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Dear Workshop Participants:

Greetings! I'm looking forward to working with all of you. Here's a brief overview of the material we'll be covering during our summer course. I've tried to stay within the original parameters set up by Maggie Nelson as much as possible, and I've added a few readings as well.

Course dates:

First Week: Monday-Friday, June 27-July 1;

Second Week: Tuesday-Friday, July 5-8;

Third Week: Monday, July 11

Course times: 1-4:30 PM

The Course:

HUMS 620
Intensive Poetry Writing Workshop

This class will immerse students in poetry reading and writing throughout a period of three weeks. During our sessions, we will undertake a wide variety of in-class writing experiments; read the work of many recent and contemporary poets; and discuss our own work with each other. The overarching theoretical construct of the class will engage the question of internal vs. external sources for our writing. To this end, the first week will explore "inscapes"--landscapes of the mind, memory-writing, poetry somehow derived from the "facts of our feelings," while the second week will focus on poetry derived from external sources--landscapes, portraiture, found poetry, historical/documentary work, poems written in persona, and so on. In our third week, we will focus on the inevitable blurring of boundaries between the two, and work toward completing a portfolio of poetry from our experiments.

Reading will most likely include well-known "inscape" writers such as James Joyce, Emily Dickinson, Robert Creeley, Lorine Niedecker, Robert Hayden, Walt Whitman, James Schuyler, Hannah Weiner, Bernadette Mayer, Ted Berrigan, Maggie Nelson, Juliana Spahr and Brenda Coultas.

We'll also be making use of the Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by poet Ron Padgett.

Grades will be based on general effort, class participation, and a portfolio of revised writing.

Here's a rough calendar and links to reading material:

Week One:

Monday 27: Introductions and question: What is Poetry?

Poetry Influences Questionnaire
Free-writing: "A poem is..."
Form and Content: comparing poems by Robert Frost and Susan Howe
Return to free-writing: "A poem is..."
Hand-out: Zukofsky's "A Statement for Poetry"

Tuesday 28: Memory and Poetry: New York School Writers Ted Berrigan and Joe Brainard:

Mapping Exercise: Neighborhood Map with the Particulars of Time and Place

Writing Exercise: "I Remember"
and memoir poems: Ted Berrigan "Cranston Near the City Line"

Wednesday 29: Studies of Form: The sonnet: a good form for personal narrative?

In-class free-writing: "All About My Mother"
Library Assignment: Sonnet warm-up: Write an N+7 of a Shakespeare Poem. What is a N+7?:

"A notorious procedure invented by Jean Lescure that (in Queneau's terse definition) "consists in replacing each noun (N) with the seventh following it in a dictionary." Choose a text and a dictionary. Identify the nouns in the text and replace each one by counting seven nouns beyond it in the dictionary. Using The Living Language Common Usage Dictionary: English-Russian, the opening of the book of Genesis becomes:

In the bend God created the hen and the education. And the education was without founder, and void; and death was upon the falsehood of the demand. And the sport of God moved upon the falsehood of the wealth. And God said, Let there be limit; and there was limit.

What is OULIPO? The Oulipo - in full, the Ouvroir de Littrature Potentielle, or Workshop for Potential Literature - was founded in France in 1960 by the French author Raymond Queneau and the mathematical historian Francois Le Lionnais. Made up of mathematicians as well as writers, the group assigned itself the task of exploring how mathematical structures might be used in literary creation. The idea of mathematical structure was soon broadened to include all highly restrictive methods, like the palindrome and the sestina, that are strict enough to play a decisive role in determining what their users write. The most notorious example of this approach is Georges Perec's novel, A Void, written without a single appearance of the letter e."


Library Assignment part two: Write a traditional sonnet (14 lines, 10 syllables per line, as much end rhyme as you can manage) using only single syllables words/sounds

Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" Hayden
and Bernadette Mayer's "On Gifts for Grace" (the List Poem) Mayer

On Gifts For Grace

by Bernadette Mayer

I saw a great teapot
I wanted to get you this stupendous
100% cotton royal blue and black checked shirt,
There was a red and black striped one too
Then I saw these boots at a place called Chuckles
They laced up to about two inches above your ankles
All leather and in red, black or purple
It was hard to have no money today
I won't even speak about the possible flowers and kinds of lingerie
All linen and silk with not-yet-perfumed laces
Brilliant enough for any of the Graces
Full of luxury, grace notes, prosperousness and charm
But I can only praise you with this poem
Its being is the same as the meaning of your name

Sonnet Assignment continued: Write one "traditional" sonnet-- a portrait of a relative AND write one "open" sonnet-- a list poem for a friend.

