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ENGL 383 B: The Craft of Verse

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 12:50pm
PAA A212
Andrew Feld
Andrew Feld

Syllabus Description:


English 383B (The Craft of Verse), Spring 2020

Professor, Andrew Feld

MW 11:30- 12:50, Physics/Astronomy Auditorium A212 On-Line

Office Hours: MW 1:30-2:30 and by appointment



ENGLISH 383B: CRAFT OF VERSE.  Poetry in a Time of Crisis


Recently I was informed that the course syllabus I’d so carefully assembled for my Spring, 2020 section of English 383, The Craft of Verse, no longer had any bearing on whatever was going to happen in that class over its allotted number of weeks.  This was, for me, what it meant to switch from an in-classroom teaching experience to one, no matter how ably assisted by all the available technologies, in which the human dynamics of interpersonal interactions are translated into something utterly different.  The idea of just up-dating my old syllabus into a more computer-friendly version of what worked well last year seemed to me to an utterly insufficient response to the crisis that so quickly wiped out my entire teaching plan. 


A contemporary poet once wrote that his entire life’s work could be condensed down to one phrase: be here now.  The verb in the first place is relatively simple enough—it’s why we’re all isolating ourselves, so that we can continue to be. What “here” and “now” are, to each of us, will be a significant part of subject and general aim of this class.  Poetry is an experiential, embodied art form, and so what’s happening with our bodies and our experiences in this suddenly radically different world has to be a part of the course itself.


Poetry is an ancient art, however, and has survived many plagues. So along with new materials and technologies designed to help us respond as readers and writers to this moment, the class will still cover the required learning outcomes for English 383: how to read and write a poem, how to advance your craft as a writer of poems, and how to expand your knowledge of what poetry is and what it can do  This class will also provide a solid grounding in the craft, techniques, forms and aesthetics of contemporary poetry.  We will examine the function of poetry and of poetic language and seek to find ways to make our experience of the world alive and interesting to others.



75% of your final grade will be based on the final versions, collected in your portfolio, of the 5 poems written for the class (15% each),  and 25% on your class participation, which includes, active participation in small group workshops and general preparedness.


When poems are due, email them to me as an attachment (word doc, please) at All poems are due by Noon on the Sunday before the week in which they will be discussed in small groups.  Late poems will be marked down 5 grade points per day late. I will assemble the poems into packets and post them on the class Canvas.

Class Texts: these will be scanned and posted as Files:

Lighthead by Terrance Hayes

Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar

A Woman of Property by Robyn Schiff


Discussion of student poems will be guided and shaped by essays and handouts distributed in the week before the poems are to be workshopped.  These prose works will provide the criteria, methods and terminology we will use to read and critique your poems.  In addition, each poem will have a student presenter, who will start the small group discussion with a short analysis of the ways in which the poem up for discussion works and does not work according to the methodology of the handout.  These presentations will not be graded but will count towards your class participation. 

Grading Policy:

3.0:  a dogged student who does everything asked, fulfilling the letter of the law, but in a desultory, uninspired or palpably perfunctory way.

3.3—a student who does everything energetically, speaks up in class, etc., but whose writing  does not show progress over the course of the quarter and/or does not fully engage with the subject and assignments.

3.5—a good student who does everything pretty well.

3.6-4.0—gradations of work from better to excellent.


SafeCampus is the central reporting office if you are concerned for yourself or a friend. We have trained specialists who will take your call, connect you with resources, and put safety measures in place to reduce the chances of violence occurring. We are available 24/7.  Call 206 685-7233, email  In urgent situations call 911.


Religious Activities/Accommodations:

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 ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (



Poems turned into the workshop must never include or address any of your fellow workshop participants (including the professor), or comment on the nature of the assignment.  As in all task-oriented communities, workshop members must respect the privacy of their fellow participants and the seriousness of the work at hand.  ANY POEM THAT VIOLATES THIS RULE WILL RECEIVE A GRADE OF ZERO FOR THE ASSIGNMENT.

Any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class will be immediately reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review.


FIRST WEEK: March 30-April 1

Monday: Syllabus, Class Introduction, Grading, Workshop Protocols, Formatting.  Assignment #1, Part1: Watch Jorie Graham, “On Description.”  Jorie Graham On Description


Handout for Jorie Graham video.

Wednesday: Discussion of “On Description,” Assignment #1, Part 2.

Sunday, April 5, Exercise, due by noon.


SECOND WEEK: April 6-8

Monday: Zoom discussion, “How to Read a Poem.” 

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Facing It.”

Wednesday: Mark Doty, “Description’s Alphabet.”  Small groups.

Sunday, Poem #1, due by noon.


THIRD WEEK: April 13-15

Monday: Small group discussions.  “To Go To Lvov,” by Adam Zagajewski,

Adam Zagajewski - To Go to Lvov - Read by Derek Walcott & Bert Almon's Poetry Class.  Reading starts at 1:25.

Wednesday: Workshops. 

Sunday: Poem #2, “To Go To…” due by noon.


FOURTH WEEK: April 20-22

Monday: Strategies of Revision, Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art.”  The Complaint.

Wednesday: Workshops. 


FIFTH WEEK: April 27-29

Monday: Workshop

Wednesday: Syllabus Revision, How to Read a Poem: John Milton, "When I consider how my light is spent,"  Terrance Hayes, "All the Way Live."

Thursday, Noon: Final (Optional) Revision of Poem #1 due

Sunday, May 3rd, “Ten Things” due by noon.


SIXTH WEEK: May 4-6: Conferences

Monday: The Persona/Myth Poem: Read Myth and Persona packets in Canvas before class. workshop of “Ten Things”

Wednesday: Workshop of Lvov

Sunday, May 10: Complaint/List Poem Due by noon.



Monday: Workshop, “The Invention of a Self.” Read "Invention of a Self" Packet before class.

Wednesday: Workshop

Sunday, May 17, Poem #4, Persona Poem, due by noon.


EIGHTH WEEK: May 18-20

Monday: T.S. Eliot, “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” discussion., workshop.

Wednesday:  Workshop/Annotations

NINTH WEEK: May 25-27

Monday: No Class: Memorial Day

Wednesday: Workshop/Annotations

Sunday, Poem #5, “Invention of a Self” due by noon.


TENTH WEEK: June 1-3

Monday: Workshop/Annotations

Wednesday: Workshop/Annotations


Portfolio Due: Wednesday, June 10, 5:00



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: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
March 11, 2020 - 10:40pm