Studies in Poetry: Poetry’s Forms

They haven’t told you this secret in most of the English courses you’ve taken, but people are hard-wired to accomplish the human things they do by making up games and then playing them by rules. The games even speak a special rule-language when they communicate themselves to us. “Inning,” they’ll say, or “primary election.”

Or, yes, “rhyme.” In this course we’ll be learning a few of the rules that the win-win, infinite-sum game called language plays with us. A primary benefit will be hedonistic: after you learn how much fun the words in your mouth have been having with one another all along, they’ll let you join in the game yourselves. A secondary benefit will be anatomical and vocational: as you learn poetry’s game of reading not just by eye but by ear too, your own prose will start getting interesting.

Texts: a poetry anthology, R. S. Gwynn’s Poetry: A Pocket Anthology;
an instruction manual, Robert Pinsky’s The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide;
and a volume of demos, Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes’s An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art

A large number of verse exercises, three five-page papers, midterm and final.