L205 2097-2099 STAFF
Introduction to Poetry

2097 2:30p-3:20p MWF (25) 3 cr. NALENCZ (description follows)
2098 9:30a-10:45a TR (25) 3 cr. MC DOWELL (description follows)
2099 4:00p-5:15p TR (25) 3 cr. BOLZ (description follows)


Kinds, conventions, and elements of poetry in a selection of poems from several historical periods.


This course will teach students how to read and interpret poetry and also how to think poetically. We will pay close attention to and learn about the formal features of poetry because it is in these features that meaning often becomes apparent. The central and recurring focus of our study of poetry during the semester will be metaphor: by the time of the final exam, students will find it second nature to recognize and analyze metaphors and metaphoric language in poetry. The ability to recognize and reflect on metaphor, in poetry as in all language, is, I think, the most important and lasting attribute that this course has to offer.

This is not a course about how to write poetry: although creative work is certainly encouraged, the writing assignments in this course are all critical in nature. There will be three papers, a midterm, and a final exam. In addition, each student will memorize and recite one poem during the semester. The primary text for the course will be the Norton Anthology of Poetry (fourth edition); also assigned are Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, and Louise Glück, The Wild Iris.



One of the premises of a poem is that the words on the page represent or mimic a speaking voice-usually human, but not always. At the same time, however, the voice of a poem differs from what you would hear in, say, a typical bus station, crowded hallway, or checkout line because of the artistry used to construct it. Poets manipulate the formal elements of language (word sounds, meter, imagery, line lengths, etc.) to create speaking voices that suggest the personalities of speakers. In the process, they convey ideas, impressions, attitudes, and perspectives to their readers/listeners, often to produce reactions. The power of poems comes from the sense of experience they convey. Poems allow us to try on someone else's perspective for a time. This course will examine the qualities of poetic voices and the artistry they conceal. Its purpose is to help you gain a better understanding and appreciation of poetry as a human endeavor, not simply as an object for dispassionate study. We will read primarily lyrics, ranging from the late 16th century (the time of Shakespeare) through the present. In addition to our daily reading, the course will entail four or five papers, two short-answer exams, a smallgroup presentation, and miscellaneous exercises involving scansion, memorization, and form.


The goal of L2051 is to introduce you to the art of poetry. Accordingly, this course will provide you with instruction in and opportunities to learn and practice strategies for reading and studying poetry that represents a wide range of historical periods and a variety of literary conventions and techniques as you strive toward developing a greater understanding and appreciation of the art. At the same time, because this section has been designated as "writing intensive," you will also receive instruction in and opportunities to practice strategies for writing about poetry.