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ENGL 483 A: Advanced Verse Workshop

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 12:50pm
MEB 102
Bierds photo
Linda Bierds

Syllabus Description:

Due to the necessity of online teaching this quarter, this syllabus is a work in progress.  I will adjust it as we go along.

Each of you should have received an eighteen-page Course Reader containing poems that we will discuss in anticipation of the writing prompts used for your original poems.  Please contact me by email if you need a copy.

English 483A—The Poetry Workshop, Spring Quarter, 2020

Prof. Linda Bierds        

Padelford B403                      Phone:  543-9623

Office hours:  Online by appointment

Course description:

In this workshop, you will continue to develop your skills as a poet both by writing original poetry and by preparing written and oral critiques of the poetry of others.

You are asked to submit seven original poems during the quarter, written critiques of your classmates’ poems, and a final manuscript. All written material, except the final manuscript, should be placed in the appropriate category under Discussions on Canvas.

I will send you by email a multi-page document containing poems that we will use for discussion to illustrate each poetry prompt.

Poems are due by midnight on the following dates:  Poem 1, 4/4; Poem 2, 4/11; Poem 3, 4/19; Poem 4, 4/29; Poem 5, 5/11; Poem 6, 5/20; Poem 7, 5/29.

Written critiques are due by noon on the following dates:  Critique 1, 4/6; Critique 2, 4/13; Critique 3, 4/21; Critique 4, 5/3; Critique 5, 5/13; Critique 6, 5/24. (No critique for Poem 7)

Your final manuscript is due by noon on Thursday, June 11. Please submit the final manuscript directly to me as an email attachment, not to the class email list.


Your grade will be determined by two sources:

Final manuscript (60% of your grade):  Your final manuscript will consist of the originals and final versions of the first six poems plus the original of Poem 7.

Class engagement (40% of your grade):  Your grade in this category will be determined by your written and oral critiques and by other forms of class participation, to be determined as we experience online teaching.

I’m happy to meet with you online throughout the quarter to discuss your poems and class performance.  At mid-quarter, please do schedule an online meeting with me so that I can give you your mid-quarter grade.

The Poetry Prompts

During class, I will explain each prompt to you at least one week before the poem is due. We will discuss the poems in your Course Reader that help illustrate the prompt.

Prompt One: “Anti-Syntax”
This prompt asks you to create a poem using only concrete nouns and rhythm, or, as in Mullen’s poem, adjectives and rhythm.
See “Silent Poem” p. 1 and “Mantra for a Classless Society” p. 2

Prompt Two: “Stripped Down Language”
This prompt asks you to write with a relaxed tonal register.  You should use a relatively simple vocabulary and syntactical structure.
Topic:  Concepts of home. Form:  Monostrophe.
See on pages 3 & 4:  “Bad Boats”, “Michiko Dead”, “Anniversary”, “Home to Roost”;
and on pages 5-7: “A Room in the Past”, “El Florida Room”, “House”

Prompt Three: “Writing from Another Dictionary”
Note:  I am grateful to former graduate students Aya Gold and Patrick Runyan for giving me permission to use this prompt, which is explained on pages 8 & 9.
For Approach One, see on page 8: “Lullaby” and “Gone by Then”
For Approach Two, see on page 9: “House”, “#25”, “The Last Son of China”, “Dictee”, “[…]”

Prompt Four: “Double Waking”
This prompt asks for a poem that presents a revelation and then corrects that revelation.  I have provided a link to a lecture by Jorie Graham that, in part, discusses the concept of “double waking.”  In class we will pay particular attention to the poem by Brigit Pegeen Kelly.
See on pages 10 & 11: “So bright a gleam on the foot of my bed:”, “The Garden of the Trumpet Tree”, “Facing It” (full text will be sent to you as an email attachment); “A light exists in spring”, “Feared Drowned”

Prompt Five:  The Section Poem
Write a poem in no more than six sections, with no more than six lines per section.  Please use some type of ornament to designate your section breaks.  This prompt emphasizes the importance of the image and stresses economy.  All sample poems for this prompt will be sent to you as email attachments.
See: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, “Skunk”, “A Boy Like Your Mother”

Prompt Six: Prophecy Poem
Note:  I’m grateful to graduate student Rachel Hill for giving me permission to use this prompt, which is explained on page 12.
See on pages 12-15: “Art and Craft”, “Pop Music”, “Returning to Pompeii”, “Look Again”, “Lines for Winter”

Prompt Seven:  The Cento
The cento is an old form in which the poet uses only lines from other writers to create an original poem.  For this prompt, you will select lines from your classmates’ poems this quarter to create an original work.
See on pages 16 & 17: “Wolf Cento”, “Cento for Sydney”     


Catalog Description: 
Intensive verse workshop. Emphasis on the production and discussion of student poetry. Prerequisite: ENGL 383; ENGL 384.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
January 17, 2020 - 2:10am