I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
—Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry”
This course will try to be a joyful introduction to poetry, particularly aimed at two groups: those who like and enjoy poetry and those who don’t. For the former, you will have more an immersion in poetry and learn in the words of one critic, how does a poem mean, through resources such as rhythm, metaphor, and forms. For the latter, there will various windows of access not often used in more academic approaches—poetry readings both inside and outside classes, videos such as those used in the PBS series, Poetry in America, 2018 [available now on Amazon Streaming], and structured creative exercises to develop your own poetic capabilities. There will be few formal papers but there will be writing for every class period on D2L—writing on which we will form the basis for our class discussions. Although I am open and experimental in most aspects of teaching, you should know that I try to create along with you a democratic community of learners, so a firm requirement is that you all come to class and do the writing assignments on time. If you’re conscientious about this participation and are sincerely engaged in the course, you will receive a high grade even if you still don’t know what iambic pentameter is at the end of semester. There will also be a short final project at the end in lieu of a final exam; the only parameters are that it be fun for you and be something you feel you can learn from. One of the many things you know better than I is how you learn. The reading of poetry has enhanced and deepened my own life and one of my main aspiration as a teacher is to share that richness and expansion of consciousness with my students. Please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and concerns.