ENG 112 Reading Contemporary Poetry

Patrick Donnelly, T 7:30-9:30 PM

This course offers the exciting opportunity to read contemporary poetry and to meet the poets who write it.

We read and discuss the work of 6-8 contemporary poets who visit Smith as part of the Poetry Center reading series; we bring our thoughts and quandaries to the intimate afternoon Q & A sessions with the poets; and we attend their public readings.

There are no prerequisites for this class, which accommodates a range of students, from those with very minimal experience reading poems to those who are dedicated scholars and writers of poetry. The emphasis is on process and reflection, rather than on analysis and formal argumentation. We're not so much about unlocking "the meaning" as simply engaging each poem on as many levels as possible. We trace our way through the experience of reading a poem, asking questions such as: What's your immediate hit on this voice? What do you notice about how the words are set on the page? How does the poem itself direct your experience of reading it, i.e. how do particular elements work on you as you read and reread? At what point are you most strongly engaged? Which words or phrases seem most pivotal in understanding the poem's intention(s)? We also reflect on the experience of seeing the poet read and/or talk about his/her work--the ways in which this may color or change our response to it.

Attendance: students must attend both the readings and the Tuesday afternoon Q & A sessions. Reading: 20 pp. of poetry by each of 6-8 poets over the semester, as well as selected secondary texts.  Writing: two 2-page response papers.