Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”)

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About this course: ModPo is a fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, with an emphasis on experimental verse, from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly "difficult." We encounter and discuss the poems one at a time. It's much easier than it seems! Join us and try it! Even though we are currently in our offseason ("SloPo"), you are welcome to enroll now. You will have access to the entire ModPo site. Explore; meet some ModPo'ers who are conversing in the site year-round; read poems and watch videos. Then join us again when the intense "symposium mode…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: ModPo is a fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, with an emphasis on experimental verse, from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly "difficult." We encounter and discuss the poems one at a time. It's much easier than it seems! Join us and try it! Even though we are currently in our offseason ("SloPo"), you are welcome to enroll now. You will have access to the entire ModPo site. Explore; meet some ModPo'ers who are conversing in the site year-round; read poems and watch videos. Then join us again when the intense "symposium mode" starts up again in September. Yes, the next live, interactive 10-week session of ModPo will begin on September 9, 2017, and will conclude on November 20, 2017. Al Filreis will be in touch with you by email before the September 9 start of the course with all the information you'll need to participate. If you have questions, you can email the ModPo team at modpo@writing.upenn.edu. During the 10 weeks of the course, you will be guided through poems, video discussions of each poem, and community discussions of each poem. And (unique among open online courses) we offer weekly, interactive live webcasts. Our famed TAs also offer office hours throughout the week. We help arrange meet-ups and in-site study groups. If you are curious about the ModPo team, type "ModPo YouTube introduction" into Google or your favorite search engine, and watch the 20-minute introductory video. You will get an overview of the course and will meet the brilliant TAs, who will be encountering the poems with you all the way to the end. If you use Facebook, join the always-thriving ModPo group: from inside Facebook, search for "Modern & Contemporary American Poetry" and then request to be added as a member. If you have any questions about ModPo, you can post a question to the FB group and you'll receive an almost instant reply. We tweet all year long at @ModPoPenn and you can also find ModPo colleagues using the hashtag #ModPoLive. ModPo is hosted by—and is housed at—the Kelly Writers House at 3805 Locust Walk on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia USA. All ModPo'ers are welcome to visit the Writers House when they are in our area. Our discussions are filmed there. Our live webcasts take place in the famed "Arts Cafe" of the House. To find out what's going on at the Writers House any time, just dial 215-746-POEM.

Who is this class for: ModPo is for those who are new to poetry. And it is for those who have always loved poetry but not yet studied modern and/or experimental poetry. And it is also for poets and critics and teachers who want to see what happens when a community of thousands come together to talk about poems such folks already know well. In short: ModPo will work, in some way, for anyone and everyone!

Created by:  University of Pennsylvania
  • Taught by:  Al Filreis, Kelly Professor, Dir. Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, Faculty Dir. Kelly Writers House

Level Beginner Language English How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.9 stars Average User Rating 4.9See what learners said Coursework

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University of Pennsylvania The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn) is a private university, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. A member of the Ivy League, Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and considers itself to be the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


chapter 1.1 (week 1)—Whitman & Dickinson, two proto-modernists



<p><strong>Week 1 of ModPo 2017 runs from Saturday, September 9 at 9 AM through Sunday, September 17 at 9 AM.</strong> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 1 materials are open and available all year. </p><p>In this first week of our course, we'll encounter two 19th-century American poets whose quite different approaches to verse similarly challenged the official verse culture of the time. As a matter of form (but also of content), Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were radicals. What sort of radicalism is this? In a way, this course is all about exploring expressions of that radicalism from Whitman and Dickinson to the present day. Such challenges to official verse culture (and often U.S. culture at large) present us with a lineage of ideas about art and expression, a tradition that can be outlined, mostly followed, somewhat traced. In this course, we follow, to the best of our ability — and given the limits of time — that tradition and try to make overall sense of it. </p><p>You will find that we do this one poem at a time. Here in week 1, we will explore Dickinson first, Whitman second, and then begin to sketch out the major differences between them, which, some say, amount to two opposite ends of the spectrum of poetic experimentalism and dissent in the nineteenth century. Which is to say: on the spectrum of traditional-to-experimental poetry, these two poets are on the same end (experimental); on the spectrum of experimentalism, their approaches can put them on opposite ends. In short, they offer us alternative poetic radicalisms, and their influences down the line (which we will explore in week 2) are both powerful but are also largely distinct. One question you'll be prepared to ask by the end of the course: Is the Dickinsonian or the Whitmanian tradition more ascendant and apt in today's experimental poetry? </p><p><strong>ASSIGNMENTS</strong>: During this week, there are two quizzes due (see below); there are no writing assignments or peer reviews due. There is a live webcast on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at noon (Philadelphia time).</p>


9 videos, 8 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to chapter 1, week 1: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: read Emily Dickinson's “I dwell in Possibility”
  3. Reading: listen to Al Filreis recite "I dwell in Possibility"
  4. Video: watch video on Emily Dickinson's "I dwell in Possibility"
  5. Reading: read Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"
  6. Video: watch video on Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"
  7. Video: watch further discussion on "Tell all the truth"
  8. Reading: read Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove"
  9. Video: watch video on Emily Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove" (part 1)
  10. Video: watch video on Emily Dickinson's "The Brain within its Groove" (part 2)
  11. Reading: (optional) watch condensed video on Dickinson's "Brain within its Groove"
  12. Reading: read sections 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14, 47 & 52 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
  13. Reading: listen to recordings of “Song of Myself”
  14. Video: watch video on Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" (part 1)
  15. Video: watch video on Walt Whitman's “Song of Myself” (part 2)
  16. Video: watch video on canto 47 of "Song of Myself"
  17. Video: watch video discussion of the Whitmanian and Dickinsonian modes

Graded: on "Possibility" in Emily Dickinson's "I dwell in Possibility"
Graded: on the dash in Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility”

WEEK 2


chapter 1.2 (week 2)—Whitmanians & Dickinsonians



<p><b>Week 2 of ModPo 2017 runs from Sunday, September 17 at 9 AM through Sunday, September 24 at 9 AM. </b>For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 2 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>During this week, the second half of chapter 1, we will read the work of two poets writing in the Whitmanian mode and three poets writing in the Dickinsonian mode. We will encounter our Whitmanians, William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg, again later in the course—Williams as a modernist and Ginsberg as a Beat poet. The Whitman/Williams/Ginsberg connection is a strong one; Ginsberg wrote directly in response to both Whitman and Williams and saw the lineage as crucial to the development of his approach. Our Dickinsonians are more disparate in their response to Dickinson’s writing. Of the three—Lorine Niedecker, Cid Corman, and Rae Armantrout—only the last could be said to be a direct poetic descendant of Emily Dickinson's aesthetic. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week, there are two quizzes due and a writing assignment. Writing assignment #1 is open for submission between 9 AM on 9/18/17 and 9 AM on 9/24/17; after that, peer reviews will be submitted any time between 9 AM on 9/25/17 and 9 AM on 10/1/17. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, September 20, at 10 AM (Philadelphia time).</p>


