ENGL 283 B: Beginning Verse Writing

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 12:50pm
LOW 114

Syllabus Description:

English 283 Beginning Verse Writing

Class: ENG 283-B

Classroom: LOWE 114

TTh  11:30 – 12:50PM

Instructor: Sarah Bitter (sbitter@uw.edu)

Office: Padelford B31

Office Hours: W 1:30-4

and by appointment

Detailed Course Schedule

In this section of English 283, we will write and read a wide variety of poetry, mostly contemporary American work published in 2017-2018. 

We live in a moment of extraordinary energy and change (both good and bad) in American society and poetry. As writers, we are observers, consumers, and creators of culture and thus, we're right in the thick of this foment. I look forward to making work with you that responds to this moment and speaks to our place in the world. In choosing this focus, I'm teaching a class I want to be taking and thus, we will read and write together. 

Beginning Verse Writing will help us develop as writers and as members of the writing community; we will create in dialogue with our peers, other writers, and other sources of inspiration, and will hone our ability to both write creatively and to write, think, and speak clearly about creative writing.

We will consider poetry as both a written and an aural (oral) art. Therefore, for each poetry submission you will be required to submit a written copy of your poems along with a recording of yourself reading them. Learning to listen to poetry is as important to our development as poets as learning to read and write poetry is. We will use Sleeping on the Wing as a foundation text , with short readings and writing assignments from it every week. We will also read a number of other books and do the following work:

Poetry Writing

You will write many first drafts of poems, which you will winnow and hone into a final manuscript of SIX poems: this manuscript will constitute 30% of your final grade. You will turn in your poetry as first and revised drafts in three batches (prior to the manuscript submission). Each draft will require you to submit a recording of your poems along with a written submission. The first drafts will be worth 3% of your final grade while the revised drafts will be worth 7% of your final grade (IN THE CASE OF MANUSCRIPT 2, YOU WILL ALL GET CREDIT FOR FEEDBACK, YES, EVEN IF YOU WEREN'T THERE. I BELIEVE THAT YOU WOULD HAVE IF YOU COULD HAVE.) You will have a longer conference with me once about your poems. This conference will be considered in your revision draft grade.

Artist Statement (5% of your grade, taking the place of the collaborative writing). 

You will include a 2-page artist statement with your final manuscript. This Artist Statement will address most or all of the following points:

  • Poets that you feel inspired by and / or in conversation with. Feel free to quote your manuscript and their poems as applicable (short quotes).
  • Poetry forms you are interested in or feel that you are more successful at (for example, prose poems, poems built around an image functioning as a metaphor, narrative poems, poems that are very musical, poems in forms, poems with long/short lines, syllabic poems, etc.  
  • Ways that your poetry has grown or changed over the quarter; this would be a good opportunity to discuss revision, new techniques, new ideas about poetry, things you learned from close reading poems, things you learned from the books, things you learned in conference or during workshopping, new ways of working (from prompts, under deadline, etc.) 
  • Your ambitions for your poetry. (Not your ambitions as a poet, but rather, what do you wish your poetry could do?)

Poetry “Workshopping” and Critical Response

After each poetry submission, you will read and provide thoughtful, sensitive, and useful feedback on your peers’ work. Feedback you provide to others will constitute 15% of your final grade.

Close Readings

Each student will present a close reading of a poem from Best American Poetry, 2017 and will provide the class with a writing prompt inspired by the selected poem. These presentations will be worth 10% of your grade.

Group Book Reports

We will read 5 complete books of poems which speak to this moment in American literature and life.  A presentation and discussion of each book will be led by a group of students, who will also give the class a writing prompt based on their author’s work.  This group book report will be worth 10% of your grade.

Discussion Questions and Reading Comments

You will write discussion questions and/or reading comments for each of the books we read as a class. These must be submitted prior to our class session for credit and will be worth 5% of your grade.


We will create some poems in a social manner. This collaboration will be worth 5% of your grade. 

