ENGL 383 A: The Craft of Verse

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 12:50pm
PAR 120
Pimone Triplett
Pimone Triplett

Syllabus Description:






English 383 Course Description:

383, Craft of Verse


Spring 2018. T/Th. 11:30-12:50. Parrington 120

Professor P. Triplett

Office Location: Padelford A 416               email: ptrip@u.washington.edu

Office Hours: Tuesdays 3:10-4:10 by appointment. Please email to make an appointment.


Course Description:

In this intermediate level class, we will focus on poetic structure as various patterns of the poetic turn. Often our poems simply do not go far enough; we thrill to initial “inspiration” only to have the piece peter out before it is fully realized in idea, image, setting, or music. One primary method of furthering development in redrafting is to incorporate a turn, or a shift, either in poetic content or at the level of craft. During this term, we’ll pay close attention to several types of developmental turns or structures (the descriptive-meditative, the retrospective-prospective, the emblematic and others).





--STRUCTURE AND SURPRISE, edited by Michael Theune.  Available at UW Bookstore, Ave Location.

--One additional purchase from Open Books (www.openpoetrybooks.com. 2414 N 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103 (206) 633-0811). That is, one individual volume of poetry, to be selected by you from an approved list of authors that I will provide. A book analysis of each will be due at the end of the term. The point of this requirement is to encourage student engagement with whole books of poetry as an art form, so YOU MAY NOT SUBSTITUTE ANOTHER FORMAT (such as favorite poems written by your neighbor, etc.) However, you may substitute with a personal anthology. More on that later.

--Either bring PRINTED COPIES of your fellow students’ poems must be to class, including your own when you are up for workshop. This is preferable to looking on your phone or laptop because you can write further comments during class you need to and give the paper back to the student. Also, during a small group discussion, this policy prevents the more cut-off feeling that can surround anyone behind a screen.  

--An active UW email address. You cannot substitute a non-UW address for the UW one that was used for your class registration, as the group email includes only your registration address.




Your grade will be determined from four sources: your poems (with special emphasis on drafting and your final manuscript), your written creative and critical responses, your book analyses, and your class participation.


  1. The Poems: 60% of your grade


You will be asked to write several poems during the quarter. Although these poems will be modeled on the work of accomplished poets in the field, you are encouraged to make each assignment your own, with your own style and personal stamp. At the end of the quarter, further drafts are due for at least two out of your total number of poems. Each new draft/ revision should be based on techniques and craft issues covered in class. In addition, each final version should be accompanied by a one page reflection on how and why you arrived at the decisions and changes you made based on a keen consideration of feedback. Thus, this portion of your grade will assessed not according to a “subjective” sense of your talent, but largely according to the visible effort, work, and inspiration that you put into the revision process.  Note: no poems will be accepted that feature identifiable (or hinted at) persons from the class. Similarly, no poems featuring class discussion will be accepted. In addition, comments, written or offered in discussion, are given in good faith by members of the class, including myself, and are for use solely in the context of the class itself.


  1. CRITICAL WORK: 40% of your grade


Components of Critical Work: Annotations, and Class Participation (15%), Book Analysis (25%)


