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Syllabus 2024-25


Week 1: Introduction

Week 2:
‘What is the Grass?’: Walt Whitman and American Democracy
Required Reading:
Poems: 'Song of Myself'
Texts on Poetics: Preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass

Recommended Reading: Kerry C. Larson, “Song of Myself” in A Companion to Walt Whitman, Edited by D. Kummings, Blackwell, 2006 (available as e-book through library portal).

Week 3: ‘A Certain Slant of Sunlight’: Emily Dickinson and American Domesticity
Required Reading:
“Should you but fail at – Sea”; “I held a jewel in my fingers”; “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!”; “Hope is the thing with feathers”; “To die – takes just a little while”; “There’s a certain Slant of light”; I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”; “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”; “Before I got my eye put out”; “A Bird came down the Walk”; “After great pain, a formal feeling comes”; “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died”; “You cannot put a Fire out”; “The Heart asks Pleasure – first”; “To fill a Gap”; “The Brain – is wider than the Sky”; “I dwell in Possibility”; “Because I could not stop for Death”; “Banish Air from Air”; “If it had no pencil”; “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind”; “A Coffin – is a small Domain”; “Pain – expands the Time”; “Color – Caste – Denomination”; “I am afraid to own a Body”; “How soft this Prison is”; “Fame is a bee”
Texts on Poetics: Excerpts from Dickinson’s letters (handout)

Recommended Reading: Shira Wolosky, "Emily Dickinson: Being in the Body," in The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson, Wendy Martin, editor (available as e-text through library portal).

Week 4: ‘Make it New’: Stein, Pound, Moore
Required Reading:

Gertrude Stein: Sections from ‘Tender Buttons’ (pp186-191); Susie Asado; Stanzas in Meditation (all in LOA).
Ezra Pound: De Aegypto; A Pact; In a Station on the Metro; Liu Ch’e; Fan-Piece; Homage to Sextus Propertius; Canto II (all in LOA).
H.D.: Orchard, Garden; Sea Poppies, Storm; Hippolytus Temporizes; Fragment 113; At Baia (all in LOA).
Texts on Poetics: Pound, 'A Retrospect and A Few Don'ts'

Recommended Reading: Jed Rasula, ‘Make It New’ in Modernism/Modernity Vol. 17, Issue 4, (Nov 2010): 713-733 (available via library portal); Rachel Blau DuPlessis, ‘Corpses of Poesy: modern poets consider some gender ideologies of lyric’ from Genders, Races and Religious Cultures in Modern American Poetry (available as e-text through library portal).

Week 5: ‘Absolute Demolition’: Eliot & Loy
Required Reading:
T. S. Eliot:
'The Waste Land' (LOA)
Mina Loy: 'Songs to Johannes' (LOA)
Texts on Poetics: Loy, 'Feminist Manifesto'; Eliot, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent'

Recommended Reading: Theresa Rogers and Elizabeth Marshall, ‘Mina Loy: Woman, poet, genius, nomad’ in Book 2.0 Volume 13 Number2, 2023, pp. 143-156 (available through library portal); Peter Nicholls, ‘The Poetics of Modernism’ in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (available via library portal).


Week 7: ‘O arching strands of song!’: Hart Crane, The Bridge (Long Form 1)
Required Reading: Hart Crane, The Bridge
Texts on Poetics: Crane, ‘Modern Poetry’ (handout)

Recommended Reading: Gill, Jo. ‘Hart Crane: The “Architectural Art”’. Modernism/modernity Volume 29, Number 1 (January 2022): pp. 1-25. DOI: (available through library portal)

Week 8: ‘A Dream Deferred’: The Harlem Renaissance
Required Reading:
Langston Hughes: The Negro Speaks of Rivers; Dinner Guest: Me; Third Degree; Ku Klux; Cultural Exchange; Children’s Rhymes; Words Like Freedom; American Heartbreak (all in The Black Poets); Freedom; Dream Boogie; Harlem; I, Too; Let American Be America Again; Suicide Note; Winter Moon
Countee Cullen: Heritage; Incident; Yet Do I Marvel (in The Black Poets); A Brown Girl Dead
Claude McKay: The Lynching; Harlem Shadows; Subway Wind; The Tropics in New York; Outcast (LOA)
Jean Toomer: ‘Cotton Song’; ‘Georgia Dusk’ (Black Poets)
Angelina Weld Grimké: ‘Dawn’; ‘Dusk’; ‘Grass Fingers’; ‘Tenebris’; ‘A Mona Lisa’; ‘Epitaph on a Living Woman’ (LOA)
Texts on Poetics: Hughes, ‘200 Years of Afro-American Poetry’; ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

Recommended Reading: Sharon Lynette Jones, “The Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (available as e-text through library portal); Marisa Parham, "Hughes, Cullen, and the In-Sites of Loss” in ELH Volume 74, Number 2, Summer 2007, pp. 429-447 (available through library portal).

