches, from the old (memorization, listening, and reading out loud) to the new (digitally enabled visualization and annotation).  Most of our reading will be in contemporary English, so that we can focus on how poets work with its particular properties and affordances, but other languages that participants are familiar with can be a valuable resource for our collective thinking.  The last two weeks of the semester will focus on readings chosen and presented by the class.