9 videos, 22 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to week 2: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: read William Carlos Williams’s “Smell!”
  3. Reading: listen to Williams perform “Smell!”
  4. Reading: read/listen to "Smell!" in text-audio alignment
  5. Video: watch video on William Carlos Williams’s “Smell!”
  6. Reading: read Williams's "Danse Russe"
  7. Reading: listen to Williams perform "Danse Russe"
  8. Reading: read/listen to “Danse Russe” in text-audio alignment
  9. Video: watch video on William Carlos Williams's "Danse Russe"
  10. Reading: read Allen Ginsberg's “A Supermarket in California”
  11. Reading: listen to Ginsberg perform “A Supermarket in California”
  12. Reading: read/listen to Ginsberg's “A Supermarket in California” as text-audio alignment
  13. Video: watch video on Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California"
  14. Reading: read Lorine Niedecker's “Grandfather advised me”
  15. Video: watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "Grandfather Advised Me"
  16. Reading: read Lorine Niedecker's “You are my friend”
  17. Video: watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "You are my friend"
  18. Reading: read Lorine Niedecker's “Foreclosure”
  19. Reading: listen to Lorine Niedecker perform “Foreclosure”
  20. Reading: listen to a 30-minute discussion of “Foreclosure” (& another short poem)
  21. Video: watch video on Lorine Niedecker's "Foreclosure"
  22. Reading: read Cid Corman's "It isnt for want"
  23. Reading: listen to Cid Corman perform “It isnt for want”
  24. Video: watch video on Cid Corman's "It isnt for want"
  25. Reading: read Rae Armantrout's “The Way”
  26. Reading: listen to Rae Armantrout perform “The Way”
  27. Video: watch video on Rae Armantrout's "The Way"
  28. Reading: listen to Rae Armantrout talk briefly about “The Way”
  29. Reading: listen to PoemTalk discussion of “The Way”
  30. Video: watch video on distinctions between “Dickinsonian” and “Whitmanian” proto-modernism
  31. Reading: essay assignment #1

Graded: on Niedecker's "Grandfather advised me"
Graded: on Corman's "It isnt for want"
Graded: writing assignment #1

WEEK 3


chapter 2.1 (week 3)—the rise of poetic modernism: imagism



<p><b>Week 3 of ModPo 2017 runs from Sunday, September 24 at 9 AM through Sunday, October 1 at 9 AM.</b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 3 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>Modernism in poetry had many beginnings; imagism marks just one. But in a fast introduction, this brief but influential movement gives us a good place to start. Imagists had no use for late Victorian wordiness, flowery figuration and “beautiful” abstraction. They rejected such qualities through staunch assertions demanding concision, concentration, precise visuality and a sort of super-focused emotive objectivity. In this first of four sections of chapter 2, we will ask ourselves whether each poem meets the impossible or nearly impossible standards set out by imagist manifestos. If any given poem “fails” to meet such standards, it is by no means a sign of “bad poetry.” But one way to learn about the rise of poetic modernism is to make discernments based on the poets' own (momentary) programmatic demands. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). This is also the week in which peer reviews of writing assignment #1 are due. Peer reviews should be submitted any time between 9 AM on 9/25/17 and 9 AM on 10/1/17. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, September 27, at 9 PM (Philadelphia time).</p>


5 videos, 12 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to week 3: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: imagism briefly defined
  3. Reading: read H.D.'s "Sea Rose"
  4. Video: watch video on H.D.'s "Sea Rose"
  5. Reading: read H.D.'s "Sea Poppies"
  6. Video: watch video on H.D.'s "Sea Poppies"
  7. Reading: read Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"
  8. Reading: read Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" as it appeared in Poetry magazine
  9. Reading: read a selection of critical commentary on "In a Station of the Metro"
  10. Video: watch video on Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"
  11. Reading: watch brief further discussion of Pound's "In a Station of the Metro"
  12. Reading: read Ezra Pound's "The Encounter"
  13. Video: watch video on Ezra Pound's "The Encounter"
  14. Reading: read Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
  15. Reading: listen to a discussion of Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
  16. Video: watch further discussion on "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
  17. Reading: essay #1: write reviews of others' essays

Graded: on "In a Station of the Metro"

chapter 2.2 (week 3 cont.)—the rise of poetic modernism: Williams



Now in the second of four parts of our chapter on the rise of modernism—in the second part of week 3—we take a closer look at William Carlos Williams (1883-1963). We met Williams as a “Whitmanian” in chapter 1, the middle figure in a poetic line running from Whitman to Ginsberg. But that focus on him was a little misleading. The Williams of the late 1910s and 1920s was a poet fascinated by currents of formal experimentation—imagism, yes, but also Dadaism, cubism (especially drawing on innovations and painting) and a little later, objectivism. It's not the purpose of this course that we learn what all these “-isms” mean. Rather, let's start with a few poems by Williams that befit the imagist moment, and go from there. Quickly we'll find that Williams (always aesthetically restless) was interested in a writing that might capture the dynamism of its modern subject matter and was (mostly) willing to face problems created by traditional approaches to description and portraiture. When these conventions seemed to him to fail, he was prepared to include such failure in the poem itself—disclosing the troubled process of representation.