Week 9: ‘In the Crowding Darkness’: Gwendolyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville (Long Form 2)
Required Reading: Gwendolyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville

Recommended Reading: Neal Alexander, ‘Gwendolyn Brooks: From Bronzeville to the Warpland’ in Late Modernism and the Poetics of Place. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022 (ebook available through library portal)

Week 10: ‘No Ideas But in Things’: Stevens, Williams, Moore
Required Reading:
Wallace Stevens: '
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'; 'Domination of Black'; 'Study of Two Pears'; 'The Man on the Dump'; 'No Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself'; 'Of Mere Being' (all in LOA)
William Carlos Williams: 'The Young Housewife'; 'Dawn'; 'Spring Strains'; 'January Morning'; 'Romance Moderne'; 'from Spring and All'; 'This is Just to Say'; 'Sort of Song'; 'The Last Words of My English Grandmother'; 'The Dance' (all in LOA)
Marianne Moore: 'To an Intra-Mural Rat'; 'To a Steam Roller'; 'Critics and Connoisseurs'; 'Those Various Scalpels'; 'The Fish'; 'Marriage'; 'Poetry'; 'Silence'; 'To a Snail'; 'The Mind Is an Enchanting Thing' (all in LOA).
Texts on Poetics: Moore, ‘On Feeling and Precision’ (available through the library portal)

Recommended Reading: Bonnie Costello, ‘US modernism I: Moore, Stevens and the modernist lyric’ in The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (e-text through Warwick Library portal).



Week 1: ‘The Kinetics of the Thing’: Black Mountain Poetry
Required Reading:
Charles Olson: ‘I, Maxiums of Gloucester, to You’; ‘Letter 3’; ‘Maximus, to himself’ (all in POMO)
Robert Duncan: ‘Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow’; ‘Poetry, a Natural Thing’; Bending the Bow’; ‘The Torso: Passages 18’ (all in POMO)
Denise Levertov: ‘Overland to the Islands’; ‘Illustrious Ancestors’; ‘The Ache of Marriage’; ‘The Wings’; ‘Stepping Westward’; ‘Williams: An Essay’ (all in POMO)
Robert Creeley: ‘After Lorca’; ‘A Form of Women’; ‘The Rain’; ‘For Love’; ‘The Language’; ‘The Window’; ‘The World’ (all in POMO)
Texts on Poetics: Olson, ‘Projective Verse’; Creeley, ‘To Define’ (both in POMO); Levertov, 'Some Notes on Organic Form'

Recommended Reading: Kaplan Harris, ‘Black Mountain Poetry’ in The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (available as e-text through library portal); Paul Hoover, Introduction, POMO Anthology, pages, xxix-Ivii.

Week 2: ‘Angelheaded Hipsters’: Beat Poetry
Required Reading:
Allen Ginsberg: from ‘Howl’; ‘A Supermarket in California’ (both in POMO)
Gregory Corso: ‘Last Night I Drove a Car’; ‘Marriage’ (both in POMO)
Diane Di Prima: ‘The Practice of Magical Evocation’; ‘On Sitting Down to Write, I Decide Instead to Go to Fred Herko’s Concert’; ‘For H.D.’ (all in POMO)
Bob Kaufman: ‘Jail Poems’; ‘O-Jazz-O War Memoir: Jazz, Don’t Listen To It At Your Own Risk’; ‘Walking Parker Home’
Texts on Poetics: Ginsberg, ‘Notes for Howl and Other Poems’ (POMO)
Required Viewing: ‘Pull My Daisy’

Recommended Reading: Maria Damon, "Beat Poetry: HeavenHell USA, 1946-1965" in The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (available as e-text through library portal)

Week 3: ‘Everything is in the Poems’: New York School Poetry

Required Reading:  
Barbara Guest: ‘An Emphasis Falls on Reality’; ‘Wild Gardens Overlooked by Nightlights’ (both in POMO); ‘The Blue Stairs’; ‘Ilyria’; ‘Olivetti Ode’ (handout)
Frank O’Hara: ‘Meditations in an Emergency’; ‘The Day Lady Died’; ‘A Step away from Them’; ‘Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)’ (POMO); ‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island’; ‘For Grace, After A Party’ (handout)
John Ashbery: ‘The Picture of Little J.A. In a Prospect of Flowers’; ‘How Much Longer Will I Be Able to Inhabit the Divine Sepulchre’; ‘Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape’; ‘The Other Tradition’; ‘Paradoxes and Oxymorons’
Texts on Poetics: O’Hara, Personism’ (POMO); Guest, ‘Invisible Architecture’

Recommended Reading: Andrew Epstein, ‘The New York School of Poetry’ in The Cambridge Introduction to American Poetry since 1945 (available via library portal)

Week 4: ‘To live! So natural and So Hard’: James Schuyler, Hymn to Life (Long Form 3)
Required Reading: James Schuyler, ‘Hymn To Life’

    Recommended Reading: Mark Silverberg, ‘James Schuyler’s Poetics of Indolence’, Literary Imagination, volume 11, number 1, pp. 28–42 doi:10.1093/litimag/imn025 (available through library portal)

    Week 5: ‘Vicious Modernism’: The Black Arts Movement
    Required Reading:
    Amiri Baraka: “SOS”; “An Agony. As now”; “leroy”; “A Poem Some People Will Have to Understand”; “Letter to E. Franklin Frazier”; “Cold Term”; “Return of the Native” (all in Black Poets)
    Larry Neal: “James Powell on Imagination”(Black Poets)
    Sonia Sanchez: “Poem at Thirty,” “Summary” (both in Black Poets)
    Ishmael Reed: “Beware: Do Not Read this Poem” (Black Poets)
    Nikki Giovanni: “For Saundra,” “The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr” (both in Black Poets).
    Texts on Poetics: Amiri Baraka, “The Black Arts Movement” (handout)

    Recommended reading: Evie Shockley, “The Black Arts Movement” in The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (available as an e-text through our library portal).

