Sept. 4 introduction to course and course overview
We’ll go over the syllabus, including the course requirements and course organization. To prepare for our first class, you’ll need several hours to read and re-read the poems. Plus there’s some prose assigned: 3 short essays by Paglia and 1 by Tony Hoagland (see below).
In Strand and Boland’s TheMaking of a Poemread Emily Dickinson’s “I died for Beauty” (p. 145; see also 154-55); Roethke’s “The Waking” (p. 11); and Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here” (254-55).
In Camille Paglia’s Break, Blow, Burn, read Shakespeare’s sonnet #29; the 2 excerpts from Whitman’s “Song of Myself”; and Hughes’ “Jazzonia”—plus Paglia’s short essays on these poems (pp. 8-11, 87-94, and 140-44, respectively).From the Moodle page, we’ll read Jane Hirshfield’s “Let Them Not Say.”
For the last hour or so of class, we’ll discuss Tony Hoagland’s short “The Sound of Intimacy” chapter (pdf on 71B Moodle webpage). In what ways do the Shakespeare, Dickinson, and Roethke poems establish a sense of intimacy, suspense, and mystery? (This question can be asked of the other poems assigned too.)
Tony Hoagland’s discussion of how poems can create a sense of private intimacy and connection—as if we’re overhearing someone’s thoughts, or they’re speaking directly to usin an urgent and confidential way—can be broadened by our discussion to a complementary idea: the ways in which the intimate lyric “I” imagines a spacious public “we,” or tries to. That is, as Whitman asserted, poems are not just self-expression; they’re trying to create a shared, imagined community. And Whitman asked this invaluable and dangerous question, with which we will also grapple: “does poetry’s role change in a democracy(including an imperfect democracy) vs. in a society that is aristocratic (where identity is primarily based on class and heredity)? (Remember that much of the printed poetry from England that we’ll read, from the anonymous ballads to poets by famous authors like Shakespeare or Wordsworth, was written in a society basically ruled by aristocrats and (later) a tiny middle class. Very few were literate. Poetry for the mostly illiterate rural and urban working-class was songs.)
Using a pun Langston Hughes would like, we could say that democratic poems in an imperfect democracy are written for/created by aristocats. Whitman’s term for such a democratic hero-poet is an epic, heroic “I” who represents the full potential of allcitizens, what they could be if their democracy were better. Poetry for Whitman and Hughes also means satire, poets calling out democracy’s hypocrisies and failures.
To begin a semester-long exploration of the ways in which the lyric "I" tries to shape a democratic we, we’ll look at all the above poems also from a different angle: not just from the perspective of how they make present a powerful intimate/private voice, but how their intimacy may also suggest an imagined community, a broader public sphere.
In sum: total # of poems assigned for Sept. 4 = 7 (Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, Hughes, Roethke, Harjo, Hirshfield). The Shakespeare, Whitman, and Hughes poems are in the Paglia anthology; the Dickinson & Roethke & Harjo in Strand and Boland’s The Making of a Poem; and Hirshfield’s poem available via 71B Moodle pdf.
Short prose essays assigned for the first class: Paglia on Shakespeare, Whitman, and Hughes (pp. 8-11, 87-94, and 140-44); Strand & Boland on Dickinson (154-55); and Hoagland’s ch 3 (pdf on 71B Moodle below).
Sept. 11 and Sept. 18: the sonnet
—Making of a Poem (14 sonnets assigned)
• read an overview of the sonnet’s form and history (pp. 55-59). See also the 2 documents on the sonnet posted by PS (below)
• English Renaissance sonnets: Shakespeare, Drayton, Wroth;
• Romantic sonnets: Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats;
• late 19thcentury and early 20thcentury sonnets: Rossetti, Hopkins, Millay (p. 64; see also 71-72), Cullen;
• Contemporary sonnets in Making: Johnson, Cole
—Paglia: 6 assigned. Read her 4 short essays on Donne and Shakespeare sonnets, and her 2 essays on Wordsworth’s “Westminster Bridge” and Shelley’s “Ozymandias” sonnets
—6 more contemporary sonnets on Moodle (pdfs): James Merrill’s sonnet honoring avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren; Marilyn Hacker, one from Love Death and the Changing of the Seasons (a lesbian sonnet cycle; compare this sonnet with Henri Cole’s in Making, assigned above); and Terrance Hayes, four sonnets from his recent American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin.
