17 August 2011


ENGL 253: Writing of Poetry

Fall Semester 2011
Section 101
M: 6:00PM – 8:40PM, Andrews Hall 146

Instructor: Joshua Ware
Email: unlengl@gmail.com
Office: 302 Andrews Hall Hours: 5:00PM –6:00PM, M

Course Description:

The word poetry derives from the Greek word poiesis, which means “to make or form.” For the purposes of this course, we will give particular attention, in a very literal manner, to both the formation and form of the poem as an aesthetic creation. To this extent, we will want to ask ourselves: What are poems and how does one go about creating them? More specifically, we will explore the basic elements of a poem, such as diction, syntax, line, and stanza, as well as particular auditory and musical concepts (e.g. rhythm, cadence, rhyme, and meter). This is all to say that, by the end of our course, all of us should understand that a poem is a highly stylized, well-crafted use of language that conveys certain ideas, concepts, narratives, or images within a specific and intentional form that speaks to and with its content.

Furthermore, while the focus of our course will be writing poetry, we will also spend a great deal of time and effort reading poetry. But our reading of poetry will be of a specific type; as Mary Kinzie’s states toward the beginning of our textbook: “To become better acquainted with poetry you must read poems as if you were writing them.” Therefore, when we read poetry for our course, we will think through and about the manner in which the poet formed (i.e. composed) the poem and less upon a traditional, literary reading. Or, in Kinzie’s words, we will engage in a “process of reading [that] is instructive because it retraces the intricate paths of composition.” Ultimately, she believes (as I do myself) that the writing of poetry is not an innate talent, but a complex network of learned techniques, and to learn how to write poetry one must read exemplary work (particularly that of contemporary poets) extensively and rigorously with our attentions focused upon craft.

Course Texts:

Kinzie, Mary. A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Kinzie’s book will be our main textbook for the duration of the course, which you can purchase in the university bookstore. We will cover, primarily, the first section of the book, subtitled “The Elements of Relation and Resemblance.” If you have any intention of continuing your study and writing of poetry in ENGL 353 and ENGL 453, this text is one you will want to keep and refer to throughout your coursework.

Additionally, we will read collections of poems by individual authors, most of them published within the last few years. The purpose of these collections is to provide you with examples of poetry written by poets who are currently publishing so as to: a) think through their composition process, b) begin to understand today's trends within both poetry and publishing, and c) offer you a diverse range of writing that will function as a starting point as you search for particular styles, aesthetics, poets, and movements you find compelling.

Alessandrelli, Jeff. Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound. Spokane, WA: Ravenna Press, 2011.

Carr, Emily. Directions for Flying. Towson, MD: Furniture Press, 2010.

Celona, Tina Brown. The Real Moon of Poetry. Buffalo, NY: Fence Books, 2002.

Greenfield, Richard. Tracer. Richmond, CA: Omnidawn Publishing, 2009.

Limรณn, Ada. Sharks in the Rivers. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2010.

McCreary, Chris. Undone: A Fakebook. Towson, MD: Furniture Press, 2010.

Moody, Trey. Climate Reply. Tuscon, AZ: New Michigan Press, 2010.

Assignment Descriptions:

Your grade for our course will be determined by your cumulative performance in each of the following four areas:

Poems (50 points): Over the course of the semester, you will produce five, completed and thoroughly revised poems; each poem and its corresponding portfolio will be worth ten points. The portfolios will contain the following material: a) a final draft of your poem, b) your poem's revision history (generally speaking, there will be three to five drafts for every poem), which will include multiple drafts of the poem that demonstrate extensive and radical revisions, your peers' workshop comments, and the comments I provided for you on each draft, and finally d) a brief introduction to your poem that outlines its formal or conceptual concerns, your composition’s evolution, as well as how your poem and poetic process relate to the particular poetic concepts we read about in Kinzie's A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. Throughout the semester, we will discuss, in detail, what constitutes a “completed” poem and “extensive and radical” revising.

