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English 309.01
Mary Adams, Instructor
MW 2:30-4 Coulter 304

About this course

This course is designed to improve your poetry. Sometimes, that means learning about things you're not interested in, and always, it means reading a lot of work by other people. We will learn to think about four levels of poetry (typographic, sonic, sensory, ideational) and will develop a vocabulary to talk about writing, reading, experiencing, and improving poems.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, you should have developed or improved the following skills, which will be measured by your grades in class assignments:

  • Understanding of rudimentary poetic meter and form
  • Critical vocabulary for analyzing and workshopping original work
  • Ability to work in a range of structured and free forms
  • Knowledge of current practices by contemporary American poets

You will also gain resources for continuing to write, publish, and get support beyond the classroom.


  • Purchase:
    • American Sonnets for My Past and Futureby Terrance Hayes
      ISBN 978-0-14-313318-6
      Publisher Penguin Publishing Group
      Publication Date June 19, 2018
    • Be With by Forrest Gander
      ISBN 978-0-8112-2605-9
      Publisher New Directions Publishing Corporation
      Publication Date August 28, 2018
    • Sightlines by Arthur Sze
      ISBN 978-1-55659-559-2
      Publisher Copper Canyon Press
      Publication Date April 9, 2019
    • The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn; Chase Twichell (Editor)
      ISBN 978-0-06-273024-4
      Publisher HarperCollins Publishers
      Publication Date September 1992


  • Poems 40% 10 poems total required, workshopped and then revised for final portfolio. Due on assigned days. Assignments with (*) next to them are required; for other assignments, you may make substitutions. In the final portfolio, you will have revised poems and a preface. I won't accept any poems that haven't received either comments from me or comments from workshop.
  • Other Assignments
    • Critical Paper 20%.
      • Do a critical analysis of one book of poems by any of the three authors whose books you are buying for this class.
      • You must also do worksheets for the other two authors.
    • Reading sheets (20%). These will be based on the poems on the syllabus for that week or the Learning Lab or Collections on Don't use other poems. Make sure to use a different poet every other week.
    • Participation (in class and in online workshopping) 20%. If you don't participate regularly in online and class workshopping, you cannot pass the course. Workshopping means submitting your poems, but it also means giving thoughtful feedback to the poems of other people.


  • Computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices
  • Workshopping:
    • Several times during the course of the semester, we will have workshop periods. During these times, three students will workshop in class, but all students will workshop online. For each workshop day, we will discuss the poems of three students in-class and three students online. For each poem you workshop, you will use the same prompt.
    • For in-class workshopping, all classmates must print out each poem as well as two copies of their comments. You will give one copy of your comments to the poet and one copy to me. Make sure your name is on them.
    • I won't accept handwritten poems without titles, and I won't accept poems copied into the email. Each student will probably have 4 poems workshopped during the semester. 
    • Peers should have a weekend to respond to the poems online. You should use the same general vocabulary/ scriptwe use in class to talk about poems online.
    • 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. 
  • Other Poems:
    • Poems are due on Friday (usually) on Blackboard. Put an asterisk by poems that are slated for workshop. All poems must be typed. You will hand in a total of 10 poems in the course of the semester. Only about four of these will be workshopped in class, but all poems will be read on the discussion forum. Your portfolio should include at least five assigned poems in form. With the others, you can choose to write on the topic or mode we discuss in class, or you can choose to write something else. But you must hand in a poem on the prescribed day. I will not accept poems in your final portfolio unless I have seen them during the semester.
  • Hand in Assignments in Word on Blackboard. Don't give me links to other sources.
  • A word about grammar. Poets are craftsmen; their craft is the English language. Therefore, they should write in sentences and use good grammar. It is unusual to find good poetry that is not written this way; even experimentalists like e.e. cummings had a strong grasp of grammar. Therefore, I will take off for poor grammar and spelling on your poems just as I would on an English paper.
  • Grading: I use a plus/minus grading scale, but I don't grade individual poems. Students who do all poems (5 formal, 5 other) will receive at least a B for their poetry; poems that evince extraordinary effort or skill will receive an A (of course, all poems must be grammatically correct and original). All other written assignments will be graded like other English papers. 