For Merrill’s sonnet, read (in a Word .docx, via Moodle) Prof. Schmidt’s brief essay on the sonnet, which quotes & discusses the sonnet in its entirety and also gives an overview of Merrill’s career. For sonnets by Hacker and Hayes, see Engl 71B Moodle.
—In preparation for class, please also read Prof. Schmidt’s brief guidelines on appreciating sonnets (posted below), as well as the discussion of the sonnet in Making of a Poem. See also Prof. Schmidt’s tips on appreciating poetic rhythms and music (also on the 71B Moodle site, near the top of this page next to the syllabus file). We’ll have a session in class “scanning” the beats (rhythms) of selected sonnets, including Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 (on p. 59 in Making of a Poem). We’ll spend some time practicing “scanning” and analyzing rhythms and sounds in sonnet lines in class, using a Sonnet Worksheet (also posted on Moodle below).
—Note: if you’d like further help with Shakespeare’s sonnets, I recommend the great annotations on the shakespeares-sonnets.comwebsite: look up sonnets by their number, and scroll down to find annotations and explications of words, lines, etc.
Sept. 25: the Ballad (poetry + music, with ancient and contemporary examples)
Making of a Poem:
Read the intro material in the Ballad chapter, then concentrate on the following examples in Strand & Boland: The Cherry-Tree Carol, Sir Patrick Spens, Wife of Usher’s Well; ballads by Whittier, Wilde, Wylie, Betjeman, Nash, Brooks (94; 99-100), Brown, Merwin.
• Use the Oxford English Dictionary online to look up 1-2 words you don’t know in the early ballads, such as what a “carlin” wife is or a “channerin’ ” worm in “The Wife of Usher’s Well.” If you read the poems aloud you’ll recognize other words when you hear them; the spelling will give you a taste of the earlier English pronounciation: for example, “guid [good] sailor” in “Sir Patrick Spens.” Pro tip: The OED is available via Swarthmore>Tripod>Research Guides >English Literature> Research Best Bets at the top of the page. At the Oxford English Dictionary listing, click ‘S’ for the Swarthmore connection, then if necessary use your standard System username and password to access the dictionary. You may copy and paste OED definitions as necessary, but be sure to cite the OED if you use any of its material for an English 71B paper.
Paglia: 2 Blake poems (plus Paglia’s 2 essays); Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” But as well as Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” we’ll also consider her considerably less naïve & dated song-poem“The Last Time I Saw Richard,” from her album Blue(1971): see text on Moodle; listen to the song via YouTube.
Moodle site documents and links for 5 additional ballads:
Which is a better love song?: Dorothy Fields’ “The Way You Look Night” (1930s; music by Jerome Kern), or Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are”? (contemporary; see links on Moodle)
Bob Dylan’s transformation of the Renaissance ballad “Lord Randall” into “Masters of War” (early 1960s, during the heart of the Civil Rights movement and at the beginning of the movement against the Vietnam War): see document on Moodle containing links and the texts of both songs.
Joni Mitchell’s “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” from Blue(1971).
FRIDAY SEPT. 27, 5pm: Paper #1 due by 5pm, uploaded as a Word .docxdocument onto the 71B Moodle website folderfor paper #1. No extensions. 5-7pp. double-spaced, 12-point font.Analyze any one poem we’ve read so far. Build on class discussion but go further and deeper. And be sure to discuss some aspect(s) of the poem’s formas well as its content. If you’d like to use some of the ideas in the prose essays we’ve read, go ahead. Students are encouragedto discuss their paper ideas with Prof. Schmidt ahead of time, during office hours or at another time by appointment.