Sadly, we did not have time for this assignment. The artist statement included with your manuscript will be 5% of your final grade.

Extra Credit

You have the opportunity submit a book report on a poetry book of your choice (please get my approval of your book choice in advance). Extra credit up to 10% is possible. Extra credit is also available for memorizing the poems that you discuss in your Best American Anthology Poem presentation. Extra credit is also available for attending poetry readings. 



Summary of English 283 Assignments and Grading


Weight as a percent of 100

Poetry Submission 1 (2 poems)

3 % P/F

Revised Poetry Submission 1 

7 %

Poetry Submission 2 (2 poems)

3 % P/F

Revised Poetry Submission 2 

7 %

Poetry Submission 3 (2 poems)

3 % P/F

Revised Poetry Submission 3 

7 %

Collaborative Book Report

10 %

Workshop Feedback Comments Submission 1


Workshop Feedback Comments Submission 2

5% (Everyone gets credit for in class feedback, yea, even if you weren't there.) 

Workshop Feedback Comments Submission 3


Individual Close Reading Presentation of a Poem from Best American Poetry

10 %

Artist Statement to accompany portfolio

5 %

Canvas Discussion Questions/Reading Comments

5 %

Revised Poetry Portfolio of 6 Poems

30 %


Extra Credit

Individual Book Report

Up to 10%

Recitation of a Poem from BA 

Attendance at a poetry reading/lecture

Up to 2 %

1 %


(Please see the course schedule for due dates and check for revisions.)

Book List for English 283 B ---Sarah Bitter

  1. Sleeping on the Wing: an anthology of modern poetry, with essays on reading and writing, Koch & Farrell
  2. The Best American Poetry 2017
  3. Holy Moly Carry Me, Erika Meitner
  4. Beautiful in the Mouth: poems, Keetje Kuipers
  5. American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, Terrance Hayes
  6. From Unincorporated Territory [lukao], Craig Santos Perez
  7. Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar
  8. WA 129 (don't buy; it's available free as an ebook.) 


Please let me know if course books are a burden to you. We will figure something out. All books are available at Odegaard on 4-hour course reserve. 




Attendance is critical, but life happens. If you are absent, come to my office hours and ask another class member for notes. Make up missed work in a timely manner. Please talk to me if something is impeding your ability to come to class or come to class on time.


One conference to discuss your work during the second half of the quarter is mandatory. This conference will be considered in your revision grade for your poetry submissions.

Late Work

Let me know in advance if you have a good reason you can’t turn something in on time. I will work with all reasonable cases and causes, but please reach out as soon as possible.

Technology in the Classroom

When in our classroom, you are in a professional space. Use technology (phones, laptops) in a professional manner.


If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. More information about accommodation may be found at http://www.washington.edu/students/drs/.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. In your writing for this class, you are encouraged to consider other people's thoughts and writing, as long as you respect the integrity of their ideas. Do not submit poetry or other writing which you did not create as your own. Do not use any sort of automated poem generator. If I find you have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class you will immediately be required to meet with me, and possibly referred to the chair of Creative Writing and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Campus Safety

Preventing violence is everyone's responsibility. If you're concerned, tell someone.

  • Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger.
  • Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.
  • Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).
  • Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up online at washington.edu/alert.
  • For more information visit the SafeCampus website at washington.edu/safecampus.


If you have any concerns about this course or me, please see me about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with me or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the the Chair of Creative Writing:


CLUE Writing Center (free drop-in tutoring)

Sunday-Thursday 7 pm - 11 am Mary Gates Hall



Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC)

By appointment: http://depts.washington.edu/owrc/signup.php


UW Counseling Center

Phone: 206-543-1240

M-TH: 8:00 ᴀᴍ - 5:00 ᴘᴍ

24-hour Crisis Clinic: 866-427-4747



Any Hungry Husky





Catalog Description: 
Intensive study of the ways and means of making a poem.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 7, 2019 - 10:50pm