English 285

Class Requirements

As much as possible, all work for the class should be posted on the listserve. Please try to post this work by Monday at 8pm. Information about the class listserv will be sent to you at your Penn email address. If for any reason you have not received this information, please let me know. Note that any mail sent to the listserv, or any reply to a post sent via the list, will go everyone in the class, so use caution when replying to list email posts.

In addition to the assigned reading:

Semester-long special project. This is an ongoing writing or research project. Your work will be discussed in class (and please post installments on the listserv. The easiest approach is to take as your subject one of the visiting writers: you can work on supplementing the author's EPC home page, on the PennSound recording and web page, or making a class presentation about the writer in the discussion week preceding the visit. I also need volunteers to introduce Kenny Goldsmith and Peter Straub at their KWH readings.
ALTERNATIVELY: the project can be a research or writing project of your own choice, subject to approval.

Wreading Experiments. These exercises (something like lab work) are designed to provide interactive engagement with the assigned reading. Each week, suggestions are given for possible experiments but you may substitute at any time from the larger list. Do one to three of these each week. For each experiment please provide a short commentary on the process, the results, the relation to the original, and your assessment of (the value of) the experiment.

Weekly INFORMAL responses to the assigned readings -- usually a notebook or journal entry. These are meant to be spontaneous, unedited responses, NOT expository essays or drafts for papers. Wherever possible, use the POEM PROFILER(password required). Length from three to ten pages each week. Fragments, lists, incomplete thoughts are fine -- in the service of noting your reactions and thoughts. Please date each response (and number 2 to 14 according to syllabus).
>>>> The responses are open-ended and can be in whatever form you choose -- they are meant to encourage interaction with the poems and also serve as a record of your reading.
>>>For each week, I have provided a set of questions to answer: it is not necessary to answer each and every question but to use these questions as guides for your own response. If you have other things to write that seem more useful to you: go ahead.
>>>A good way to fulfill this requirement is to keep a journal noting responses, comments, opinions of readings, lectures, class discussion, and poetry readings.. The journal -- or notebook -- is an open form in which you can feel free to record your impressions in an informal manner. It's best to keep an actual diary or notebook. Then, each week, you can select the material you wish to submit.
>>>>Use the journal /response papers to document what you are reading -- both assigned and unassigned reading; and also any literary events, especially poetry readings, that you attend.

What do you think of the poem? Give as much detail as you can as to why you feel the way you do. What does the poem sound like, what does it remind you of? Quote specific lines or phrases that seem relevant. Being specific is the hardest part of this assignment and I almost always request descriptions of the form and style of the different poems: which can be as simple as a description of the visual shape of the poem, its length, the type of lines (long, short, metrical, enjambed), the sort of style or rhetoric or vocabulary (unusual, common, pastoral, urban, urbane, fast-paced, slow-moving, pictorial, bombastic, introspective, descriptive, narrative, fragmentary, etc.).

>>>>>The point is not for you to analyze or explain the poem but rather to try to react to it. Cataloging the features of the poem won't explain it but it may enable you to enter into the poem more fully.

oOf the poems read for this week, which is your favorite? Why? Which is the best. Why? Are favorite and best the same? Rank the poems in your order of preference.
oOf the poems read for this week, which did you like least? Why?
oOf the poems read for this week, which is the worst. Why? What are your criteria for deciding the quality of poem. Can poems that you don't like or understand still be good poems?
oIf you have heard the audio performance, describe the performance and how it extends or contradicts the written version of the poem


The "Poem Profiler" (click on link above, password required) asks a number of specific questions that should enable you to give detailed, rather than general, responses to a particular poem. Use the Profiler to help specify your responses. Initially, run the Profiler on a several poems; after that, use it selectively to further your reading and if and as you find it useful. After the first couple of tries, don't use it if you don't find it useful. Since the profiler is a work in pirogues, please send me suggestions for additions.

Here's an alternate way of profiling:

oPick one poem. Describe (or catalog) its features. What kind of vocabulary does the poem use? What kind of diction or syntax is used? What is the mood of the poem? What is the most unusual feature of the poem? What does the poem sound like - give some examples of sound patterns in the poem. Detail any literary "devices" used.
oCompare poems in terms of continuity (hypotactic) / discontinuity (paratactic); fragmentation / unified; symmetrical/asymmetrical, smooth flowing / jerky or abrupt movement.
oDetail the connection between the elements of a poem: expository (a discursive argument), narrative (temporal sequence of beginning, middle end), associative, surreal or dream-like, disjunctive, etc.
oDo you see anything that all the poems assigned for this week have in common?
oHow does the set of poems for this week differ from the poems from last week?
oWhat issues of poetics - how a poem means or how it is made - are brought up by the readings. What were some of the issues raised along this line in last week's class discussion?
o[Try this one sometime after midsemester] Looking back on your previous responses, have you changed your opinions about any poems. How?

It is not necessary, or practical, for you to comment on every assigned poem. But if you choose to focus on one poet or poem, or to do the experiments, preface your response with a very quick take on the reading overall (likes/dislikes, general features, etc.).

oTry imitating the style of the poem, or parodying it. Try the wreading experiments!
oTo become more involved with the writing, try typing out some of the poems and include your reactions to that process. Read poems aloud to friends, relatives, or whomever, and report on your and their reactions. Write poems in response to the poems.
oKeep a running account of your reaction to the class as whole - what's working, what's interesting, what's not. After each class, write a paragraph describing your reactions to the discussions that took place.
oInclude the contexts in which you are reading or writing in your notebook. What's your mood, what's on your mind. oHow do the poems affect or interact with that, if at all.
oInclude, if you like, "diary" material about your life or general or poetic observations, interspersed with comments about the readings. Don't be afraid to go off on tangents, associated thoughts. Include shopping lists, dreams, travel notes, etc.

In addition to the general responses discussed above, your weekly assignments include these four elements:
1. Write about some poems not discussed in class.
2. Pick one poem from the readings and keep a running commentary on it - that is, write about this same poems several times over the course of the term.
3. At least once in the semester, compare or contrast a poem by two different authors and two by the same author (from the assigned readings). This should be at least several pages long. Of course, you may wish to do this several times in the course of the term. This assignment is suggested several times in the "writing" sections after each week's reading assignment.

The most important requirement is attendance and participation at all seminar meetings. Grades will be based primarily on class participation, responses, experiments and your semester project. There is no final exam or paper in this class.

All work is due one week following the last class: Tuesday, April 30.

Please be sure to include your name and the date of the class on everything submit. Keep your original.

Generally, I will not give a grade for your responses each week or even a mid-term grade. If there is a problem, I will let you know; otherwise, the aim in engagement and conversation, not agreement or right answers. If your response is fine, I will often simply say so; while I do read all the responses carefully, I do not always make extensive comments. If your midterm grade falls below "B-" I will notify you of a possible grade problem. If you don't get such a notice, you can assume your grade is above "B-". If you require more detailed information about your grade, email me.