English 269

Charles Bernstein
Spring 2018

Revolution of the Word: Modernist American Poetry and Poetics (1900-1945).

This "reading workshop" is an introduction to the unprecedented range of different types of poetry that emerged in the early decades of the last century in the U.S. as well as to contemporary North American poetry, with attention also to related developments in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the visual arts. We'll read the best known "canonical" poets of the modernist period, such as Eliot, Frost, Pound, Williams, and Stevens; the more formally radical and experimental poets, such as Stein, H.D, and the Objectivists; African American poetry (James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay); the more conventional or popular poets (Sandburg, Amy Lowell); as well as the political poetry of the time, "high" academic poetry; and also explore other, harder to classify, directions. Textbook will be The New Anthology of American Poetry: Modernisms 1900-1950, Vol. 2, from Rutgers. Sound recordings of many of the poets will be played via PennSound. There will also be a listserv class discussion and the use of supplemental resources on the web.

Works will be presented from well-known poets but there will be equally attention to a range of lesser known poets as well as occasional visits by contemporary poets now actively working to delight, inform, redress, lament, extol, oppose, renew, rhapsodize, imagine, foment . . .

This is a good course for those who know a lot about modern poetry but also for those who want a lively introduction.

This "creative reading workshop" combines aspects of a literature class with some of the formats of an experimental creative writing class. The 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.


charles.bernstein @ english.upenn.edu

This course is part of a sequence with the other English 288: Postwar American Poetry and Poetics (1945-1975) [note: same course number as this!], English 262 (contemporary poety, 1975-present), and English 62 (20th Century Poetry, But Not from the U.S.).

Required Books
(a few copies at Penn Book Center, otherwise order on-line)
The New Anthology of American Poetry: Modernisms 1900-1950, Vol. 2, ed. Steven Gould Axelrod, Camille Roman, and Thomas Travisano; Rutgers University Press
Modernisms: A Literary Guide by Peter Nicholls

Web Resources
Key E-Resouces:
Check out the Electronic Poetry Center and PennSound.
Penn Library Poetry Guide
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.
Gale Literature Resource Center  
Literary Encyclopedia
Princeton Encylopedia of Poetry and Poetics 2012 edn
Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics 1993 edn
Twentieth-Century American Poetry
University of Illinois;s Modern American Poetry (MAP) author pages provides excellent critical writing on many of the poets.
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 Poets, via library e-resourses: very useful selection.
Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, via library e-resources: look for full text selection only.
Gale's Literary Rescource 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".
"Further Reading" on poetics for "The Practice of 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.