7 videos, 21 readings expand


  1. Reading: read William Carlos Williams's "Lines"
  2. Video: watch video on Williams's "Lines"
  3. Reading: read William Carlos Williams's "Between Walls"
  4. Reading: listen to Williams reading "Between Walls"
  5. Reading: read/listen with text-audio alignment to Williams's "Between Walls"
  6. Reading: listen to PoemTalk discussion of "Between Walls"
  7. Video: watch video on Williams's "Between Walls"
  8. Reading: read William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just to Say"
  9. Reading: read Flossie Williams's reply to "This Is Just to Say"
  10. Reading: listen to William Carlos Williams's explanation of “This Is Just to Say”
  11. Reading: listen to five recordings of Williams reading "This Is Just to Say"
  12. Reading: listen to five recordings of Williams reading “This Is Just to Say” as text-audio alignment
  13. Video: watch video on Williams’s “This Is Just to Say”
  14. Reading: read William Carlos Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"
  15. Reading: listen to four recordings of Williams reading “The Red Wheelbarrow”
  16. Reading: listen to four recordings of Williams performing “The Red Wheelbarrow” as text-audio alignment
  17. Video: watch video on Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"
  18. Reading: watch further discussion of Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”
  19. Reading: look at a photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” at the Philadephia Museum of Art
  20. Reading: watch a museum-goer’s video of Duchamp’s “Fountain” on display at SFMoMA
  21. Video: watch video discussion on Duchamp’s “Fountain”
  22. Reading: read William Carlos Williams's, “The rose is obsolete”
  23. Reading: listen to a 6-minute close reading of “The rose is obsolete”
  24. Reading: read William Carlos Williams's, "Portrait of a Lady"
  25. Reading: listen to 3 recordings of Williams performing “Portrait of a Lady”
  26. Video: watch video on Williams's "Portrait of a Lady"
  27. Reading: look at Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”
  28. Video: on Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase"

Graded: on Williams's "Between Walls"

WEEK 4


chapter 2.3 (week 4)—the rise of poetic modernism: Stein



<p><b>Week 4 of ModPo 2017 runs from Sunday, October 1 at 9 AM through Sunday, October 8 at 9 AM. </b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 4 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>Gertrude Stein's contribution to modernist poetry and poetics cannot be overstated, so now, in the third section of chapter 2, we turn to her, spending the better part of week 4 of our course on a selection of her supposedly “difficult” writings. The difficulty of deriving any sort of conventional semantic meaning from the short prose-poems that comprise Stein's Tender Buttons turns out for many readers to be a helpful inducement to look for other kinds of signifying. As we hope you'll see from the video discussions in this section, such difficulty need not excuse us from close reading. Stein's poems really can be interpreted. They might reject representation, but by no means do they turn away from reference. The hard work you do in this part of chapter 2 will be amply rewarded when we get to chapter 9. Stein is a particular influence on John Ashbery in chapter 8, but she is a crucial influence on nearly every poet we'll read in chapter 9. As a matter of fact, here in chapter 2 we have a chance to listen to Jackson Mac Low (a chapter 9 poet) talk about why he finds Stein's opaque and difficult Tender Buttons so nonetheless meaningful. And we hear Joan Retallack (another chapter 9 poet) paying homage to Stein's “Composition as Explanation.”</p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). There is also a writing assignment due. Writing assignment #2 should be submitted any time between 9 AM on 10/2/17 and 9 AM on 10/8/17; after that, peer reviews will be submitted any time between 9 AM on 10/9/17 and 9 AM on 10/15/17. <em>There is also a live webcast on Thursday, October 5, at 6:30 PM (London time) — we will be coming to you live from London, England, and we welcome ModPo’ers in or visiting the area to join us!</em></p>


7 videos, 26 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to week 4: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: read Stein's "A Long Dress" from Tender Buttons
  3. Video: watch video on Stein's "A Long Dress"
  4. Video: watch further discussion on "A Long Dress"
  5. Reading: read Marjorie Perloff's comment on Stein and in particular on "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"
  6. Reading: read Gertrude Stein, "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass," from the "Objects" section of Tender Buttons
  7. Reading: watch video of Laynie Browne discussing "A Carafe" and the "Objects" section of Tender Buttons
  8. Reading: listen to Jackson Mac Low's 1978 performance of Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"
  9. Reading: listen to Jackson Mac Low's close reading of "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"
  10. Video: watch video on Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"
  11. Reading: watch video on Stein’s phrase “not unordered in not resembling”
  12. Reading: read Stein's "Water Raining" and "Malachite" from Tender Buttons
  13. Video: watch video on "Water Raining" and "Malachite"
  14. Reading: watch Bob Perelman on Stein's use of the continuous present tense
  15. Reading: watch Ron Silliman on how each Stein poem creates its own definition of reading
  16. Reading: watch discussion of the pleasure to be gotten from Stein's “linguistic-ness”
  17. Reading: read Stein on narrative
  18. Reading: read Stein on the noun
  19. Reading: read Stein on repetition
  20. Reading: read Stein on composition
  21. Reading: listen to Joan Retallack reading some propositions from Stein’s “Composition as Explanation”
  22. Video: watch video on Stein's ideas about narrative, composition, repeating & nouns
  23. Reading: watch further discussion on the noun & loving repeating
  24. Reading: read Gertrude Stein's "Let Us Describe"
  25. Video: watch video on Stein's "Let Us Describe"
  26. Reading: read Stein’s “If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso”
  27. Reading: listen to Stein perform “If I Told Him”
  28. Reading: read/listen with text-audio alignment of Stein's "If I Told Him"
  29. Reading: watch a dance choreographed to Stein's “If I Told Him”
  30. Reading: read Ulla Dydo's prefatory comment on "If I Told Him"
  31. Reading: listen to Marjorie Perloff speaking about Stein’s portraits
  32. Video: watch video on Stein's "If I Told Him"
  33. Reading: essay assignment #2

Graded: on "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"

chapter 2.4 (week 4 cont.)—the rise of poetic modernism: modernist edges



"The Baroness" (Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven) was way out there. But because she so intensely embodied modernist experimentalism, our effort to learn something about her life and writing is an apt way, in part, to end our brief introduction to poetic modernism from roughly 1912 to 1929. The three instances of modernist extremity we will encounter in chapter 2.4 are very different expressions of “High Modernism.” Well, the Baroness was certainly high on highballs when she wrote the poem we'll read — or rather, her language remarkably simulates a reeling discombobulation, such that its critique of 1920s-style commercialism (not in itself unusual at the time) has a very sharp edge. She was “New York Dada” epitomized, while Tristan Tzara's ideas about cutting up newspapers to form “personal” poems were, among his many other radical notions, crucial to the Dadaist import. And John Peale Bishop, with whom we will end our two weeks of chapter 2? Well, as you'll see, Bishop's is another story altogether; his sonnet sets us up for our approach to doubts about modernist antics as expressed by the poets of chapters 3, 4 and 5.