    Week 6: READING WEEK

    Week 7: ‘A Woman in the Shape of a Monster’: Some Postwar Feminisms
    Required Reading: Alice Notley, ‘But He Says I Misunderstood’ (handout); the following poems from this page: Sylvia Plath ‘Morning Song’; Kathleen Fraser, ‘Poem Wondering If I'm Pregnant’; Muriel Rukeyser, ‘The Speed of Darkness’; Adrienne Rich, ‘Planetarium’; May Swenson, ‘Women’; Audre Lorde, ‘Power’; Anne Waldman ‘Makeup on Empty Space’
    Texts on Poetics: Notley, 'The Poetics of Disobedience'; Rich, 'Someone is Writing a Poem'

    Recommended Reading: Lynn Keller and Cristanne Miller, “Feminism and the Female Poet,” in Blackwell’s Concise Companion to 20thCentury American Poetry, S. Fredman, ed, Blackwell, 2005 (available via library portal); Andrew Epstein, ‘Feminism and Women’s Poetry from 1970 to 2000’ in The Cambridge Introduction to American Poetry since 1945 (available via library portal)

    Week 8: ‘The Line Has No Meaning’: Language Poetry
    Required Reading:
    Lyn Heijinian: from Slowly (POMO)
    Leslie Scalapino: from Zither (POMO)
    Charles Bernstein: ‘A Defence of Poetry’; ‘This Line’ (POMO)
    Texts on Poetics: Heijinian from ‘The Rejection of Closure’; Bernstein ‘Introjective Verse’ (both in POMO)  

    Recommended reading: Barrett Watten, ‘Language Writing’ in The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry (available as an e-text through our library portal).

    Week 9: ‘Paradise of / Fugitive Dust’: Contemporary Political Poetics

    Required Reading:
    Nathaniel Mackey: ‘The Overghost Ourkestra’s Next’ (Handout)
    Layli Long Soldier: ‘WHEREAS’; ‘Obligations 2’; ‘Talent’
    Craig Santos Perez: from ‘understory’; (First Trimester); ‘Rings of Fire’; ‘Love in a Time of Climate Change’  
    Texts on Poetics: Nathaniel Mackey, ‘Breath and Precarity’ in Poetics and Precarity (available through library portal)

    Recommended reading: Anne Fisher Worth, ‘Ecopoetry Now’ in The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry and Politics since 1900 (available via library portal); Stephanie Papa, ‘Somatic Communication: Motherhood and Transference in Layli Long Soldier’s Poetry’ in Women: a cultural review, 33:4, 395-413, DOI: 10.1080/09574042.2023.2183620 (available via library portal).

    Week 10: 'America Turned Loose on America': Claudia Rankine, Citizen (Long form 4)
    Required Reading: Claudia Rankin, Citizen

    Recommended Reading: Kathy Lou Schultz, ‘“Oh Say Can You See” Seeing and the Unseen in Citizen: An American Lyric’ in The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry and Politics since 1900 (available via library portal); Keegan Cook Finberg, ‘American Lyric, American Surveillance, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen’ in Contemporary Women's Writing, Volume 15, Issue 3, November 2021, Pages 326–344 (available via library portal).

    Reading List

    Texts to Buy

    1. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass and Other Writings (Edited by Michael Moon), Norton Critical Editions (Norton, 2002) OR Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (the First (1855) Edition), Malcolm Cowley, editor, Penguin Books.
    2. Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems, Thomas H. Johnson, editor, Faber & Faber.
    3. American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Volume 1: Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker, Robert Haas, editor, Library of America (do not buy volume 2). (abbreviated as LOA on syllabus and reading lists)
    4. Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, 2nd Edition, Paul Hoover, editor, Norton: 2013. WARNING!! MAKE SURE TO BUY THE 2ND EDITION DATING FROM 2013 AND NOT THE PREVIOUS EDITION USED IN THE PAST! (abbreviated as POMO on syllabus and reading lists).
    5. The Black Poets, Dudley Randall, editor. Bantam Books.
    6. Hart Crane, The Bridge, Liveright Revised Edition. NB. This is available as a free ebook through the university portal. There are also a few hard copies in the library, and some available for around £3 on Amazon and Abe Books. If you are able to get hold of a hard copy, this would be preferable.
    7. Gwendolyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville, Library of America (only available as ebook / kindle)
    8. Claudia Rankine, Citizen, Graywolf Press.

    All other texts will available as weblinks, handouts, scanned extracts, or through the library portal. Please contact if you have any issues obtaining copies of the required texts.