Oct. 2: History/Atrocity: poetry, protest, politics; or, Meditations in an Emergency: What’s the value of poetry when the world is burning down?
Statements by poets and critics: Czeslaw Milosz, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Juan Felipe Herrera; essays by Rachel Tzvia Back; Philip Metres; A.L. Nielsen (final paragraphs); David Trinidad; and Keith Tuma, from Paideuma 44. Links and files on Moodle.
Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind” (in Making of a Poem)
Yeats, “The Second Coming” [in Paglia 109-13; read also her essay on this poem]
Rich, “Diving into the Wreck” (in Making of a Poem)
14 short or medium-length poems on Moodle, available as separate pdfs or Word files:
Herrera, “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments”
Audre Lorde, “Coal” and “Litany for Survival”
Danez Smith, “Dinosaurs in the Hood”
Ada Limón, “The Leash” and “A New National Anthem”
Layli Long Soldier, 2 poems from Whereas
Linda Gregg, “There She Is”
Wislawa Szymborska, “Some People” [translation]
Warsan Shire, “Conversations About Home (at the Deportation Centre)”
Joy Harjo, “How to Write a Poem in Time of War”
Tony Hoagland, “America”Solmaz Sharif, “Social Skills Training”
Oct. 9 blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter)
• Making of a Poem, the Blank Verse chapter: read the intro material (pp. 101-05), then 6 examples: from Shakespeare (Mark Antony’s famous speech from Julius Caesar), Milton, Charlotte Smith, Wordsworth , Tennyson, Frost. For introductory help with the Milton and Wordsworth passages (both of which are awesome, imho, but in different ways) see below.
In reading Tennyson, remember that Ulysses is the Roman name for Odysseus. The passage describes Odysseus' years after his successful return home, the killing of the suitors, and his reunification with his wife Penelope and son Telemachus (who is now King, since Odysseus is retired). What would Odysseus/Ulysses want to do in his old age? Would he ever really be happy hanging around a hearth? Tennyson's poem provides one answer. Its cadences are about as heroic as cadences can get: try reading it aloud so you can hear how magnificent it is. However, a caveat. Could this poem be an allegory for the alleged heroism of the British Empire itself? Hmmm. It was written in 1833 and published in 1842, right as Britain's Empire was being significantly expanded, particularly in India.
ALSO ASSIGNED FOR THIS WEEK:
• Paglia: Hamlet, the Ghost’s speech, and Paglia’s essay (pp. 12-19)
• Tony Hoagland, ch. 7: “Voice as Speech Registers: High, Middle, and Low” (pdf on Moodle below)
You're of course welcome to explore the other examples of blank verse in Making of a Poem other than those assigned.
Oct. 23: the heroic couplet, and other couplet forms
Making of a Poem: read the introductory material to this chapter (121-23), which defines what a “heroic couplet” is, then read examples by Bradstreet, Finch, Dryden, Wheatley, Pope, Browning.
Paglia: read Marvell’s “Coy Mistress” and Paglia’s essay on this poem, which uses couplets brilliantly. But Marvell’s couplets are tetrameter (4-beat) rather than pentameter; Strand and Boland note that occasionally “heroic” couplets may be in tetrameter, which create shorter, even more emphatic lines and rhymes.
Marvell’s audacious and extremely quotable seduction and seize-the-day/time's passing away poem is the most famous tetrameter heroic couplet poem in English literature. Let’s debate how this poem fares now, in the age of “consent” and #Metoo. Is this a coercion poem, or a consent poem? (Or is the issue not that either/or?)
**********One other thought about rhyming, including couplets:
Couplets (paired rhymes at the end of lines) are hugely popular again, this time in rap and some hip hop. (Rap uses lots of in-line rhyming too, and sometimes the same rhyme will govern many lines, not just two. But end rhymes in groups of two are common.) We can quote and discuss some examples, if you'd like. One reason: lines with rhymes (including couplets) are easier to memorize.