Thursday 30: Greek Epigrams and Line Breaks and Short Poems and

William Carlos Williams
Robert Creeley
Lorine Niedecker
In-class outdoor writing: epigrams around campus

Friday 1: Techniques for Understanding: Performing the poem:

Connoisseur of Chaos


A. A violent order is a disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)


If all the green of spring was blue, and it is;
If all the flowers of South Africa were bright
On the tables of Connecticut, and they are;
If Englishmen lived without tea in Ceylon, and they do;
And if it all went on in an orderly way,
And it does; a law of inherent opposites,
Of essential unity, is as pleasant as port,
As pleasant as the brush-strokes of a bough,
An upper, particular bough in, say, Marchand.


After all the pretty contrast of life and death
Proves that these opposite things partake of one,
At least that was the theory, when bishops' books
Resolved the world. We cannot go back to that.
The squirming facts exceed the squamous mind,
If one may say so . And yet relation appears,
A small relation expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.


A. Well, an old order is a violent one.
This proves nothing. Just one more truth, one more
Element in the immense disorder of truths.
B. It is April as I write. The wind
Is blowing after days of constant rain.
All this, of course, will come to summer soon.
But suppose the disorder of truths should ever come
To an order, most Plantagenet, most fixed. . . .
A great disorder is an order. Now, A
And B are not like statuary, posed
For a vista in the Louvre. They are things chalked
On the sidewalk so that the pensive man may see.


The pensive man . . . He sees the eagle float
For which the intricate Alps are a single nest.

Wallace Stevens

*** Writing: First thoughts on the poem.

Make a two-column list: abstract/philosophical ideas in the poem and concrete/particulars in the poem.

Create a play using the abstractions as the plot/theme and the particulars as the set.

Process writing: Second thoughts on the Wallace Stevens poem: how did your ideas about the poem change through the activity of performing it?

Weekend Project: A Sestina for the 4th of July

Tuesday 5: Line Breaks and Internal Mechanics of the Poem: and Psyche and Self: Stream of Consciousness writing: James Joyce and Hannah Weiner

Link to Hannah Weiner Online writings: Electronic Poetry Center HW site

Link to Joyce's Ulysses Chapter 17: Joyce Link Here<

Some Ways of Breaking the Line:

Projectively (Olson, Howe, Weiner)
Standard/Traditional (Shakespeare, etc.)
Syllabically (Williams)
Breath (Olson, Creeley, Duncan)
Image (Schuyler)

Joe Brainard’s Painting “Bingo”

By Ron Padgett

I suffer when I sit next to Joe Brainard’s painting “Bingo”

I could have made that line into a whole stanza

I suffer
When I sit
Next to Joe
Brainard’s painting

Or I could change the line arrangement

I suffer when I sit

That sounds like hemorrhoids
I don’t know anything about hemorrhoids
Such as if it hurts to sit when you have them
If so I must not have them
Because it doesn’t hurt me to sit
I probably sit about 8/15 of my life

Also I don’t suffer
When I sit next to Joe Brainard

Actually I don’t even suffer
When I sit next to his painting “Bingo”
Or for that matter any of his paintings

In fact I didn’t originally say
I suffer when I sit next to Joe Brainard’s
painting “Bingo”
My wife said it
In response to something I had said
About another painting of his
She had misunderstood what I had said

Wednesday 6: Collage Texts/Bringing in History: Memoir and Social Responsibility:

In-class writing: Tristan Tzara's Dada Self-Portrait Poem: Chance versus Muse:


-Tristan Tzara-

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are -- an infinitely original author of charming sensibility even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Frank O'Hara "The Day Lady Died"
View documentary: Frank O'Hara NET Recording

Charles Reznikoff, Rosmarie Waldrop, Juliana Spahr, and Maggie Nelson

Charles Reznikoff-- from Testimony:

Several white men went at night to the Negro's house,
shot into it,
and set fire to his cotton on the gallery
his wife and children ran under the bed
and as the firing from guns and pistols went on
and the cotton blazed up, ran through a side door
into the woods.
The Negro himself, badly wounded, fled to the
house of a neighbor�
a white man--
and got inside.
He was followed,
and one of those who ran after him
put a shotgun against the white man's door
and shot a hole through it.
Justice, however, was not to be thwarted,
for five of the men who did this to the Negro
were tried:
for "unlawfully and maliciously
injuring and disfiguring"-
the white man's property.

Links to Maggie Nelson: Jubilat

Soft Skull Press

Link to Juliana Spahr's Response: Response PDF file

Thursday 7: Phonetics and Synaesthesia: Arthur Rimbaud's Vowels
Emily Dickinson
Lorine Niedecker

Friday 8: Persona Poems: Sylvia Plath, Rimbaud, Ezra Pound, and Robert Duncan: "Achilles Song"

In-class outdoor writing: Memoir of a Wildflower

Creating a bibliography of further readings: please bring an example of a text that has inspired you.

Monday 11: Conclusions

John Ashbery "What is Poetry?"
Discussion of bibliography of further reading
Review of Portfolios
View film: Poetry in Motion