3 videos, 11 readings expand


  1. Reading: read Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven’s “A Dozen Cocktails—Please”
  2. Reading: consult a scholarly digital edition of “A Dozen Cocktails—Please”
  3. Reading: read Williams on the Baroness
  4. Reading: listen to a brief bio of the Baroness
  5. Reading: listen to a passage from Kenneth Rexroth’s account of the Baroness
  6. Video: watch video on Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven
  7. Reading: read Tristan Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem”
  8. Reading: re-read Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem” in an introduction to "chance operations"
  9. Reading: watch a film-illustration of “To Make a Dadaist Poem”
  10. Video: watch video on Tristan Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem"
  11. Reading: read about the sonnet as a form
  12. Reading: read William Carlos Williams on the sonnet
  13. Reading: read John Peale Bishop, "A Recollection"
  14. Video: watch video on Bishop's "A Recollection" and the sonnet in modernism

Graded: on Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem"
Graded: writing assignment #2

WEEK 5


chapter 3 (week 5)—communist poets of the 1930s



<p><b>Week 5 of ModPo 2017 covers chapters 3, 4, 5 & 6 and runs from Sunday, October 8, starting at 9 AM, to Sunday, October 15 at 9 AM (Philadelphia time). </b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 5 materials are open and available all year. </p><p>Chapter 3 is a very brief look at communist poetry of the 1930s. These were years of economic crisis — the Depression. Like most other people, poets felt the urgency induced by privation, lack of opportunity, segregation and desperation. But poets had all along been inclined toward social as well as aesthetic experimentalism, and as they could write effectively, many felt they could be useful in the larger effort to find solutions — some modestly reformist, some more extreme — to the nation's and the world's huge problems. When the Depression set in, many poets embraced radical critiques of the economic status quo, and some even joined revolutionary groups such as the Communist Party of the United States. Such ideological journeys were often quite brief, however, and most once-Communist poets regretted joining the Party later, and said so. One of the myths created in the 1950s is that all modernist poets had repudiated modernism's embrace of opaqueness, indirection and self-referentiality and had decided suddenly to write clearly and “transparently” so that masses of people could understand their language. This is not true — many pre-1930s modernists continued to write in experimental modes and remained committed to cubism, surrealism, Dadaism, etc., as well as joining radical political causes. But for our purposes in this very brief chapter 3, we look at two poets whose poems might be said to contain radical content but to deliver that content in traditional — one might even say conservative — forms. What can we make of this apparent contradiction or irony? What can we learn here about modernism's relation to political life? </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During week 5 (covering chapters 3, 4, 5 & 6), there are two quizzes due (see below). There are no writing assignments due. Peer reviews of writing assignment #2 are due and should be submitted anytime between 9 AM on 10/19/17 and 9 AM on 10/15/17. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at noon (Philadelphia time).</p>


2 videos, 4 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to week 5 (audio/transcript)
  2. Reading: read Ruth Lechlitner’s “Lines for an Abortionist's Office”
  3. Video: watch video on Ruth Lechlitner's "Lines for an Abortionist's Office"
  4. Reading: read Genevieve Taggard’s “Interior’
  5. Video: watch video on Genevieve Taggard's "Interior"
  6. Reading: essay #2: write reviews of others' essays


chapter 4 (week 5 cont.)—the Harlem Renaissance



We continue ModPo week 5 with chapter 4 and Harlem Renaissance poetry. We look at poets whose concept of the relation between traditional stanza form and the content of racist hatred helps us understand the limits of formal experiment. For example, Harlem Renaissance writers such as Jean Toomer (in works like Cane) engaged a modernist sense of genre, and Sterling Brown closely studied and admired the modernist “New”-ness of Ezra Pound even though Brown chose to write his own poems in rhymed blues verse and sometimes vernacular "folk" language. Claude McKay's strategic use of the Shakespearean sonnet is as powerful a refusal of free verse as can be found anywhere — his sense of the complicated inheritance of English prosody will come back to us at the very end of the course (watch for it in week 10). Countee Cullen uses the ballad form to similar effect, and for similar reasons. These poets, and others such as Langston Hughes, emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, but the influence of what was called “The New Negro” artistic renaissance (after the anthology compiled by Alain Locke) extended well beyond its time and deeply influenced later poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, whose poems “truth” and "Boy Breaking Glass" we will also read and discuss here in chapter 4. Brooks's idea of the truth is honored but also challenged, in turn, by a poet still later associated with the Black Arts movement: Etheridge Knight. Knight's response to Brooks (discussed in the PoemTalk episode linked to this week's syllabus) both reveres Brooks and at the same time urges further progress, just as Brooks's “truth” had revered and also moved beyond the McKay/Cullen mode. In "Boy Breaking Glass," Brooks understands a young man's "cry for art" as requiring a sympathetic modernist fragmentation in her own poem. Poetic influences are cultural ripples, never more so than here — an emanation but also a widening. Langston Hughes's “Dinner Guest: Me” is partly about how such ripple effect and communality sometimes must be taught. And because it must be taught, we felt it apt to add a special video (prepared for ModPo's Teacher Resource Center) on how teachers might teach that challenging poem by Hughes.


5 videos, 10 readings expand


  1. Reading: read Countee Cullen’s “Yet Do I Marvel”
  2. Reading: read Countee Cullen’s “Incident”
  3. Video: watch video discussion of Cullen’s “Incident”
  4. Reading: read Claude McKay's "If We Must Die"
  5. Reading: listen to McKay perform "If We Must Die"
  6. Reading: listen to a PoemTalk episode about "If We Must Die"
  7. Video: watch video on McKay's "If We Must Die"
  8. Reading: read Langston Hughes’s “Dinner Guest: Me”
  9. Video: watch video on Hughes's "Dinner Guest: Me"
  10. Video: watch video on teaching Hughes’s “Dinner Guest: Me”
  11. Reading: read Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Boy Breaking Glass”
  12. Video: watch video on Brooks’s “Boy Breaking Glass”
  13. Reading: read Gwendolyn Brooks’s “truth”
  14. Reading: listen to an audio discussion of Brooks's “truth”
  15. Reading: listen to a 30-minute discussion of Brooks’s “truth” & Etheridge Knight’s poem-response

Graded: on Claude McCay's "If We Must Die"

chapter 5 (week 5 cont.)—Frost



We continue ModPo week 5 with chapter 5. Robert Frost is widely considered a major modern American poet, but in fact his relationship to modernism is mostly antagonistic. In our series of short chapters featuring poets’ doubts about aspects of the modernist revolution, we consider just one poem by Frost — "Mending Wall" — for its frank but also witty way of raising the issue of subject-object relations. The speaker and a second figure find themselves on either side of a wall. Should that wall come down? Does Frost’s answer to that question have anything to do with his famous anti-modernist complaint — that free verse is “like playing tennis without a net”? We also offer a video recording of a ModPo-hosted symposium in which four poets debate Frost's wall.