Let's discuss: can rap boasting in rhyme be a contemporary form of the "heroic couplet" with a "seize the day" vibe? Consider these lines from Chance the Rapper's "Blessings (Reprise)," from his 2016 mixtape _Coloring Book_. It starts with rhyming couplets, moves to other rhyming patterns, and then praises couplets (and God) with lines full of internal rhymes. It also has a kind of spoken-word chill vibe, projecting a different kind of confidence from frenetic loud boasting. Chance as a version of a prophet (with Biblical allusions too), but also as a dude who has issues with Apple and with all corporations & streaming services making money off of music while paying pennies to the artists in royalties. (Chance's David-vs.-Goliath battle is nicely captured in the line below about walking into Apple with cracked screens.)
[Verse: Chance The Rapper]
I speak of promised lands
Soil as soft as mama's hands
Running water, standing still
Endless fields of daffodils and chamomile
Rice under black beans
Walked into Apple with cracked screens
And told prophetic stories of freedom
Found warmth in a Black queen for when I get cold
Like Nat King, I'm doing the dad thing
I speak of wondrous unfamiliar lessons from childhood
Make you remember how to smile good
I'm pre-currency, post-language, anti-label
Pro-famous, I'm Broadway Joe Namath
Kanye's best prodigy
He ain't signed me but he proud of me
I got some ideas that you gotta see
Make a vid with shawty and they ship it like the Odyssey
They never seen a rapper practice modesty
I never practice, I only perform
I don't even warn, I don't eat it warm, I won't be reborn
I speak to God in public, I speak to God in public
He keep my rhymes in couplets
He think the new shit jam, I think we mutual fans...
Want some help with the above lyrics? Check out the notes on Genius.com. (Click on particular lines to see comments.)
Want to listen to the whole song, with lyrics? The song ends with a sweet chorus blessing Chance's friends and fam, and also YOU the listener:
Oct. 30 and Nov. 6: What’s the role of pastoral or nature poetry in a time of climate crisis? ~24 poems plus a short story & 2 essays over 2 weeks. See below for assigned readings.
MONDAY NOV. 4, 5pm: Paper #2 due by 5pm, uploaded using the folder below as a Word .docx document onto the 71B Moodle website folder. No extensions. 5-7pp. double-spaced, 12-point font. Analyze any one poem read so far. Build on class discussion but go further and deeper. And be sure to discuss some aspect(s) of the poem’s formas well as its content. Students are encouraged to discuss their paper ideas with me ahead of time, during office hours or at another time.
Nature poems and prose writings / 3 short prose pieces and 12 poems assigned for Oct. 30: :
—Read Ted Chiang’s short story “The Great Silence,” from Exhalations(2019). pdf on Moodle.
—Read essay by Avery Slater, Prepostrophe: Rethinking Modes of Lyric Address in Wislawa Szymborska’s Poetry of the Non-Human” (pdf on Moodle)
—Read 3 poems by W. S. Merwin (pdf)
—Read pdf of 4 poems by Mary Oliver from American Primitive(1983): “The Fish,” “Honey on the Table,” “Crossing the Swamp,” and “Humpbacks” [about the whale], plus Gisela Ullyatt's essay “Buddhist Mindfulness in Mary Oliver’s Poetry” (also pdf). If you’d like to read another Oliver poem, see Making of a Poem,p. 235.
— Read and then listen to Philadelphian poet Ross Gay read his poem "To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian" (2 links)
— Read Tohono O'odham author Ofelia Zepeda's poem "Riding the Earth"
—Read 3 poems by Peter Schmidt, “So What?” and “Chicxulub” and “Rexx Imperator” (pdf on Moodle). “So What?” ‘s ending alludes to the ending of Wallace Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West,” which we’ll read later this semester.
