Poetry, Form, and Personae
Class: English 243, "Poetry, Form, and Personae"
Instructor: Carrie Matthews
Course Texts: Handbook of Poetic Forms (Editor: Ron Padgett) and Joker Joker Deuce (by Paul Beatty) at UW Bookstore; Course Reader at Ram Copy on the Ave
This is a course for anyone curious about poetry. If you've never really read any poems, no worries. If you read poetry regularly, great. If you can read another language in addition to English, even better. The point is that this course should work well for you if you have genuine questions about what poems are or what they do. (If not, there are other English courses.)
English 243, "Poetry, Form, and Personae" examines lyric poetry as a place where personal and collective expression converge. We begin with love poetry and perhaps the most conventional of forms, the sonnet, to think about how the voice of the single speaker merges (supposedly?) personal expressions of love with collectively authorized forms of romantic expression. We'll examine both classical and 'twisted' love poems, noting where they overlap.
This course has two emphases, poetic form and personae (the masks the speakers of poems put on). While there's no strict separation between the two, the first two weeks or so of class will be more focused on form, the second two+ weeks on personae. The forms we'll examine include the villanelle, sestina, and prose poem, in addition to the sonnet.
As we think about personae, I'll ask you to move beyond learning about a poet's biography and their intentions (proclaimed or surmised) and instead think about the freedom lyric poetry grants to imagine different voices. To help you engage deeply with issues of form and personae, I'll ask you to write in the forms we study and to invent personae as you do that. We will also spend some time reading Paul Beatty's Joker, Joker, Deuce to think about how persona/ae in lyric poetry can take on a larger social or political role.
• To appreciate (and enjoy!!!) poems, if you don't already
• To be able to think intelligently about formal dimensions of poems and how they contribute to what a poem does/means
• To gain some sense of the dynamics between individual and social context in lyric poetry
• To identify the specific features of a poem sufficiently to imitate it or translate it into another language
• To use writing as a tool for learning and for expressing your thinking about specific poems
A few rule-bound poem writing exercises
One 3-4 page poem explication
50-minute Midterm Exam
One poem imitation or translation accompanied with your commentary
1.5 hour Final Exam