  1. a) ANNOTATIONS (7.5%): When assigned, each student should complete a written annotation for ONE supplemental poem that we will be discussing for the day. These should be uploaded to the discussion page on CANVAS ENGL 383 Spring 2018. These need only be a paragraph or so in length, but should discuss how ONE craft element in a poem functions. The rationale in asking for analysis of only one craft element at a time is to encourage depth of thinking and focus. Craft elements include such things as image, metaphor, fragment, diction range, tone, lineation, white space, turns, etc. In analysis, you want to not only observe these phenomena, but also briefly take a position, or make an argument, as to what the phenomena is doing in the poem, how it is functioning in relation to other aspects. While there are always implications within a piece, as well as subtleties, poems are not mysterious riddles to be solved in a guessing game with the reader, so please refrain from the temptation to impose external story, situation or additional objects and/or persons onto the poem. You should NOT be evaluating the poem subjectively here; evaluative remarks will cancel out the work and you will need to do it again. Rather than discussing whether you “like” or “don’t like” a particular poem, look more deeply for what craft techniques it employs and how the writer uses them. (Further, this approach saves the professor from the impossible expectation that every student will “like” every poem we come across.) Since studying craft is what improves writing, theoretically you can employ the techniques even of someone whose work is distasteful to you, especially if you concentrate on craft rather than only content. As a result of this assignment, everyone should be able to use these written remarks as a starting point for class discussion. You are responsible for knowing ahead of time the annotations of your fellow students. You should come prepared to participate expertly in our discussion of that poem (though not necessarily to read from your page of written work). These assignments will be reviewed by me, but not returned to you; instead these will count toward the combined annotation and participation grade for every class period. However, you will receive a zero for the day you fail to complete this weekly requirement. If you have questions about how you are doing with these assignments overall, you should come to conference with me well before the quarter is over. Please note: these are published poems written by highly regarded poets. Your job here is not to judge, criticize, or suggest better ways in which say, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet should have written her poem. Instead, the goal here is for you to understand and learn from the techniques and craft elements at hand through analysis. This can be readily accomplished even in a piece that you do not “like” (“taste,” it turns out, often has to do with what we have or have not been exposed to, and part of the function of this class is to broaden that exposure as much as possible).  Openness is the best mindset for class discussion of all the poems on the syllabus and I will provide models and guidelines for how to go about doing a close reading with a view toward a creative response which is related (but not limited) to the act of analysis.


2.c. CLASS ENGAGEMENT/ PARTICIPATION: 7.5% of your grade. A class that combines close reading and original writing in a workshop setting is successful when its participants openly and specifically share their thoughts about the work under consideration. Hence, a significant portion of your grade will be determined by the comments you offer in class. Students should be familiar with all the poems under discussion, both published and student-written. Obviously, students should have read carefully each of the poems by published authors, as close reading here is directly applicable to your creative responses. (I reserve the right to give pop quizzes if this seems to become a problem.) This portion of your grade includes not only speaking, but a sense of whether or not you are paying attention in class to the comments of others and consistently uploading your weekly summaries of the chapter’s main points.


Overall, you are encouraged to respectfully challenge, disagree, and question the thoughts of others in relation to our materials at hand. A good rapport between us all is essential to foster a creative environment. Obviously however, this can’t happen in the presence of rudeness, disrespect, a poor attitude, or complaining, etc. (Please see the standard UW guidelines for student conduct on-line.) This is not a required course, so presumably you are here because you want to be. Let that fact show.  Open disrespect in any form will affect your participation grade.


Important: Please see the attached statement from the Department of English Chair regarding the English Department’s values and principles.


Sub-category within Class engagement:  Late Work Policy


In a workshop format, lateness and persistent absence can seriously undermine the success of a given class, and is potentially disrespectful of a fellow student whose poem may be under discussion. Please come to class, and come on time.


All late work will be graded down .5 grade points per day late (with the exception of documented illness or other documented emergencies).


2.c) BOOK ANALYSIS: 25% of your grade—SEE HANDOUT ON THIS ASSIGNMENT. Book analysis will due at the end of the term.


You are required to write a 3-5 page analysis of one entire book of poems to be purchased from Open Books (www.openpoetrybooks.com. 2414 N 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103 (206) 633-0811.) I will distribute guidelines for this assignment, along with recommended possible authors.





Another option to fulfill this portion of your grade is to complete the anthology assignment, in which you compile a personal poetry anthology according to the guidelines provided. You can choose poems from individual books, selected or collected poems of an author, and/or on-line finds. You’ll need to write a 3-5 page section for your anthology that introduces its rhyme and reason to potential readers, just as if you were pitching it to a potential publisher. What holds these poems together, what makes them important (to you, to others)?