Assignment for Nov. 6:
—In Making of a Poem, read and compare and contrast 1) a classic Romantic nature poem by Wordsworth (the moment when in The Prelude Wordsworth crests a pass while hiking Mt. Snowdon in Wales) with 2) a classic Modernist poem by William Carlos Williams, in which Nature in New Jersey is seen from a fast-moving car as spring comes on. For the Wordsworth, see Making, pp. 109-10); for Williams’ “Spring and All,” see Making, p. 268.
—In Making of a Poem, browse through the “Pastoral” chapter, including the introductory materials. We’ll focus on poems by Keats, Deutsch, Larkin, James Wright, Kenyon, Hass, Moss (and any others you’d like to discuss).
—Read the 3 Roethke poems and Paglia’s essays about them, in Paglia.
• Total poems assigned for Nov. 6: 2+7+3 = 12, plus intro material in Making on the “pastoral,” and Paglia’s 3 short essays on Roethke. And look at Ted Chiang’s short story “The Great Silence,” from Exhalations(2019): the link is below.
Nov. 13 Elegies: we’ll read ~13 elegies this week, plus have an option (free) Septa field trip to Philadelphia to hear Joy Harjo, the U.S. Poet Laureate, read at 7:30pm on Nov. 13.
—In Making of a Poem:
6 older elegies: Jonson, Bradstreet, Gray, Arnold, Gurney (about a fellow soldier killed in World War I); Auden’s elegy for YeatS
3 recent elegies: Bidart and Doty [two poems about friends lost to AIDS); Hongo.
—Re-read Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here” (Making of a Poem, pp. 254-55)
—Also print or download and read 3 poems on our Moodle site:
Martín Espada, “Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100” [an elegy for restaurant workers in the World Trade Center killed during 9/11];
Khaty Xiong, “On Teaching My Son How to Mourn”; and
Ciaran Carson’s recently published “Claude Monet.”
Carson’s poem is an unusual elegy: it’s perhaps an elegy for himself as he nears his death, and also a love letter to art, poetry, and life. Yet Espada’s and Xiong’s poems, both dealing with horrible losses, are also elegies that are powerfully affirmative in the end…. I find all 3 of these recent poems very moving, as good elegies should be.
ALSO ON NOV. 13: FOR THOSE WHO CAN GO, AN EVENING FIELD TRIP TO PHILADELPHIA VIA SEPTA TO HEAR JOY HARJO READ AT FREE LIBRARY, 7:30PM. PS hopes to provide free tickets to Septa and to the event, courtesy of Swarthmore. Train to catch leaves Swarthmore station at6:09pm: be there by 6pm.
Nov. 20 the Ode
In Making of a Poem, read the intro material the the ode form, and then:
Re-read Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” and Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”; read Keats’ “To Autumn”
Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West” [not in the Ode section; see pp. 266-68], Plus odes by Longfellow, Crane, Moore, Judith Wright, and Charles Simic
On 71B Moodle site:
Peter Schmidt's brief "notes on the ode"
Listen to one or both of the posted YouTube readings of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." If you listen to both you'll realize better how a live performance interprets a poem's tone and movement.
Maya Angelou's two most famous poems, "Phenomenal Woman" and "Still I Rise"
“'El Florida' Room,” Richard Blanco (Word docx)
3 odes by Afro-Latinx poets (pdf)Amit Majmudar, “Ode to a Drone” (pdf)
David Hernández, "Dear Death" (pdf)
Janice Harrington, "Ode to the Bedpan" (Word .docx)
Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 Although this Nov. 27 class is near Thanksgiving, your attendance is required. The readings are GREAT! We'll take our 2 final classes to look at a variety of stanza types, both metrical and "regular" and "free verse" or "open form." 18 poems assigned over these 2 classes, plus 6 short pieces of prose (1 in Making and 5 in Paglia).
For specific assignments for each class, see below.
November 27 (attendance required):
• In Making of a Poem:
Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art,” (Making of a Poem, pp. 11-12)
Muriel Rukeyser, “Yes” (Making 150-51)
Read Strand’s and Boland’s comments on the paradoxes of “open form” poetry (Making 259-60), then read Eliot, “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”; Ginsberg, “America”; and Olds, “Language of the Brag” in the “Open Form” chapter. (You’re welcome to read more poems in this section, and to consider writing a paper on one or more of them.)
