WRITING POETRY: ENGLISH 311
- Instructor: Clarinda Harriss
- Office: Linthicum 218 K; hours before and after class, or
General Premises of Course:
This course is really a cross between a seminar and a work-
shop. It presupposes that you are serious about "working on your
work," and that you have some prior experienace in both reading and
writing poetry. You do not, however, have toa be a poet first and
foremost. This course welcomes song lyricists, playwrights, prose
writers and all manner of experimentors.
You should bed willing to take, even welcome, constructaive
criticism ;of your writings, and to offer such advice to fellow
workshop members. Without this kind of give-and-take, the workshop
would be useless.
Any workshop serves the function of reassuring its members
that they are not alone, that they are kindred folk whose laboars
can benefit all members. In this same spirit, members of this
workshop will also be asked to do some reading in published works
by "outside" poets who, like you, work in the Greater Baltimore
area. Many of these people will be scheduled to come to this class and
share their kexperpience with you.
Books for Course:
deFord and Lott (Harriss), Forms of Verse: British and American
Elman and O'Clair, Norton Anthology of Poetry
Twichell and Behn, The Practice of Poetry
Exercises in these books will be assigned frequently. Until further notice,
bring them all to class.
- Consistent class attendance and participation.
- Doing the outside reading.
- Introducing yourself to follow workshop members with something
you have written--turned in the SECOND DAY OF CLASS, duplicated
in at least ten copies.
- Submtting for class comment one poem every week, minimum.
- Complelting a semester project consisting of ten selected
poems drawn from those worked on during the semester. NO MORE
AND NO FEWER THAN TEN POEMS CAN GO INTO THIS
COLLECTION. The collection will be prefaced by an introduction
in which you discuss your principle for selection of these ten poems
(thematic? "like them best"? "worked on them hardest"? or what-
ever). The entire "collected works" will be accompanied by a cover
letter addressed to an actual literary magazine that you have re-
searched for its appropriateness as a publisher of your poetry. With
this letter you will give me a list of three other similarly suitable lit
- Keeping a reponse/exercise journal. This may consist entirely
of your pencilled comments on poems that become part of our
- Offering several of your selected poems in an informal poetry
reading to which you will be urged to bring food, potables, and
This is an S/U course. "S," Satisfacatory, means turning in
all the required work (on time). The course gives you three
credits toward graduation. It is NOT a second writing course.
It does fulfill a "Humanities" GUR. And it does count toward
the Writing Concentration within the English Major.
Nice By-Products of Course:
- An excuse to write and get credit for it.
- Instant gratification: getting immediate response to your work.
- Meeting fellow writers, both at TSU and in the larger community.
- Helpful tips on how and where to get published.
- Achievement of a degree of metrical literacy by doing some
experiments in the traditional forms.
General Order of Events:
A poem is to be turned in each Monday. One copy will do, but be sure to save a clean
copy to turn in upon request for the "anthology" that will come out, for workshopping
purposes, every couple of weeks. You will select which of your several most recent
poems go into the anthologies. These anthologies will be distributed
to all class members. Everybody in the class is expected to read every poem
very, very carefully and to make detailed, specific written comments on each.
These comments will form the basis for your contributions to the workshop. Next to
your work on your own poems, they are the most important aspect of the course.
Specific requirements for poems submitted during the semester:
Three of the following experiments in so-called traditional form are required: 10 ll.
of blank verse; sestina; villanelle; sonnet; haiku series, minimum of three; rondeau;
traditional blues; traditional ballad. See Forms of Verse.
Try a poem based on a traditional rhetorical figure like litotes, byperbole,
metonomy, synecdoche, oxymoron, apostrophe, etc. Or try a poem based
on conversation: multimple speakers, overheard fragments, etc.
Try mixed levels, varied sources; deliberate omissionsn such as leaving out
all adjectives, all connectives, etc.
- FIGURES OF SPEECH
Try alternative processes, such as starting with a sensory detail and then
discovering what it "stands for," or deliberately build a whole poem around
a dynamite simile or metaphor. Try making metaphor out of two images rather
than one image and one "meaning."
- Using Forms of Verse for help in distinguishing among these devices,
write one good example of each of the following: (a) simile (b) metaphor
(c) personification (d) allusion (e) metaphysical conceit (f) epigram.
- Write a description of a person, place or thing resetricting yourself
to the use of only one of the senses.
- Write a descriptioon of the same person, place or thing using all the
senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, smell, and kinaesthesia (muscle tension).
- Take a reasonable simple song that appeals to you and write different
words to it.
- Attempt to build a short poem around the most unpoetic thing you can
think of: a urinal, old tennis shoes, a corned beef sandwich, a hockey puck.
- Here are some literally translated Japanese haiku that have not been
arranged into the typical English version (see FOV) or given any overt cohesion.
Use them as raw material to "translate" into haiku or some other short poem:
Twilight: sadness: wicked hand: cut peony
Loneliness: fireworks: one shooting star
Hot sun, fat melons roll out of their leaves into the sun--fools!
Life: bautterfly perched on grass
Amorous cat, yowls, in love or without love
Snowy morning: graffiti on the wall. Pitiful.
Beggar's bed, full of lice: busy, noisy.
Former tenant, I know you. Shiver.
Crossing the braidge alone in the moonlight. Sound of my steps.
Orphan: New Year's Party: envies scolded children.
- Teamwork: Find a poetry-writing friend. Agree upon one central theme or
image. Go off alone to your chilly garrent room and work with that theme or image.
Compare notes. Be willing to share both efforets with this class. Be willing to
make a third thing based on gleanings from both efforts.