1 video, 4 readings expand


  1. Reading: read Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"
  2. Reading: listen to Frost declaim "Mending Wall"
  3. Video: watch video on Frost's "Mending Wall"
  4. Reading: watch & listen to four contemporary poets debate “Mending Wall”
  5. Reading: watch 6-minute excerpt from the 1-hr. video on "Mending Wall"


chapter 6 (week 5 cont.)—formalism of the 1950s



We conclude ModPo week 5 with chapter 6. There are several ways of looking generally at U.S. poetry in the postwar (post-World War II) period, 1945-60. No single generalization will do, but our course implies two main trends. First, there was a retrenchment, a “coming home,” a consolidation — a mainstreaming of modernism and for some, a new formalist (or "neo-formalist") reaction against what was deemed to be modernist experimental excess. This consolidation coincided with a general renewed cultural conservatism or quietism, generally understood as caused or aided by several factors: fears of communism, concerns about women who had entered the wartime workplace and were now expected to resume domestic life, the apparent ease of daily life during a time of economic growth, the "massification" of university education, the flight from cities, and the suburbanization of values and lifestyle. For some, this meant assuming modernist gains — free verse, wide choice of subject matter, everyday diction — while suppressing radical experiment. For others, it meant an outright antimodernism, though it was now more conservative than the antimodernism of poets in chapters 3 and 5. The latter impulse expressed itself in a neo-classicist use of satire and irony — a kind of new Augustan poetics. Chapter 6 gives us a very brief look at this postwar neo-formalism. [] A second, very different, trend was the explosion of a new poetic radicalism fueled by a sometimes ecstatic and often antic negative response to the above-mentioned quietism and poetic conservatism. Drawing on the experimental spirit of modernism and sometimes celebrating the influence of individual modernist poets, this trend generally came to be known as the “New American” poetry. The Beats of chapter 7 and the New York School poets of chapter 8 are instances of this trend. There are other New American approaches and groupings, to be sure, but we will not have time to consider them except in passing references. First, let us quickly end week 5 — our rapid tour through the doubters and troublers of chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 — with a glance at two neo-formalists: Richard Wilbur and X. J. Kennedy.


4 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Reading: read Richard Wilbur's "The Death of a Toad"
  2. Video: watch video on Wilbur's "The Death of a Toad"
  3. Video: watch further discussion of Wilbur's "The Death of a Toad"
  4. Reading: read X. J. Kennedy’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”
  5. Video: watch video on Kennedy’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”
  6. Video: watch further discussion on Kennedy's "Nude Descending a Staircase"

Graded: on Richard Wilbur's "The Death of a Toad"

WEEK 6


chapter 7 (week 6)—breaking conformity: the beats



<p><b>Week 6 starts at 9 AM (Philadelphia time) on Sunday, October 15, 2017, and ends at 9 AM on Sunday, October 22, 2017.</b>For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 6 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>The so-called “New American Poetry” that emerged in the late 1940s and 1950s went in many directions; some trends, styles, and approaches overlapped, while some were (or seemed to be) more distinct and separable than others. The “Beat” poets were a fairly distinct community of writers, making it easier than it would be otherwise to study as a coherent movement their ecstatic, antic, apparently anti-poetic break with official verse culture. Our approach, in just one week, looks at two “classic” Beats (Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac) and then quickly moves off to adjacent figures. Robert Creeley was not a Beat poet, but his most famous poem engages poetic, psychological, and social matters with which Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the others were obsessed. Anne Waldman is an “outrider” poet and is more closely associated with the second generation of “New York School” poets (see chapter 8), but she was a dear friend of Ginsberg and learned a great deal from his political pedagogy. Amiri Baraka, as Leroi Jones, was a Beat poet for a few years and then broke away. The poem by Baraka that we study here gives us a chance to look back on Countee Cullen's traditionally formal poetic response to racist hatred. The prose-poem/manifesto by Baraka on how poets (should) sound extends a theme already important to this chapter: the primacy of sound (or music) as a form of freedom from linguistic convention. Jayne Cortez gives us a perfect example of this and permits us to suggest connections among the Beat aesthetic, Black Arts, the influences of jazz, and the emergence of “spoken word” performance. Our focus on Jack Kerouac in chapter 7 is a little unusual — he, of course, is known more as a novelist than a poet. But his “babble flow” has been a significant influence on contemporary poets, more than his narrative fictional stance as psycho-social itinerant. We will have occasion, then, to examine and question Kerouac’s — and implicitly, Ginsberg’s — claim to be writing naturally spontaneous language. Our chapter 9 poets for the most part doubt such a claim. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). There are no writing assignments due, nor peer reviews. There is a live webcast on Wednesday, October 18, at 5:30 PM (Philadelphia time).</p5


12 videos, 22 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to chapter 7, week 6 (audio & transcript)
  2. Reading: read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" (part 1)
  3. Reading: listen to Ginsberg perform "Howl" in 1956
  4. Reading: listen to a brief excerpt from Ginsberg’s performance of “Howl”
  5. Video: watch video on the first section of Ginsberg's "Howl" (part 1)
  6. Video: watch video on the first section of Ginsberg's "Howl" (part 2)
  7. Reading: read Jack Kerouac’s “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”
  8. Reading: read Jack Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose”
  9. Video: watch video on Kerouac's ideas about prose
  10. Reading: read three passages of Kerouac's “spontaneous prose”
  11. Reading: read the opening passage of Jack Kerouac’s “October in the Railroad Earth”
  12. Reading: listen to Kerouac perform the opening passage of "October in the Railroad Earth"
  13. Reading: read/listen to Kerouac's "October in the Railroad Earth" as text-audio alignment
  14. Reading: read Kerouac’s comment to Ted Berrigan about “October in the Railroad Earth”
  15. Reading: read a sample of Kerouac's "babble flow"
  16. Video: watch video on these instances of Kerouac's "spontaneous prose"
  17. Video: watch ModPo TAs debate spontaneity & first thought/best thought
  18. Video: watch video: can we do a close reading of babble flow?
  19. Reading: read Bob Kaufman's “Jail Poems” (sections 3, 4, 7, 14, 19, 22, 34 & 35)
  20. Video: watch video on Bob Kaufman's "Jail Poems"
  21. Reading: read Robert Creeley's "I Know a Man"
  22. Reading: listen to 5 recordings of Creeley performing “I Know a Man”
  23. Reading: read/listen with text-audio alignment to Creeley's "I Know a Man"
  24. Reading: listen to PoemTalk on Creeley's "I Know a Man"
  25. Video: watch video on Creeley's "I Know a Man"
  26. Reading: listen to Anne Waldman perform “Rogue State”
  27. Reading: watch video of Waldman’s performance of “Rogue State”
  28. Video: watch video on Waldman’s “Rogue State”
  29. Reading: read Amiri Baraka’s “Incident”
  30. Video: watch video on Baraka's "Incident"
  31. Reading: read Amiri Baraka's “How You Sound??”
  32. Video: watch video on Baraka's "How You Sound??"
  33. Reading: watch & listen as Jayne Cortez performs “She Got He Got”
  34. Video: watch video on Jayne Cortez's "She Got He Got"

