What is a poem? Why does a poem matter? What does a poem mean? Does it have to rhyme? Does it need to be “hard?," or need to seem easy? Is it the most basic form of literature? Or is it the most advanced? What is the difference between poetry and not-poetry?
Many readers and writers are frightened of poetry, and grow more so as they get older. The simple pleasure of a nursery rhyme, the deep consolation of psalm, the humor of a limerick can end up either forgotten or disassociated from what we are taught to think a “proper” poem is. By thinking that way, we rob those things of their status as poems, and ourselves of the similar joys that wait for us in the bigger world of poetry, both as partakers and composers.
This course will explore these questions through a combination of the regular reading and writing of poetry from the English-language tradition, as well as making forays into poetic practices from other cultures (The Japanese Haiku, the Greco-Roman Cento, etc). We will do this through a thorough exploration of multiple genres (lyric, elegaic, satiric, epic, dramatic, ballad), many forms (sonnet, sestina, villanelle, limerick, blank verse, nursery rhyme, performance poem) and a number of categories (odes, occasional poems, eulogies, epistles, preludes, metaphysical).
Although this is a writing course, students can expect to read: we will explore many poems, as well as begin writing our own. As we move through writing various styles, genres, and forms of poetry, we will encounter many examples of the same kinds of work: ancient and modern, traditional and experimental. Students will be expected to write at least one new poem a week (depending on the difficulty and length of the form, sometimes more), and to read several. Significant amounts of reading and writing will take place during class times, and homework readings will generally be brief: poetry is highly concentrated stuff!
Course Texts / prerequisites
Students will be expected to purchase an anthology of poetry, and a handbook of poetic forms (exact details to follow). We will be accepting 12th and 11th graders first, and will accept sophomores if there is room.
Here are some blog posts featuring Mr. Boisvert: