ENGL 383 A: The Craft of Verse

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 2:50pm
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Bierds photo
Linda Bierds

Syllabus Description:

English 383A, Autumn Quarter, 2020

The Craft of Verse

Linda Bierds
Padelford B403


Office hours:  By phone or Zoom appointment


In this class you will develop your skills as a poet by focusing on the interactions of free verse and various established forms.  I will provide you with a Course Reader that contains brief essays, definitions and numerous examples of poems that illustrate the structural choices under discussion.

During the quarter, you will be asked to submit five original poems and four written assignments.  All of this material should be uploaded to Canvas under “Discussions”, so that members of the class can read your poetry as well as your critical responses to your classmates’ work and to the work of published poets.

The Assignments

Each of the assignments asks you to write an approximately one-paragraph response to a poem that is either from your Course Reader or is generated by one of your classmates.  Your response might identify craft elements within the poem, evaluate successful movements and/or point out areas within the poem that invite further attention.

Below is an overview of the assignments and the due dates.  This is only an overview; I will go over the requirements for each assignment in class.

Assignment One:  Identify two craft elements at work in the sonnet assigned to you from your Reader.  (Please consult “Assignments” in Canvas to see which sonnet has been assigned to you.)  Due date:  10/7.

Assignment Two:  Identify two craft elements in the epistolary poem assigned to you from your Reader. (Please consult “Assignments” in Canvas to see which epistolary poem has been assigned to you.) Due date:  10/22.

Assignment Three:  Write a critical response to the student couplet poem assigned to you.  (Please consult “Assignments” in Canvas to see which student poem you are evaluating.) Due date: 11/15.

Assignment Four:  Write a critical response to the student mirror poem assigned to you.  (Please consult “Assignments” in Canvas to see which student poem you are evaluating.) Due date:  12/2.

The Poems

Using your Course Reader, we will discuss in detail how poets have responded to the Tanka, the Sonnet, the Epistolary poem, and the poem written in Couplets.   You are asked to write a poem in response to each form, plus one focusing on lineation.

Poem One:   Four Tankas.  Due date:  10/4.

Poem Two:  The Personal Memory Sonnet.  Due date:  10/11.

Poem Three:  The Epistolary Poem.  Due date:  10/25.

Poem Four:  The Couplet Poem.  Due date:  11/12.

Poem Five:  The Mirror Poem.  Due date:  11/30.

Because we have a large class, we won’t be able to discuss all of your poems in our sessions.  I’ve divided the class into two groups, A and B.  Group A will have poems 1 and 3 critiqued; Group B will have poems 2 and 4 critiqued.  If your poem isn’t critiqued in class, I will send my comments to you via email.

These groups will remain the same throughout the quarter:

Group A:  Aguirre, Christian, Dea, Fitzsimmons, Francisco, Karger, Kudler, Land, Lynch, Mikuta

Group B:  Norman, Pruss, Robinson, Ronstadt, Ruiz, Saw, Teebken, Tuttle, Wagner, Yi


Your grade will be determined through two sources:

  • Your final manuscript: 70% of your grade.  This document will consist of the originals of all of the poems you wrote this quarter plus rewrites of two of those poems. You may select which poems to rewrite.  Please place the rewrite after the original in your final manuscript.  The manuscript should be submitted to me electronically by 4:30 pm on Friday, 12/18.

  • Your class engagement: 30% of your grade. If you attend class regularly and turn in all of your assignments by the due dates, you will receive a 4.0 for class engagement.

    NOTE:  I won’t be giving you grades on your individual poems and assignments.  I will meet with each of you during the fifth week of class to discuss your work and give you a mid-term grade for the whole—and I’m happy to meet with you throughout the quarter to discuss any aspect of the class.  Please email me to arrange for a Zoom or telephone discussion.


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).”




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: 
June 28, 2020 - 11:00pm