Class Format: We’ll always be reading with an eye toward our own writing, and the process of each individual writer here discovering what works and making it their own. This is the ongoing dialogue between self and tradition, past and present, which all writers have been engaged in since writing began. One primary goal in developing your ability to analyze poems written by established writers is to eventually learn to apply these reading and analytical skills to your own creative work.  We will also discuss student poems, sometimes as a larger group and sometimes in conference, with a view toward useful, constructive and thoughtful criticism which aims at discovering each poem’s “best self.” Every opportunity that a student has to speak, in class or in conference, is a chance to further articulate his or her own aesthetics and critical thinking, and yet it is of vital importance that we honor and respect each poem’s particular vision and ambition. It’s also vital that you pay attention during class discussions in preparation for writing your prose accounts of your revisions and your close reading of one poem.


Office Hours, Tuesdays 3:10-4:10. I am available for conferences and I am happy to meet with you by appointment. However, the end of class time is often not the best for questions, compared to office hours, as some of us are often in a hurry to get the our next appointment. I have found that conversations during this time often reflect the confusion of the room, and that misunderstandings can ensue.

In addition, if you have questions or concerns regarding your grade, come to see me during office hours before the term is over. Please don’t wait until the last minute to express your concerns, as no grades, obviously, can be changed once the term is over.



Tuesday, 3/27


Review of course materials and requirements.

POEMS for close reading and discussion:  Susan Mitchell, “Wave,” Tony Hoagland, “A Color of Sky,” Alberto Rios, “The Good Lunch of Oceans”


  • Read through hand-out of course policies, requirements and syllabus.
  • Pick up book, STRUCTURE AND SURPRISE edited by Michael Theune, at UW Bookstore, Ave location.
  • Read essay by Corey Marks, “The Description-Meditative Poem” and supplemental chapter poems (read each poem at least three times).
  • Summarize the essay’s main points using the prompt on canvas and submit on canvas discussion before 9AM of our next class day.
  • Apply and/or discuss at least two of the essay’s main points to one supplemental poem at the close of the chapter and submit to canvas discussion. One-two paragraphs minimum. (A good rule-of-thumb is to read every poem at least 3 times. First for content, second time for what stands out or is unique or distinctive, and the third time for structure and development and/or the link between steps 1 and 2).

Thursday, 3/29

“The Descriptive-Meditative Poem” by Corey Marks (essay).

POEMS: Tom Andrews, “At Burt Lake,” Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight,” Davis, “Resolutions in a Parked Car,” Philip Larkin, “Sad Steps” (handout), Charles Wright, “Clear Night,” Kevin Prufer, “The Astronomer’s Prayer….”


  • Both Groups A and B should complete a poem based on the canvas prompt. Due on Sunday by 5pm.



Tuesday, 4/3. Triplett will be out of town on business. Prof Andrew Feld will lead class.

Workshopping of Group A student poems (des-med)


  • Read Susanna Mintz essay (sent to you by email attachment or handout)

Thursday, 4/5. Prof Triplett will be out of town on business. No class today.


  • Read Group B poems and be prepared to discuss them for next class.



Tuesday, 4/10

Workshopping of Group B student poems. (Des-med) Discuss Mintz essay. Begin Simic orientation.


  • Read 10 Charles Simic poems that you find on line yourself. Poetry Foundation and Poets.org are good websites to start.
  • This year's annual Roethke Reading is the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Charles Simic. The reading will be April 12, 7pm at Kane Hall (with free catered refreshments afterwards--all welcome). All students should attend. Please write a short paragraph on the differences you perceive between hearing a poem read aloud, and reading one on the page. Turn this in to me on Tuesday of next week.


Thursday, 4/12


  • Go to the reading! This year's annual Roethke Reading is the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Charles Simic. The reading will be April 12, 7pm at Kane Hall (with free catered refreshments afterwards--all welcome). All students should attend. Please write a short paragraph on the differences you perceive between hearing a poem read aloud, and reading one on the page. Turn this in to me on Tuesday of next week.
  • Read essay “The Retrospective-Prospective Structure” by Mark Yakich.
  • Summarize essay’s main points. Upload to Canvas before 8 pm Monday before our next class.
  • Apply at least 2 of the essay’s main points to one of the chapter’s supplemental poems. Upload your analysis onto Canvas by 8 pm the Monday before our next class.