Graded: on Ginsberg's “Howl”
Graded: on Robert Creeley's "I Know a Man"

WEEK 7


chapter 8 (week 7)—the New York School



<p><b>Week 7 starts at 9 AM (Philadelphia time) on Sunday, October 22, 2017 and ends at 9 AM on Sunday, October 29.</b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 7 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, and Kenneth Koch represent the New York School of poets in this week of our course. We met Anne Waldman briefly in chapter 7 — from the “second generation” New York School. Now we add two others of that second generation: Ted Berrigan and Bernadette Mayer. Our super-close readings of Guest's “20” and Ashbery's “Some Trees” are intended, in part, to show that the non-narrative or anti-narrative styles of this group — and their propensity for sudden shifts in pronoun use, inconsistent imagery, and inside-the-community name dropping — nonetheless produce writing that can be interpreted line by line. During this week (a bare-minimum introduction to this playful postmodernity), we will get a bit of pastiche from Koch and several instances of O'Hara's I-do-this-I-do-that explorations of lunchtime, as well as examples of Ashbery's opaque lyricism, Guest's stunning memory-as-word associationalism, Berrigan’s anti-narrative as daily social resistance, and Mayer’s application of O’Hara’s exuberant attention to daily details to a woman’s life and language. Patrick Rosal's contemporary poem begins with an ensemble-voiced, present-tense, frenetic romp through New York City, very much influenced by O’Hara’s mode and sensibility. But then Rosal’s poem moves elsewhere, enacting diasporic return, and pushes the New York School style beyond its earlier categories by developing its own powerful synthesis of global concerns. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS</b>: During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). There is also a writing assignment due. Writing assignment #3 can be submitted anytime between 9 AM on 10/23/17 and 9 AM on 10/29/17; after that, peer reviews will be submitted anytime between 9 AM on 10/30/17 and 9 AM on 11/5/17. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, October 25, at 3 PM (Philadelphia time).</p>For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 1 materials are open and available all year.


14 videos, 23 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to chapter 8, week 7: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: read Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died”
  3. Reading: listen to O'Hara perform “The Day Lady Died”
  4. Reading: watch video of O'Hara reading “The Day Lady Died"
  5. Video: watch discussion of O’Hara's “The Day Lady Died”
  6. Reading: read Kenneth Koch’s "Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams"
  7. Video: watch video on Koch's “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams”
  8. Reading: read John Ashbery’s “The Instruction Manual”
  9. Reading: listen to Ashbery perform “The Instruction Manual”
  10. Video: watch video on Ashbery's “The Instruction Manual”
  11. Video: watch further discussion of Ashbery’s “The Instruction Manual”
  12. Reading: read O’Hara’s “A Step Away from Them”
  13. Video: watch video on O'Hara's “A Step Away from Them”
  14. Reading: read Barbara Guest’s “20” & listen to a recording
  15. Video: watch video on Guest's “20”
  16. Video: watch further discussion of Guest’s “20”
  17. Reading: read John Ashbery’s “Some Trees”
  18. Reading: listen to Ashbery perform “Some Trees”
  19. Reading: read/listen to Ashbery’s “Some Trees” with text-audio alignment
  20. Video: watch video on Ashbery's "Some Trees" (part 1)
  21. Video: watch video on Ashbery's "Some Trees" (part 2)
  22. Reading: read John Ashbery’s “Hard Times”
  23. Reading: watch Ashbery performing “Hard Times”
  24. Video: watch video discussion of Ashbery’s “Hard Times”
  25. Reading: read Ted Berrigan's “3 Pages”
  26. Reading: listen to Berrigan perform “3 Pages”
  27. Reading: listen to PoemTalk on Berrigan’s “3 Pages”
  28. Video: watch video on Berrigan's “3 Pages”
  29. Reading: read Bernadette Mayer’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
  30. Reading: listen to Mayer perform “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
  31. Reading: read/listen to Mayer’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with text-audio alignment
  32. Video: watch video on Mayer’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”
  33. Reading: read Patrick Rosal’s “Uptown Ode That Ends on an Ode to the Machete”
  34. Reading: listen to Patrick Rosal read "Uptown Ode"
  35. Video: watch video on Patrick Rosal's "Uptown Ode That Ends on an Ode to the Machete" Part I
  36. Video: watch video on Patrick Rosal's "Uptown Ode That Ends on an Ode to the Machete" Part II
  37. Reading: essay assignment #3

Graded: on O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died"
Graded: on Guest's "20"
Graded: writing assignment #3

WEEK 8


chapter 9.1 (week 8)—some trends in recent poetry: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E



<p><b>AN OVERVIEW OF THE FINAL THREE WEEKS OF MODPO:</b> We spend our final three weeks surveying three related groupings of experimental poetry, covering recent decades to the present. In week 8 (chapter 9.1), we look at the so-called “Language Poetry” movement as it emerged in the San Francisco Bay area and New York in the 1970s and early 1980s. In week 9 (chapter 9.2), we turn to chance-generated and aleatory and quasi-nonintentional writing. In week 10 (chapter 9.3), we look at the recent emergence (or resurgence) of conceptual and appropriative — supposedly 'uncreative' — poetry. Several of the 9.2 poets follow directly from the innovations of the 9.1 Language poets. A few of the 9.3 conceptualists see themselves as breaking away from Language poetry and embrace a “post-avant” status, while others see a continuity from modernism through Language and aleatory writing to conceptualism. The extent to which all these poets — but especially the 9.1 and 9.2 poets — show their indebtedness to modernists such as Duchamp, Stein, Williams, and the proto-modernist Dickinson does suggest that our course is the study of a line or lineage of experimental American poetry continuing out of modernism. </p><p><b>Week 8 begins at 9 AM on Sunday, October 29, 2017 and ends at 9 AM on Sunday, November 5. </b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 8 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>By starting with Ron Silliman’s “Albany” and Lyn Hejinian’s 'My Life,' we focus on ways in which — and reasons why — Language poets refused conventional sequential, cause-and-effect presentations of the writing self. They imply that the self is languaged — formed by and in language — and that the self as written is multiple across time (moments and eras) and thus from paratactic sentence to paratactic sentence. While this radical revision of the concept of the lyric self (and of the super-popular genre of memoir) emphasizes one aspect of the Language Poetry movement at the expense of several other important ideas and practices, it is, we feel, an excellent way to introduce the group. Bob Perelman’s “Chronic Meanings,” aside from its contribution to this introduction, also picks up a theme of our course: the experimental writer attempts to encounter death (loss, grief, absence) by somehow making the form of the writing befit that discontinuity and disruption. We began this theme in chapter 2 with Stein's “Let Us Describe” and continued it in chapter 8 with O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died,” and we will proceed with Jackson Mac Low's “A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore” in chapter 9.2. Chapter 9.1 concludes with two poems from Harryette Mullen's book of intense alphabetical and lexicographical self-consciousness, <em>Sleeping with the Dictionary.</em> Mullen's talent is diverse, and her work could have appeared in weeks 8 or 9 or 10, but it's here because we hope some readers will sense an interesting relationship between <em>Sleeping with the Dictionary</em> and Hejinian’s <em>My Life. </em>We realize that the list below makes week 8 seem like a long one, but please note that we are asking you here to read just eight poems. </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). No new writing assignment is due. Peer reviews of writing assignment #3 are due. Peer reviews should be submitted anytime between 9 AM on 10/30/17 and 9 AM on 11/5/17. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, November 1 at noon (Philadelphia time).</


