ENGL 809 (01) - Poetry: Form and Technique

Poetry: Form and Technique

Durham   Liberal Arts :: English
Credits: 4.0
Term: Spring 2020 - Full Term (01/21/2020 - 05/04/2020)
Class Size:   15  
CRN: 56552
A writer's view of the problems, traditions, and structures of poetry.
You must sign up in the Dept Office before registering through WEBCAT.
Instructors: David Rivard

Times & Locations

Start Date End Date Days Time Location
1/21/2020 5/4/2020 W 2:10pm - 5:00pm HS 232
Additional Course Details: 

While T.S. Eliot writes that “immature poets borrow, mature poets steal,” he doesn’t say how to become a thief as opposed to a mortgage-holder.   The history of poetry is filled with contradictory examples and questionable theories about the nature of influence.

In this course, we’ll explore the process of poetic influence through a series of questions: How is a poet helped to become him or herself through an essential encounter with a master’s work?  (Or perhaps a series of masters.)   What lessons or tricks has one poet picked up from reading another?  Which lessons must be ignored or reacted against?  Why is the idea of “mastery” itself both attractive and anxiety-producing?  Why is “stealing” from the poems you love often such a great pleasure?  What sort of dynamics might be encountered in having a “mentor” or teacher, or in being the translator of a powerful poet’s work.  How can two poets be influenced quite differently by the same writer?  How do schools and lineages (or ideas like that of “the avant-garde”) help to shape a poet’s work?  How might historical forces or cultural change re-direct a writer’s interests and energies?  How do traditional forms like the sonnet take on a “ghost” life in free verse?  How do devices like aphorism and proposition help shape a poet’s voice?

We’ll look at these and other questions primarily through the work of poets themselves, both poetry and essays.  Some of our focus: Robert Frost/Michael Ryan, Emily Dickinson/Robert Creeley & Heather McHugh, the Black Arts Movement & The Darkroom Collective, Apollinaire & Cubism/Surrealism, The New York School, Czeslaw Milosz/Robert Hass, W.C. Williams/Denise Levertov, and others.  You’ll be required to do one class presentation during the course of the semester.  Various kinds of exercises & imitations will be required as well.