Thursday, May 17, 2018

Course feedback

Congratulations on having finished your exam! Please take a few minutes to give me feedback on this survey.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sylvia Plath

For Friday, we'll read three poems by the dynamic poetic powerhouse Sylvia Plath, who during her too-brief life created a rich and riveting body of work. Please read each of the following poems with care (twice if possible):

The title poem from Plath's first collection, "The Colossus."

And two poems from her second collection, the posthumously published Ariel: "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus."

 Sylvia Plath the woman

Sylvia Plath the muse      

("What Sylvia Plath Taught Me" by Summer Pierre)

If you're interested in exploring the question of Sylvia Plath's choice to deploy elaborate, exaggerated Holocaust imagery in the extended metaphors of some of her best known poems from Ariel, quite a bit of critical work has been done on this question, including "'The Boot in the Face': The Problem of the Holocaust in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath," which is fairly critical of Plath's choices and "'Black Phones': Postmodern Poetics in the Holocaust Poetry of Sylvia Plath" by Matthew Boswell, which explores different critical perspectives on Plath's Holocaust imagery, and some poetic and artistic contexts of her choice to use these images, without necessarily taking a side.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Howl, parts i and ii––Optional reading for Thursday

Allen Ginsberg's Howl, parts i and ii

And don't forget your required reading: "America" and "Supermarket in California" in the blue coursepacket.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ron Padgett poems

The Ron Padgett poems and the Ted Berrigan poem for tomorrow are in the blue course packet. Here's another optional Ron Padgett poem––"How to Be Perfect"––if you're interested. It's longish but reads quickly, and it includes some pretty good advice. It also has some resonances with "How to Live" by Charles Harper Webb.

A poetry reading flyer made by Joe Brainard,
a close friend of both Berrigan and Ron Padgett

Monday, May 7, 2018

Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks

It’s 2016 and you’re part of a group getting ready to create a monument to Gwendolyn Brooks somewhere in Chicago for her centenary in 2017. First, decide what poem (or segment of a poem) of hers you would choose to include on her monument. Also contemplate what elements of her biography you would highlight. Deliberate and decide, creating a rough sketch of the poem (or poem segment) and biography. You have 250 words total to work with, words that will be added to either a plaque with Brooks’s image or grace a statue representing her likeness. Be ready to discuss why your group chose the poem and the biographical details you chose.

Second, the major donor for the Brooks monument has created a fund to replicate a smaller version the monument at her alma mater, University High School in Urbana Illinois. The mini-monument can either be a 3x5 foot plaque or a statue no more than 4 feet tall (which could be placed on a pedestal). Spend ten minutes walking around the campus at Uni (inside and/or outside) and choose a location for the mini-monument and a rationale for its location. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Compare the speaker of “I, Being Born a Woman” with the speaker of “Love Is Not All.” What do they have in common, if anything? How are they different? Is it possible that this could be the same speaker, in very different moments? Why or why not?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Claude McKay

In-class individual writing for “Harlem Dancer”: In what specific ways does the speaker set himself apart from the other audience members who watch the dancer? Why do you think he makes a point to do this in the poem? 

Portrait of Claude McKay, addressed to James
Weldon Johnson, "my...esteemed fellow craftsman."

Group work: First, briefly discuss "Harlem Dancer": What do you think the dancer’s situation is? (Where does she work? What is her life like? How is she different from and/or similar to the audience that consumes her performance?) How does the speaker transform or elevate her situation and/or performance? 

Then discuss the questions below for either "To the White Fiends" or "America"

“To the White Fiends”
  • Summarize the message or argument of this poem, as you see it. Be sure to attend to the way the poem’s ideas shift as it develops.
  • Is this a threat? Or is it a rebuke? Or something else? How does the second half of the poem change the threat that may be seen in the first half? Does the threat still remain, or is it diffused?
  • Does this poem remind you of any poem we’ve read so far this semester? If so, which and how? If not, does it call to mind any other poem, story, or song?

  • Which America does McKay focus on? What details call this version of America into being?
  • What aspects of America does the poem notinclude or focus on in the “she” described in the poem? (Keep in mind when you answer this that the poem was written in 1921).
  • How do you read the last four lines? What future does McKay’s speaker imagine for America, and how do you imagine this future might come about, in his mind?
  • Does this poem remind you of any other poem you’ve ever read? If so, which and how? If not, does it call to mind any other story, song, etc.?