10 videos, 29 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to chapter 9.1, week 8: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: read Ron Silliman’s “Albany"
  3. Reading: listen to Silliman perform “Albany”
  4. Reading: listen to a ModPo person perform “Albany”
  5. Video: watch video on Silliman's “Albany”
  6. Video: watch Ron Silliman on how Stein never lapses into denotation
  7. Reading: read 4 sections of Lyn Hejinian’s "My Life"
  8. Reading: listen to Lyn Hejinian read 4 sections of "My Life"
  9. Video: watch video on Hejinian’s My Life (part 1)
  10. Video: watch video on Hejinian’s My Life (part 2)
  11. Reading: read Bob Perelman’s “Chronic Meanings”
  12. Reading: read Perelman’s note on “Chronic Meanings”
  13. Reading: listen to Perelman talk briefly about “Chronic Meanings”
  14. Reading: listen to Perelman perform “Chronic Meanings”
  15. Reading: read/listen to Perelman’s “Chronic Meanings” as text-audio alignment
  16. Video: watch video on Perelman’s "Chronic Meanings"
  17. Reading: watch video of Bob Perelman & others discussing “Chronic Meanings”
  18. Reading: read Charles Bernstein’s “In a Restless World Like This Is”
  19. Reading: listen to Bernstein perform “In a Restless World Like This Is”
  20. Reading: read/listen to Bernstein’s “In a Restless World Like This Is” as text-audio alignment
  21. Reading: listen to PoemTalk about Bernstein’s “In a Restless World Like This Is”
  22. Video: watch video on Bernstein’s "In a Restless World Like This Is"
  23. Reading: watch Bob Perelman & others discussing Bernstein’s “Restless World”
  24. Reading: read Emily Dickinson’s “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun”
  25. Reading: read passages from Susan Howe’s “My Emily Dickinson”
  26. Reading: listen to an excerpt of Charles Bernstein’s conversation with Susan Howe about Emily Dickinson
  27. Reading: listen to Rae Armantrout read and comment on “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun”
  28. Reading: listen to PoemTalk on Susan Howe’s "My Emily Dickinson"
  29. Video: watch video on Howe’s “My Emily Dickinson”
  30. Reading: read Ron Silliman’s “BART”
  31. Reading: watch Ron Silliman’s advice to those reading Language poets for the first time
  32. Reading: listen to Silliman performing “BART”
  33. Reading: listen to ModPo TAs discuss “BART” with Silliman
  34. Video: watch video on Silliman's BART
  35. Reading: read two poems from Harryette Mullen’s book “Sleeping with the Dictionary”
  36. Reading: listen to Harryette Mullen read & explain “Sleeping with the Dictionary”"
  37. Video: watch brief video introducing Mullen's "Sleeping with the Dictionary"
  38. Video: watch video on Mullen’s “Sleeping with the Dictionary”
  39. Reading: essay #3: write reviews of others’ essays

Graded: on Perelman's "Chronic Meanings"
Graded: on Henijian's "My Life"

WEEK 9


chapter 9.2 (week 9)—some trends in recent poetry: chance



<p><b>Week 9 begins at 9 AM on Sunday, November 5, 2017 and ends at 9 AM on Sunday, November 12.</b> For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 9 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>When Jackson Mac Low put a body of language (for instance a poem by Gertrude Stein) through a rigorous procedure, he would say that he created (or “wrote”—in the sense of computer programming) the procedure and that the procedure then created the poem. One of his goals was to experiment with the elimination or evacuation or at least the suppression of poetic ego. In this sense his work stands alongside that of Silliman and Hejinian who (by other means) sought to question the stable lyric subject that had been for so long been associated with the writing of poetry, and with imagination generally. On this point the chapter 9 poets are unified in breaking from modernism's implicit and often explicit claim of creative, a-world-in-a-poem-making genius. But otherwise the aesthetic connection between, for instance, Mac Low and Stein is strongly positive. (Please note: during our filmed discussion on Mac Low's “A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore,” Al Filreis gets a little carried away when reading a list of words made from Moore’s name; neither the word “spicer” nor the phrase “this weekend” can be derived from those letters!) </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During this week there are two quizzes due (see below). There is also a writing assignment due. Writing assignment #4 should be submitted between 9 AM on 11/6/17 and 9 AM on 11/12/17; after that, peer reviews will be submitted any time between 9 AM on 11/13/17 and 9 AM on 11/19/17. There is also a live webcast on Wednesday, November 8, at 3 PM (Philadelphia time).</p>


