English 609 is a graduate course offered by Western Carolina Univesity in Cullowhee, NC.



Academic Integrity Policy*

Academic Resources*

Description of grade breakdown*

my classes




English 609.01 Poetry Writing

Note: use of this syllabus constitutes acceptance of all the policies in it, including the policies indicated with an asterisk one the menu (left).

download workhop form 

Go to Class Discussion page (for off-week workshopping)

Mary Adams, Instructor
Class Meets in Biltmore Park 335

Contact information: madams (at) wcu.edu; office 227-3929

Web Page: http://www.maryadams.net


  • Addonzio: Poet's Companion
  • Agodon: Daily Poet
  • Lehman: Oxford Book of American Poetry
  • Gluck: Faithful & Virtuous Night (National Book Award 2014)
  • Szybist: Incarnadine (National Book Award 2013)
  • Seshadri: 3 Sections (Pulitzer Prize)

some recommended books

  • Sims, Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, 2nd edition (great for contemporary writing)
  • Addonzio, Ordinary Genius
  • Mayes, Discovery of Poetry


*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%
  • Weekly quizzes 10%
  • Your commonplace book 10% (see Ordinary Genius). Please bring to class each week; I'll do a couple spot checks. You should treat this like a reading a writing diary, but of course it should be legible because I have to check it. This should contain:
    • Notes on your readings of poems
    • Brainstorming
    • Responses to exercises in the required reading
    • Ideas'
    • Other stuff.
  • 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 should email me and your classmates your poems in Word (doc) or RTF form by the Thursday before we workshop it. Your classmates will use this form to respond to the poem in writing; they will print out that form and bring it to class. 

After the second week, workshopping takes place in the second half of class. Students should email me poems by Thursday afternoon. Poems that are to be workshopped will be available on the web and e-mailed to students by Friday afternoon. 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. 

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 PC Format (MS Word or RTF preferred--please don't use the new "Vista" word format with the docx extension). Whenever possible, you should e-mail poems for workshop to me by Saturday evening, so that I can e-mail them to the class by Monday. Alternatively, you can e-mail poems to the whole class by hitting "reply to all" to one of our class emails.  

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.


madams (at) wcu.edu