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How to Read a Poem (and How to Write One, too)

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Poems challenge us. They use language differently from other genres, and their subjects often elude us, and we end up asking what does the poem mean?

How then do poems need to be read? What, other than the technical information we find in books on poetry, do we need to know about poetic forms and language? think about? puzzle over? How do we know when our interpretation is credible? We will immerse ourselves in reading poems selected from the history of English and American literature since poems from different eras need to be read differently. We will examine different poetic forms from the sonnet to experimental verse; we will see how preverbal qualities (rhythm and cadence, for example) affect our experiences as readers. We will experiment with different methods of reading and analyzing poems and will develop ways to evaluate the results. We will discuss how much wiggle room the reader has in formulating interpretations. We will write responses that strengthen our skills as critical writers. And we will write poems to see how poetry works and to see how our critical and creative practices can work together.

The main objective of this seminar is to master critical poetry-reading skills not just to interpret credibly but to increase your pleasure in reading this challenging genre. You will have ample opportunity to develop your abilities to converse about poetry and to become a more confident critical prose writer.

The primary prerequisite for this seminar is to be curious about poetry and language.