English 262
The Expanded Field of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E
contemporary poetry after 1975

Charles Bernstein
Spring 2016


charles.bernstein @ english.upenn.edu

This  seminar will focus on poetry after 1975, mostly from the U.S., but also including some poetry from Canada, the UK, and Europe. This will not be a period or survey course: seminar will focus on poetry that pushes the envelope on formal and conceptual invention. The syllabus should be available in early summer. Think: digital, (para- and post-) conceptual, site-specific, post-NY School, language,sprung lyric, flarf, eco-, and performance poetry as well as book art and possibly relayed work in film, theater, and visual arts. In addition, there will be a few poets visiting the class -- reading and discussing their work with the seminar.

This course is part of a sequence with the other English 269 (Revolution of the Word: Modernist American Poetry 1900-1940); 288, pt 2 (American Poetry 1940-1975), and English 62, (20th Century Poetry, But Not from the U.S.).

The "reading workshop" is less concerned with analysis or explanation of individual poems than with finding ways to intensify the experience of poetry, of the poetic, through a consideration of how the different styles and structures and forms of contemporary poetry can affect the way we see and understand the world. No previous experience with poetry is necessary. More important is a willingness to consider the implausible, to try out alternative ways of thinking, to listen to the way language sounds before trying to figure out what it means, to lose yourself in a flurry of syllables and regain your bearings in dimensions otherwise imagined as out-of-reach.

The syllabus details assigned readings for each session, focused in a way that makes the overall reading manageable. If multiple poets are assigned for a single meeting, the syllabus will suggests that you focus on one or two poems for each of the poets. Note , though, that much of the syllabus provides extensive information for further, entirely optional, readings and research. Finally the syllabus provides a set of questions for each set of readings: keep in mind these are only suggestions for your responses, not questions you are required to answer.

The readings for this workshop are extensive and cannot all be discussed in class. The concept is for you to saturate yourself in 20th-century American poetry.

The syllabus remains in formation throughout the period of the class, in response to changing conditions.. Please be sure to check here for updates and changes.

Please notify me immediately if you find any bad links or have difficulty playing any soound files.

Poetry on the Web
Check out the Electronic Poetry Center and PennSound.
Reading and listening assignments from the web are listed in the syllabus. When an author is listed as at the EPC, go to "author" (epc.buffalo.edu/authors) section and then to the specific poet. Ubuweb is another important web source.
Penn Library had some excellent resources to use, but the URLs for these sometimes change. So best to go to library web page and then e-reources and then look up these databases:

LION has full-text versions of many of 20th century poets; LION is accessible through the library's electronic resource page. I have often linked to poems on LION or indicated if the poet's work is avaiable via LION.

Twentieth-Century American Poetry, a part of LION but with its own web page.

Gale Literature Resource Center is a very useful collection of biograpical sketches or most of the poets covered in this course. While I have linked author names to either EPC or Wiki pages, which are publically available, DLB often offers extensive reviews and commentary not available to the public. Best way to get started is to go to the basic search and choose "person".

Literary Encyclopedia
Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

Poetry at Penn and in Philadelphia
The Kelly Writers House, which is part of the Center for Program in Contemporary Writiting, has many readings and related activities. I will send out notices of readings at KWH and in Philadelphia, via the class listserve; and each of you is also welcome to post such announcements to the list. The best way to appreciate older poetry is to immerse yourself in contemporary poetry, so consider any poetry reading you attend as part of this class and includes reports and comments in your weekly responses and on the list.