English 609: Poetry Writing

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Academic Resources*

Description of grade breakdown*

my classes



Required Texts: Get all of these

  • Addonzio, Kim: Odinary Genius, Norton 2009: 9780393334166. 9th edition (or another).
  • Hugo, Victor. The Triggering Town. Norton 2010: 9780393338720.
  • Lux, Thomas. New and Selected Poems.Houghton Mifflin 1997 (or the newer one, which I actually ordered).

Required Texts: Choose one from this group (4 or 5 each).

  • Trethewey, Natasha. Beyond Katrina. U. of GA Press 2012. 9780820343112 OR
  • Smith, Patricia. Blood Dazzler. Perseus 2008. 9781566892186

Required Collected: Choose one from this group (3 each):

  • Merwin, W.S. First Four Books of Poems. Persus 2000. 9781556591396.
  • Gluck, Louise. First Four Books of Poems. Harper 1995. 9780880014779.
  • Bishop, Elizabeth. Poems. MacMillan Higher Ed 2011.9780374532369.


Resources online (always expanding)

*Note: you must access these from a WCU campus or follow these instructions to access them off campus. 


  • Poems in a Final Portfolio with 5-10 page critical preface:
    • Structured Assignment Poems (6) 30%
    • Other Poems (6) 30%
  • Critical Analysis of 3 books by a contemporary poet (10-20 page paper) or Review of three recent books with something in common--and 10 minute presentation 20%
  • Two group-led discussions, one of a collected volume, one of a volume on Katrina 20%.
  • Grading: All poems will receive at least a B in content unless they do not do the assignment or are plagiarized (see below); poems that evince extraordinary effort or skill will receive an A. (Because poets should be experts in the language, I will take off for grammar errors.) All other written assignments will be graded like other English papers. Most poems will experience major revisions. 
  • A note on the portfolio: This portfolio should contain poems we have seen and workshopped in class, either online or in person. It should not contain other poems or poems you wrote for another class.
  • Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the inaccurate or unacknowledged use of another's material. One plagiarized assignment will result in a 0 for the assignment; a second instance will result in failure of the course and may result in legal action.
  • Attendance: This class is small, and so attendance is crucial. Please don't miss more than one class, and only if it is an emergency. I will lower your grade for absences.
  • Digital incivility: Nothing makes me madder than you texting and emailing in class. Of course, that appliles to web browsing, listening to music, messaging, making phone calls, watching porn, and using any kind of social media. Please don't do it. If I see it, I will politely ask you to leave.
  • See Academic Integrity policy, Academic support policy, and grade breakdown.

Assignments and Workshopping

We will use a structured system for workshopping. You will turn your poems in four days ahead of time on Blackboard, and you should title workshop poems something like lastname_poem1_workshop.docx. So, for example, post your poem Monday if you want it workshopped for Thursday. If it is late, you will have to wait till the following week. Your classmates will use this form to respond to the poem in writing; they will print out that form and bring it to class.  No one should come to class without having read the workshop poems and prepared the workshoping sheet.  Each student will probably have at least four poems workshopped during the semester. 

After the second week, workshopping takes place in the second half of class.

In workshopping, we follow a prescribed format. It is important for us to help each other, but we must always also be respectful of each other's work. 

Handing in Assignments in readable format (MS Word or RTF preferred). Please don't use open office extensions/ format.

When you aren't workshopping, you should still hand in poems almost every week. You will have about 13 weeks of usable class, and about 12 poems due. That means you should post them every week. I will have a forum for each week for class workshop, and another one for out of class workshopping online. Your classmates are responsible for responding to at least three other poems besides those we are looking at in class.

How do we make sure everyone's poems get seen and read? The easiest way is to rotate. If you responded to Boudreaux's poems last week, respond to Tibideaux's this week, for example. The earlier you post, the better chance you have of getting your poems seen. That's why posting by Monday is critically important.


Modern Writers Research Paper: 

You should read one collected poems or three shorter poetry books by any author from the anthology born after 1920. You can also choose your own author as long as I approve your choice.  No popular musicians, including Bob Dylan. No children's authors. No "pop" poetry by Rod McKuen, Jimmy Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, etc.

Some proscriptions

Note: for several reasons, I would like you to avoid writing about the following topics in this class: politics, religion, fantasy (vampires, Harry Potter, Twilight) or explicit sexual material.

Also, you are honor bound to write poetry for this class and not to hand in old, previously workshopped poetry.


Schedule of Readings/ Topics