To help you get the most out of the course, I have instituted these policies:

  • Web site: You are responsible for keeping up with the material on the web site. I do not use a printed syllabus, and I update the syllabus frequently, so always hit reload when you access it.
  • Email: My email address is madams [at] wcu [dot] edu. Your WCU email (the one with catamount in it) is the way I contact you. You're responsible for checking mail from that address.
  • Food and Drink in class. You may bring a beverage to class, but no food. You are responsible for cleaning up any mess caused by your beverage.
  • Bring your Books! When class starts, the books should be on your desk, opened. After the first warning, if you are in class without your book, you will get 1/2 of an absence. Note: you will need several books by the second day of class.
  • Cell phones, Laptops, and other Electronic Devices in class. I cannot tolerate these. Please do not insult me or the other taxpayers, who pay at least 70% of your tuition if you are not on financial aid (more if you are), by texting or facebooking in class. Turn them off, off, off, please.

Attendance Policy

This class meets twice a week, so I begin lowering your grade by one letter after four missed classes. That includes excused or unexcused absences; I don't care why you're absent. However, here are some good tips regarding attendance:

  • Don't schedule doctor's appointments during my class.
  • Don't schedule makeup classes or exams for other instructors during my class.
  • Don't shedule rehearsals, trips home, family reunions, or trips to see your significant other during my class.
  • Don't leave my class before it is over or arrive more than 10 minutes after it has begun. I count those as absences.
  • Frequent lateness equals an absence.
  • Try to save your absences for illness and emergencies.
  • Above all, find out what you missed and what's required for the next class. You are responsibe for all missed material. I don't like emails asking if you missed anything.

I do excuse university absences when I am required to do so (university sponsored trips, etc.) but I expect you to find out what you missed and do the work you missed.

Digital Incivility

You may use an ebook reader in my class, but please don't use a computer, phone, or laptop for anything else. Turn your phones off and put them away (not in your lap or on your desk). If I discover that you're on Facebook, email, texting, browsing, or using any digital resources except for our textbook, I will mark you absent and ask you to leave.

If you have a disability that requires the use of certain computer tools, please let me know in advance. I reserve the right to check your computer's screen to make sure you're following my policy. If you put it away when I try to look at it, I will assume you are breaking my rules and will mark you absent and ask you to leave.


No student may record, tape, or photograph any classroom activity without the express written consent of the instructor. Students may not make audio or video recordings of course activities except students permitted to record as an approved accommodation. Recordings of class may not be posted publicly (online or otherwise) or distributed to individuals who are not students in the course without the express permission of the faculty member and of any students who are recorded

Office of Disability Services

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Western Carolina University is committed to providing equal educational opportunities for students with documented disabilities and/or medical conditions.  Students who require reasonable accommodations must identify themselves as having a disability and/or medical condition and provide current diagnostic documentation to the Office of Disability Services.  All information is confidential.  Please contact the Office of Disability Services at (828) 227-3886 or come by Suite 135 Killian Annex for an appointment.

Student Support Services

Student Support Services provides support to students who are either first-generation, low-income or those who have disclosed a disability with: academic advising, mentoring, one-on-one tutorial support, and workshops focused on career, financial aid and graduate school preparation. You may contact SSS at (828) 227-7127 or email for more information. SSS is located in the Killian Annex, room 138.

Writing and Learning Commons (WaLC)

Electronic format (with hyperlinks):
The Writing and Learning Commons (WaLC), located in BELK 207, provides free small-group course tutoring, one-on-one writing tutoring and academic skills consultations, and online writing and learning resources for all students.  All tutoring sessions take place in the WaLC or in designated classrooms on campus. To schedule tutoring appointments, log in to TutorTrac from the WaLC homepage ( or call 828-227-2274. Distance students and students taking classes at Biltmore Park are encouraged to use Smarthinking and the WaLC’s online resources. Students may also take advantage of writing tutoring offered at the Biltmore Park campus on certain days of the week; call 828-227-2274 or log in to TutorTrac and select “Biltmore Park Writing Tutoring” for availabilities.





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