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EN908 Writing Poetry

Convenor and Tutor: Professor David Morley

Spring Term: All Fridays 12:00 - 15:00, Writers’ Room (Millburn House) except week 15 (Field Trip).

Punctuality and full attendance required.

THE WARWICK MASTERS POETRY WORKSHOP

Module AimsPoets Path

The module will introduce students to a range of traditional and experimental approaches to writing poems. The workshops encourage students to study and create poems, and to understand and adopt the techniques that suit, as well as challenge, their developing voice as a poet. There are workshops on different types of form as well as opportunities to experiment and break fresh ground in the practice of innovating with formal poetry and conceptual work. There is an emphasis on learning and teaching as an experience and event, group work and real world creative practice. These aims reflect those in the QAA benchmarks for creative writing (February 2016).

Indicative Syllabus

Week 1

The Riddle of Form and the World in a Grain of Sand: Shaping

Week 2

Natural Magic, The Lyre and Duende: Singing

Week 3

Talk, Drama and Dance: Playing

Week 4

Conceptual and Guerrilla Poetry: Placing

Week 5

Ekphrasis and the Marketplace: Seeing

Week 6

Swordplay and Sonnets: Forming

Week 7

Wordlessness and Tatters: Remembering

Week 8

Translations from Nature and Memory: Finding

Week 9

Arcadia and the Mathematics of Prosody: Ordering

Week 10

'We See Ourselves in Everything': Creating

Throughout the immersive syllabus we investigate and apply our modes of poetic practice to catalyse real world experiences of publishing, performance and dissemination.

Additional student-led workshop

Students shall set up a student-led poetry workshop that meets weekly in The Writers Room. During these informal sessions poems will be shared and peer-critiqued. Guidance will be given about this procedure and how to book the room.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student will have:

1. Worked in several forms of poetry.

2. Received an introduction to the work of some poets and how their work may be used as models for practice.

3. Acquired some knowledge of the power and practice of imagination in poetic creation.

4. Worked in metred and unmetred verse and a variety of rhyme strategies.

5. Begun to acquire a practical understanding of their own poetics.

6. Acquired a realistic knowledge of the marketplace for poetry.

7. Improved their skills in writing and thinking about poetry's role in human culture today.

These outcomes reflect those in the QAA benchmarks for creative writing (February 2016).

Recommended reading

Workshop handouts will contain poems that will be studied during class and in your own time.

The best reading you can do is to read poetry, and to read contemporary poetry from around the world. Recommendations will be made individually and to the group.

Always have the best dictionaries and thesaurus beside you as you write.

There are many fine handbooks about the practice of poetry and the finest are written by practioners aka poets. In my experience, the leading texts are Michelle Boisseau and Robert Wallace’s Writing Poems (6th ed., Longman Pearson, 2004), and Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry (Chicago University Press, 1999). The former provides an excellent and thorough introductory text which does not confuse the would-be writer with mystification or false promises. The latter offers a bracing and beautifully written introduction to advanced technical matters. Taken together, they provide a penetrating explanation and exploration of every facet of writing poetry, and a sense of progression in craft and art.

Both William Packard’s The Art of Poetry Writing (St Martin’s Press, 1992) and James Fenton’s An Introduction to English Poetry (Penguin, 2002) are lessons in writing economically, clearly and yet personally about poetry, as well as having the effect of making the reader feel like they are meeting the possibilities of the craft for the first time.

Mary Oliver discusses the precisions and voice of poetry in A Poetry Handbook (Harvest, 1994). This is a strong text for a writer with little or no experience of reading poems.

Two fascinating books from quite different figures will introduce you to the angular psychologies of poetic practice: Clayton Eshleman’s Companion Spider (Wesleyan, 2001) and Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town (Norton, 1979).

If you are ever short of Writing Games, you will find an open mine of them in The Practice of Poetry (HarperResource, 2001) edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell. Writing Games based on form and design can be derived from many books, not least The Making of a Poem (Norton, 2000) by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, in which these two excellent poets discuss and demonstrate poetic form. Paul Fussell’s Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (Random House, 1965) is a strong introduction to historical styles and practices with distinctive examples.

In the brief but classic Rhyme’s Reason (Yale, 2001), John Hollander provides a luminous survey of verse and verse forms, with examples supplied delightfully by the author; and Timothy Steele’s All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and Versification (Ohio, 1999) presents a rigorous overview.

The Electronic Poetry Center is the place to begin at www.epc.buffalo.edu. Listening to poems read aloud allows you to experience and understand their full performance, but readings may not be available in your area.

There are many websites for the spoken word, but for poetry The Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org) and The Poetry Archive carry online recordings, as well as essays by and about contemporary poets and links to other poetry sites.

http://www.poetryarchive.org/

The most useful resource is The Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes (OUP, 2006). Its lists of rhymed words not only blend traditional/ancient with modern/contemporary but also introduce place names, and technological and scientific terms.

Lastly, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics is the definitive, brick-wide handbook for working poets; it squats like a bookend alongside your dog-eared thesaurus and dictionaries.

Assessment

Submit A and B.

Page specifications should be interpreted as follows: line space 1.0; font/size Times Roman, 12pt.

For 45 CATS

A. PORTFOLIO OF POETRY

EITHER

1. A sequence of poems / a long poem of between 20 and 25 pages

or

2. A portfolio collection of poems between 20 and 25 pages.

B. CRITICAL PROSE

EITHER

1. 2000-word commentary on the aims and processes involved in writing your portfolio

Or

2. 2,000 word essay on a critical issue that arises from the syllabus.


For 36 CATS

A. PORTFOLIO OF POETRY

EITHER

1. A sequence of poems / a long poem of between 17 and 19 pages

or

2. A portfolio collection of poems between 17 and 19 pages.

B. CRITICAL PROSE

EITHER

1. 1700-word commentary on the aims and processes involved in writing your portfolio

Or

2. 1700 word essay on a critical issue that arises from the syllabus.

 

For 30 CATS

A. PORTFOLIO OF POETRY

EITHER

1. A sequence of poems / a long poem of between 13 and 17 pages

or

2. A portfolio collection of poems between 13 and 17 pages.

B. CRITICAL PROSE

EITHER

1. 1500-word commentary on the aims and processes involved in writing your portfolio

Or

2. 1500 word essay on a critical issue that arises from the syllabus.

All work is submitted via Tabula. Asemic poetry may take the form of images that can be copied on to a page and submitted. Conceptutal pieces can be photographed and also submitted on the page. 'Portfolio' simply means a collection of poems in which there is no immediate connection between the poems. The 'critical prose' simply means expository prose - this can take the form of a personal essay or an academic essay.