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Instructor: Dr. Tim Newcomb

--Cary Nelson, ed. Anthology of Modern American Poetry
--access to a good unabridged dictionary; internet access
--xerox handouts as announced


One of my central assumptions in reading and teaching poetry is that like all literature, poetry is a social form which always, in some way or other, reflects the social and political relationships of the culture in which they were written. To learn more about those relationships is to understand better our country's past, present, and future. We will examine the characteristic linguistic structures and rhetorical techniques used by American poets, and will articulate how those elements of "style" promote the poet's major themes. I also expect you to be able to write intelligently and analytically about American literature, and to read criticism with responsive understanding.

More colloquially, some of the central questions we should ask ourselves as we go along are:

1. What do American poets worry about? What are they afraid of, angry at, intrigued by?

2. What kind of society do they believe America is? Who is responsible for producing and maintaining its conditions? How can it be changed? What kind of society should America be? What solutions they have come to, if any, for the problems they have explored? How do they view America in relation to the rest of the world?

3. How did the development of modern poetry in this country contribute to the break away from a culture which imitated European forms and manners, and contributed towards the creation of a distinctively "American culture"? What stylistic techniques characterize that "American-ness? For that matter, does such a thing even exist?

4. How has American poetry participated in the central cultural movements of the 20th century, modernism and postmodernism?

5. How has American poetry helped to provide a voice for alternative views and opinions which might otherwise be lost or silenced in the "official story"? How may it have contributed to the silencing of difference?

6. How has modern and postmodern poetry related to other artforms of the 20th-century?

Assignments must be read before their scheduled discussion in class. All assignments from the Anthology include the biographical introductions to each poet which precedes the poems.

Week 1 Introduction: What Makes Poetry Modern?

--Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Concord Hymn"; H. W. Longfellow, "The Day Is Done," "The Arrow and the Song" (xeroxes)

Weeks 1-2  "I am large, I contain multitudes": Walt Whitman

--Whitman, "One's Self I Sing," "I Hear It Was Charged Against Me," "A Glimpse," "Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night"; "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" (xerox)

Weeks 2-3 "Much madness is divinest sense": The Beginnings of Dissent

--Dickinson, poems 258, 303, 465, 585, 712, 754, 1129
--Stephen Crane, selections from The Black Riders and War Is Kind (xeroxes)

Weeks 3-5 Populist voices

Pioneers of Modern Vernacular Verse

--Edwin A. Robinson, "The House on the Hill," "The Clerks," "Miniver Cheevy," "Mr Flood's Party"
--Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology (excerpts)
--Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken, "Mending Wall," "Desert Places," "Design," "Fire and Ice"; "Acquainted With the Night," (xerox)
--Carl Sandburg, "Chicago," "Subway," "Muckers," "Buttons," "Planked Whitefish," "Grass," "Cool Tombs" (anthology); "Hats," "People Who Must," "Skyscraper" (xeroxes)
--Edna St. Vincent Millay, "First Fig," "Love Is Not All"; "Recuerdo" (xerox)

Writing African-American Identity

--Paul Laurence Dunbar, "We Wear the Mask," "Sympathy," "Haunted Oak"
--Alice Dunbar-Nelson, "I Sit and Sew"
--James Weldon Johnson, "O Black and Unknown Bards"
--Claude McKay, "If We Must Die," "America," "The Harlem Dancer," "The White City"
--Countee Cullen, "Incident," "Yet Do I Marvel"
--Jean Toomer, "Reapers," "Portrait in Georgia," "Her Lips Are Copper Wire"
--Georgia Douglas Johnson, "The Heart of a Woman," "Common Dust"
--Anne Spencer, "White Things," "Lady, Lady"
--Angelina Weld Grimké, "The Black Finger," "Tenebris," "A Mona Lisa," "Fragment"

Weeks 6-7 Avant-Garde Styles

Portrait of the Artist as Young Alien

--Ezra Pound, "A Pact"; "The Rest" (xerox)
--T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Styles of Innovation I: Imagism and Hellenism

--H.D., "Sea Rose," "Garden," "Oread," "Helen"
--Amy Lowell, "Venus Transiens," "Patterns" (xerox)

Styles of Innovation II: The Far East as Usable Past

--Pound, "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter"
--Wallace Stevens, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

Styles of Innovation III: PAINT IT NEW!

--Pound, "In a Station of the Metro"
--Gertrude Stein, "Patriarchal Poetry" (excerpts)
--William Carlos Williams, "The Great Figure," "The Red Wheelbarrow"
-Archibald MacLeish, "Ars Poetica"

Weeks 7-8 Views of the Modern World

"A Heap of Broken Images": The Modern World as Waste Land

--Eliot, excerpts from The Waste Land; "The Hollow Men"
--Marianne Moore, "A Grave"
--MacLeish, "The End of the World"

"An Old Chaos of the Sun": The World as Earthly Paradise

--Stevens, "The Snow Man," "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," "Sunday Morning"
--Williams, "Spring and All"
--Moore, "The Steeple-Jack" (xerox)
--e.e. cummings, "in Just-"

Weeks 8-10 In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: Modern Poetry and the Social World

"No one to witness and adjust": William Carlos Williams, Poet as Doctor

--Williams, "The Young Housewife," "The Yachts," "This is Just to Say," "Proletarian Portrait," "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus," "The Widow's Lament in Springtime"; and "To Elsie"

"Poetry is the cruellest bunk": Poet as Protester

--Michael Gold, "Ode to Walt Whitman" (xerox)
--John Beecher, "Report to the Stockholders"
--Millay, "Justice Denied in Massachusetts," "Say That We Saw Spain Die"
--Sol Funaroff, "The Man at the Factory Gate"
--Edwin Rolfe, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been"

He Has His Say: Poet as Bluesman

--Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Christ in Alabama" (see p. 1232), "Come to the Waldorf-Astoria" (see p. 1230), "The Bitter River," "Let America Be America Again," "Ku Klux"
--Sterling Brown, "Scotty Has His Say," "Memphis Blues," "Sharecroppers," "Southern Cop"
--Melvin Tolson, "Dark Symphony"


Poet as Soldier and Internee: American Poetry and World War II

--Randall Jarrell, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," "Losses," "Protocols"; "A Camp in the Prussian Forest," "Prisoners" (xeroxes)
--Japanese American Concentration Camp Haiku (all)

"Keeping Their Difficult Balance": the Cooked 1950's

--Richard Wilbur, "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World,"
--Elizabeth Bishop, "The Armadillo," "One Art"

"America I Can't Stand My Own Mind": the Raw 1950's

--Allen Ginsberg, excerpt from Howl; "America," A Supermarket in California" (xeroxes)
--Gary Snyder, "Riprap," "Axe Handles"

Portrait of the Artist as Tortured Psyche: "Confessional" Poetry

--Robert Lowell, "Skunk Hour"
--Sylvia Plath, "Lady Lazarus," "Daddy"

Poetry and Race: The Poet as Concerned Citizen

--Robert Lowell, "For the Union Dead"
--Gwendolyn Brooks, "We Real Cool" (see p. 1233), "The Blackstone Rangers," "The Boy Died in My Alley"

And poems of your choice, as time permits.

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