8 videos, 27 readings expand


  1. Reading: week 9 introduction: audio and transcript
  2. Reading: read a description of mesostics
  3. Reading: read a brief excerpt from John Cage’s “Writing through Howl”
  4. Reading: read three pages on “Writing through Howl” by Marjorie Perloff
  5. Reading: try your hand at making your own mesostic
  6. Reading: read a selection of John Cage’s adagia
  7. Reading: listen to Cage speak about why he seeks to “mak[e] English less understandable”
  8. Video: watch video on Cage's "Writing through Howl"
  9. Video: watch video on Cage’s adagia
  10. Reading: listen to an excerpt from Jackson Mac Low’s “A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore”
  11. Reading: read Daniel Kane’s comment on Mac Low with reference to Peter Innisfree Moore
  12. Reading: view Mac Low’s chart for performers of "A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore
  13. Reading: read an article about Peter Innisfree Moore
  14. Reading: read Mac Low’s elaborate performance instructions for “A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore”
  15. Video: watch video on Mac Low's "A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore"
  16. Reading: watch discussion of chance poetry & mourning
  17. Reading: listen to Mac Low's 1978 reading of Stein's "A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass"
  18. Reading: listen to Mac Low's commentary on Tender Buttons
  19. Reading: read a brief introduction to Mac Low’s Stein poems
  20. Reading: read Mac Low's poem #100 in his Stein series, “A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair”
  21. Reading: listen to Mac Low perform "A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair"
  22. Video: watch video on Mac Low's approach to Stein
  23. Reading: read Jena Osman’s “Dropping Leaflets”
  24. Reading: listen to Osman perform “Dropping Leaflets”
  25. Reading: listen to PoemTalk on Osman’s “Dropping Leaflets”
  26. Video: watch video on Osman's "Dropping Leaflets"
  27. Reading: read a selection of Bernadette Mayer's writing experiments
  28. Video: watch video on Bernadette Mayer's writing experiments
  29. Reading: read Joan Retallack’s “Not a Cage”
  30. Reading: listen to Retallack read "Not a Cage"
  31. Reading: read/listen to Retallack’s “Not a Cage” as text-audio alignment
  32. Reading: listen to PoemTalk on Retallack's “Not a Cage”
  33. Video: watch video on Retallack's "Not a Cage"
  34. Video: watch further discussion of Retallack's "Not a Cage"
  35. Reading: essay assignment #4

Graded: on John Cage
Graded: on Joan Retallack's "Not a Cage"
Graded: writing assignment #4

WEEK 10


chapter 9.3 (week 10)—some trends in recent poetry: conceptualism & unoriginality



<p><b>Week 10, our final week, begins at 9 AM (Philadelphia time) on Sunday, November 12, 2017 and ends at 9 AM on Sunday, November 19.</b> We will then have a final day (November 19-20) to wrap up and say our final words. For those doing ModPo on their own or in small groups, the week 10 materials are open and available all year.</p><p>Not every artist we meet here claims to be part of a trend or movement now widely known as conceptualist poetics or uncreative writing. Some have at times embraced one or both of those terms: Kenneth Goldsmith, Christian Bok, Caroline Bergvall. Others, such as Rosmarie Waldrop, have been involved in appropriative and unoriginal practices for decades. Erica Baum is a photographer of found language who seems to thrive in the atmosphere created by the explicit conceptualists. Michael Magee is an original Flarfist, which some see as divergent from conceptualism but here at least seems certainly a cousin. Others we encounter in our final week (Jennifer Scappettone and Tracie Morris) are using unoriginality and linguistic borrowing and “writing through” for their own reasons and are creating distinct effects. But every artist in chapter 9.3 displays an intense virtuosity that defies what most people at first expect from writings made out of such an adamant rejection of creativity. We hope that despite the strangeness of it all you will find pleasure in watching them undertake their hyper-concentrated, seemingly impossible projects. What can look easy in such experimentalism is often demanding in the extreme. It's hard to imagine a better examples of this than 'Africa(n)' or 'Eunoia.' </p><p><b>ASSIGNMENTS:</b> During the final week of the course, there are two quizzes due (see below). Peer reviews of writing assignment #4 are also due. Peer reviews should be submitted any time between 9 AM on 11/13/17 and 9 AM on 11/19/17. There is also a webcast on Wednesday, November 15, at 11:30 AM (Philadelphia time).</p>


8 videos, 29 readings expand


  1. Reading: introduction to week 10: audio & transcript
  2. Reading: read “Act 1” of Kenneth Goldsmith’s book “Soliloquy”
  3. Reading: read an interview with Kenneth Goldsmith
  4. Video: watch video on Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Soliloquy”
  5. Reading: read Christian Bök, “Chapter E” of “Eunoia”
  6. Reading: listen to Christian Bök perform "Chapter E” of “Eunoia”
  7. Video: watch video on Bök’s “Eunoia”
  8. Reading: read & look at Erica Baum’s “Card Catalogue”
  9. Reading: read & look at Erica Baum’s “Dog Ear”
  10. Video: watch video on Baum’s “Card Catalogue” and “Dog Ear”
  11. Reading: listen to Caroline Bergvall perform “VIA”
  12. Reading: read Caroline Bergvall’s “VIA”
  13. Reading: read Bergvall’s preface to “VIA”
  14. Reading: read Brian Reed's essay on Bergvall's “VIA”
  15. Reading: listen to a PoemTalk discussion of Bergvall’s “VIA”
  16. Video: watch video on Caroline Bergvall's "VIA"
  17. Reading: read an excerpt from Michael Magee’s “Pledge”
  18. Reading: read Magee's comments on ModPo’ers’ responses to “Pledge”
  19. Reading: read Ron Silliman on Michael Magee’s “My Angie Dickinson”
  20. Reading: read a selection of poems from Magee’s “My Angie Dickinson”
  21. Reading: read Magee's description of the methodology of “My Angie Dickinson”
  22. Reading: read Magee’s definition of “flarf” poetry for Charles Bernstein
  23. Video: watch video on Magee’s “Pledge” & “My Angie Dickinson”
  24. Reading: read Rosmarie Waldrop’s “Shorter American Memory of the Declaration of Independence”
  25. Reading: listen to Waldrop perform “Shorter American Memory of the Declaration of Independence”
  26. Reading: listen to an episode of PoemTalk on Waldrop’s “Shorter American Memory”
  27. Video: watch video on Waldrop’s “Shorter American Memory”
  28. Reading: read Jennifer Scappettone’s “Vase Poppies”
  29. Reading: listen to Scappettone reading "Vase Poppies"
  30. Reading: read/listen to a text-audio alignment of Scappettone’s “Vase Poppies”
  31. Reading: listen to PoemTalk on Scappettone’s “Vase Poppies” and H.D.’s “Sea Poppies”
  32. Video: watch video on Scappettone’s “Vase Poppies”
  33. Reading: listen to Tracie Morris introduce & perform “Africa(n)”
  34. Reading: watch a video of Tracie Morris performing “Africa(n)”
  35. Reading: listen to a musical arrangement of “Africa(n)” with Val Jeanty
  36. Video: watch video on Tracie Morris’s “Africa(n)” & final words
  37. Reading: essay #4: write reviews of others' essays

Graded: on Goldsmith's "Soliloquy"
Graded: on Morris's "Africa(n)"

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