Book Responses (35 points): You will also write seven, two responses, corresponding to the seven books we will read during this semester. More specifically, you will think through particular poems and their construction, clearly articulating how you understand it to be working aesthetically and poetically, especially with regard to concepts from Mary Kinzie's A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. For example, your first response will investigate Trey Moody's Climate Reply, and, perhaps, how a poem in his book relates to Kinzie's chapter “Line and Half-Meaning.” Each response will be worth five points.

Reading Responses (15 points): In addition to our regularly scheduled class sessions, you will also be expected to attend two readings as well, then write brief, one-page responses to them. The readings will occur on Saturday, October 1st at 7:00PM and Saturday, November 12th at 7:00PM; both readings will take place off-campus at the Drift Station. If you do not think you will be able to attend these events, you should seriously consider whether or not this course is the correct option for you.

Finally, participation in our course, while not assigned a particular point total, will require two distinct and equally important aspects. The first component of your participation grade will involve regular and salient involvement in class discussions. Much of our class time will structure itself around close readings of poems and how they relate to the techniques and concepts we read about in A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. To demonstrate to me that you have read the poems and textbook both rigorously and thoroughly, as well as maintaining an intellectually invigorating atmosphere in the classroom, you will be expected to vocalize your thoughts, thus contributing to our writing community. Secondly, a large portion of our class time (especially during the second half of the semester) will be dedicated to work-shopping your poems and the poems of your peers. To this extent, you will need to read these poems before class and have two copies of type-written comments for each poem (about one-half to one page); one copy will be for the author of the poem, the other for me. Providing well thought out feedback to your fellow students, in many ways, directly affects their poem and thus, to a certain extent, affects their grade as well. As such, we need to be diligent and thoughtful when commenting on their poems. Failure to “participate” along these lines will affect your overall course grade at my discretion.

Grading Scale:

A = 100-93 A- = 92-90 B+ = 89-87 B = 86-84 B- = 83-80 C+ = 79-77

C = 76-74 C- = 73-70 D+ = 69-67 D = 66-64 D- = 63-60 F = 59-0


The Department of English expects students registered for English classes to attend all scheduled class meetings. Moreover, the first half of each class will be dedicated to discussion of reading material, while the second half will involve intense, usually collaborative, class participation and workshops. To perform effectively in class and to provide quality input on your peers’ poetry necessitates regular attendance and active participation. Therefore, you can miss up to two class periods with no affect on your final grade; once you accrue three absences, your final grade will be lower a full letter grade (i.e. if you earn a B+, your grade will be lowered to a C+); you will have withdrawn from the course once you accrue four absences. I will take attendance daily. Furthermore, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and be prepared for the next class. Regular tardiness will also affect your class performance and distract the class in progress; as such, chronic tardiness will affect your grade.

Code of Conduct:

All members of the course must commit to creating a place of study where everyone is treated with respect and courtesy. Everyone must share in the commitment to protect the integrity, rights, and personal safety of each member of the classroom community. This includes helpful, yet courteous, discussion of individual and group writing projects. Additionally, make sure cell phones, pagers, and any other similar electronic instruments are turned off when in class. These devices are not conducive to a learning environment and will be treated as such.

General Education “ACE Statement”:

By passing this course, you will fulfill ACE Learning Outcome 7: “Use knowledge, theories, or methods appropriate to the arts to understand their context or significance.” Your work will be evaluated by the instructor according to the specifications described in this syllabus. At the end of the term, you may be asked to provide samples of your work for ACE assessment as well.

Course Schedule:

What follows is a tentative listing for each class period this semester. Please prepare accordingly, but be aware that details of the schedule are subject to change, based upon how the semester proceeds.






Kinzie 1-43



Kinzie 45-74




Book Response

Climate Reply



Kinzie 75-110


Book Response

Sharks in the Rivers


CLEAN PART READING: Saturday at the Drift Station (7:00PM)


Poem and Reading Response

Kinzie 111-141


Book Response

The Real Moon of Poetry





Kinzie 142-186


Book Response

Undone: A Fakebook



Kinzie 187-214


CLEAN PART READING: Saturday at the Drift Station (7:00PM)


Book and Reading Response



Book Response

Directions for Flying


Book Response

Erik Satie Watusies His Way


Final Portfolio and Evaluations