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EN986 Topics in American Poetry

Prof. Daniel Katz

Syllabus 2020-21(running Term 2)

Prose, Poet's Prose, and the Prosaic

(further details to come, but core syllabus is set)

This module will devote significant attention to the American prose poem, but even more, to the crucial role of prose and the prosaic in various articulations of poetics throughout American literary history. For this, a crucial foundation will be Stephen Fredman’s contention in Poet’s Prose: The Crisis in American Verse, that the question of prose has often functioned for American poets as a crucial tool with which to redefine the “poetic” itself, of finding a way of “including what poetry has been told to exclude” (10).

Course Outline:

Week 1. Introduction: A. Rimbaud, Illuminations (selections; J. Ashbery, trans.; hand-out); C. Baudelaire, Little Poems in Prose (selections; K. Waldrop, trans., hand-out), S. Fredman, Introduction, Poet's Prose.
Week 2. Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855 edition); "Song of Myself" (1855 edition); "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"; selections from Specimen Days.
Week 3. Jack Spicer, After Lorca, selected letters, review of Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.
Week 4. John Ashbery, Three Poems (in The Mooring of Starting Out, Ecco Press, 1998).
Week 5. Lisa Robertson, The Weather and selections from Nilling.
Week 6. Nathaniel Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook and selections from Splay Anthem.
Week 7. Ben Lerner, 10.04 and "The Dark Threw Down Patches Upon Me Also."
Week 8. Claudia Rankine, Citizen.
Week 9. David Buuck and Juliana Spahr, An Army of Lovers and short poems by J. Spahr.
Week 10. CAConrad, selections from Ecodeviance.

Core Texts for Students to Obtain (any texts not listed here will be provided by Instructor):
Walt Whitman, all poetry can be found in Leaves of Grass and Other Writings, Michael Moon, Editor, Norton Critical Editions. Other editions acceptable. All Whitman works, including Specimen Days, are also available here:
John Ashbery, Three Poems. This has been published separately but is also collected in The Mooring of Starting Out, which can usually be obtained used for a reasonable price.
Lisa Robertson, The Weather, New Star Books, 2002.
Nathaniel Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, in From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, New Directions, 2010.
Ben Lerner, 10.04, Granta, 2015.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric, Penguin, 2015.
David Buuck and Juliana Spahr, An Army of Lovers, City Lights Publishers, 2013.

Selected Secondary Reading:
Leo Bersani, A Future for Astyanax
William Merrill Decker, Epistolary Practices: Letter Writing in America
Michel Delville, The American Prose Poem: Poetic Form and the Boundaries of Genre
Besty Erkkila, Whitman: The Political Poet
Stephen Fredman, Poet's Prose: The Crisis in American Verse
W. Godzich and J. Kittay, The Emergence of Prose: An Essay in Prosaics
David Herd, John Ashbery and American Poetry
Daniel Katz, The Poetry of Jack Spicer
Jonathan Mayhew, Apocryphal Lorca: Translation, Parody, Kitsch
Miriam Nichols, Radical Affections: Essays on the Poetics of Outside
Christopher Nealon, The Matter of Capital
Marjorie Perloff, The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage
Ron Silliman, The New Sentence
Michael Snediker, Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions
John Emile Vincent, ed. After Spicer: Critical Essays