• On 71B Moodle:
Gregory Orr, “Some Part of the Lyric” on form in poetry; and Sam Hamill, “The Tao of Poetry” (one pdf)
Chen Chen, “Poem in Noisy Mouthfuls,” from When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (2017) (pdf)
Dec. 4 (final class):
• In Paglia: 5 poems & essays: on Herbert’s “Love,” Donne’s “The Flea,” Dickinson’s “Safe in Our Alabaster Chambers” and “The Soul Selects her own Society”; and Plath’s “Daddy.” These poems represent brilliant but very different examples of how metrical form and rhyme can be perfectly fused with dramatic story-telling.
************For contrast, also check out these contemporary poems using *open forms* by Swarthmore graduates who are now poets. Do these poems have "music" too? If so, where is it?
Daisy Fried, “Then Comes the Girl With the Tampon In Her,” from She Didn’t Mean to Do It (2000). Remember sex ed class in junior high or high school?
Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “Proper Names in the Lyrics of Troubadours” and “Terra Incognita,” from The Ground: Poems (2013)
Noel Quiñones, “Carving / Tuning” [2017: see note on this poem below]
Mary Jean Chan, “//” from a hurry of english (2018), about inviting her female lover home to meet her Mom and the tensions that ensued. Chan’s book is also dedicated to her parents, though, “who know what poetry is for.”
Dec. 11 no class, but let's meet for a study/writing session.
Start work on your final paper on Dec. 5, and work on it as you can through Dec. 11. Then:
Why don't we meet together in 201 on Dec. 11 and have a study/writing session? Prof. Schmidt will be available for consultation during our normal class time, Wed. 1:15-4pm, as well as during my office hour immediately after class (4-5pm).
Plan reading, research, and writing time so that you can work on the paper steadily from Dec. 5 until the due date: Friday Dec. 13, LPAC 206, 5pm, UPLOADED using the link below. For more info on your options for the final paper, see below.
Final Paper: due Friday Dec. 13, LPAC 206, 5pm, uploaded as a Word .docx document onto the 71B Moodle folder BELOW. No extensions. 6-10pp. double-spaced, 12-point font.
Students have 2 options for their final project: 1) a regular analytical essay covering one or more poems and poets; or 2) a “lesson plan” high school or college/university teachers can use to introduce a poem and poet to their students. See details below for both these options.
Analytical Essay. Your discussion of a poem or poem should engage with at least 2-3 secondary sources relevant to your chosen poem (including author interviews, scholarly essays on the poet and/or poem, etc.). Analyze any one poem read so far on which you’ve not yet written. Build on class discussion but go further and deeper. And be sure to discuss some aspect(s) of the poem’s formas well as its content.
If you’d like to do a comparative essay discussing several poets and poems, or an essay reflecting broadly on your experience with many poems, you may—but let’s discuss your idea for this project well ahead of time (by which I mean not just a few days before the paper is due).
The Lesson Plan essay. Students may also write a “lesson plan” for organizing discussion of a particular poet and poem. If you choose this option, use the guidelines posted on the English 71B Moodle page to create a lesson plan for a high school or a college/university class (or one that covers both). Students will also have the option of “publishing” their lesson plans on one of Prof. Schmidt’s Digital Humanities webpages after the end of the semester, making your lesson plan available to actual teachers world-wide. The document will appear with you as the primary author and will not be published without your permission. For the Lesson Plan Guidelines that you must follow in designing your plan, see below.
In general, students are encouraged to discuss their paper ideas with Prof. Schmidt ahead of time, during office hours or at another time. I especially recommend doing so in our "study hall / writing session" on 1:15-4pm on Wed., Dec. 11.
Upload your final project as a Word .docx file please.
Students will receive written comments on their final projects, and a grade, via email over Winter Break.