Tuesday, 4/17

Discuss Retrospective-prospective Yakich  chapter

POEMS: “Dear May Eighth,” by James Galvin, “Tour Daufuskie” by Terrance Hayes, “This Living Room and Everything in It” by Li-Young Lee



Thursday 4/19

“The Pomegranate Seeds” by Dunya Mikhail, “Letter Home” by Natasha Tretheway and t.b.a


  • Both Groups A and B should complete a poem based on the canvas prompt. Due on Sunday by 5pm.
  • Read “The Emblem Structure” by Michael Theune


 Tuesday 4/24


 Tuesday 4/24

Workshopping of student poems (ret-pros)

Begin discussion of Emblem chapter and its poems



  • Begin note taking for Emblem poem using all five senses.

Thursday, 4/26

POEMS: “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop





Tuesday, 5/1

“Archaic Torso of Apollo” by Rilke (sent by attachment), “A Display of Mackerel” by Mark Doty. Any other poems from the book and discussion of Emblem poem cont’d. Workshopping of remaining student poems cont’d if necessary (ret-pros).


  • Review assignment for book analysis project due at end of quarter (sent by attachment and on canvas).
  • Plan to meet at Open Books this upcoming Thursday (tomorrow) at 11:30-12:50 (you can be 20 min late or so or leave early if necessary to allow for coming and going from campus). Plan on either purchasing a book from OB or researching for library and on-line versions. With some exceptions (check with me), no translations or selected work, and no one pre-20th century, when our sense of the “poetry volume” really took shape. (I.e., Milton’s Paradise Lost—though essential reading—isn’t an example of the kind of artistic compilation you’ll want for this particular assignment.)

Thursday, 5/3

I will meet you all at Open Books 11:30-12:50. (www.openpoetrybooks.com. 2414 N 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103 (206) 633-0811). T


  • Both Groups A and B should complete an Emblem poem based on the canvas prompt. Due on Sunday by 5pm.
  • Respond briefly to one student poem (see instructions on canvas; allow approximately 20 minutes for this and select student poem that does not yet have any responses if possible).



Tuesday, 5/8

workshopping of student poems (Emblem)


Thursday, 5/10

workshopping of student poems cont’d (Emblem)


  •  Read “The Elegy’s Structures” by D.A. Powell
  • Summarize essay’s main points and upload onto canvas.
  • Complete an annotation by applying essay’s main points to one supplemental poem



Tuesday, 5/15

Discussion of Powell’s essay on the Elegy.


Begin notes and drafting stages for Elegy poem using the 3-5 senses (taste, touch, vision, sound, scent)

Thursday, 5/17

Continued discussion of D.A. Powell’s essay on the Elegy


  • Both Groups A and B complete Elegy poem; upload on to Canvas by Sunday at 5pm.



Tuesday, 5/22

workshopping of student poems (Elegy)


Thursday, 5/24

Workshopping cont’d (Elegy)


  • Write and upload Poem #5 using any prompt at the back of the book or from the website VOLTAGE. Another option is to write a poem that incorporates at least 3 craft issues found in your poetry volume for the book analysis (please identify these craft elements at the top of the page: e.g., short lines, internal rhyme, assertive enjambment, lineation, metaphor, image, the 5 senses, showing vs. telling, etc). Due Sunday on canvas at 5pm.


WEEK 10:

Tuesday, 5/29

workshopping of student poems #5.


  • Continue reading your book analysis poetry volume and come prepared to speak a little about it in class on Thursday.  


Thursday, 5/31

workshopping of student poems #5 cont’d.

Review portfolio final material requirements and discuss book analysis assignment.


DUE DATE FOR ALL FINAL MATERIALS: Wednesday, June 6 by 5pm.

All materials go into a plain folder with your name on it. This is called the final portfolio. Drop it off in the box outside my office, A 416 Padelford.


Catalog Description: 
Intensive study of various aspects of the craft verse. Readings in contemporary verse and writing using emulation and imitation. Prerequisite: ENGL 283; ENGL 284.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 10:20pm