class home



core poems

all classes


English 309.01
Mary Adams, Instructor
MW 4:00- 5:15 PM coulter 203

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.


  • Rental: Lehman, David. Oxford Book of American Poetry.
  • Purchase:
    • Addonzio, Kim: A Poet's Companion
    • Trethewey, Natash. Native Guard.


  • Poems 
    • 30% 10 poems total required. Due on assigned days. Assignments with (*) next to them are required; for other assignments, you may make substitutions.
  • Other Assignments
    • Quizzes 5%. I will give a short quiz frequently. You will be able to use your notes but not the book.
    • Critical Paper 10%. Topic choices:
      • Do a critical analysis of one book of poems by Trethewey
      • Do a critical analysis of one book of poems by another poet who has written mostly after 1948. Please get my okay; song lyrics aren't acceptable.
    • Reading sheets (15%). These will be based on the poems in the Lehman book or the Learning Lab on Don't use other poems. Make sure to use a different poet every other week.
    • Participation (in class and in online workshopping) 10%
    • Poetry notebook (20%): based on the Learning Lab. Once a week, pick a core poem (one that says more resources available next to it) and devote some pages to it. Practice at least one writing idea and answer two discussion questions in the notebook (you can also do two writing ideas and one discussion question). NOTE: I will collect the poetry notebooks without notice, so you should always bring them to class.
    • Class Portfolio with preface and revised poems (Final exam) 10%. I grade this on your preface and on the changes you've made in your work. I won't accept any poems that haven't received either comments from me or comments from workshop.


  • Computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices
  • Workshopping:
    • Several times during the course of the semester, we will have workshop periods. During these times, half the students will workshop in class, while the other half will post online. For each workshop day, we will discuss the poems of four students in-class and four 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.
      All students must send me their poems at the beginning of the workshop period. I will post the poems on the web page and on the class bulletin board.
    • 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 one week 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 by email. All poems must be typed. You will hand in a total of 10 poems in the course of the semester. Only four of these will be workshopped. Poems with an * are required. 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 PC Format (MS Word or RTF preferred). Send poems as attachments; do not copy them into the text of the email.
  • 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.

Academic Integrity Policy and Process

This policy addresses academic integrity violations of undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate students should read inside the parenthesis below to identify the appropriate entities in charge of that step of the process.

Students, faculty, staff, and administrators of Western Carolina University (WCU) strive to achieve the highest standards of scholarship and integrity. Any violation of the Academic Integrity Policy is a serious offense because it threatens the quality of scholarship and undermines the integrity of the community. While academic in scope, any violation of this policy is by nature, a violation of the Code of Student Conduct and will follow the same conduct process (see ArticleVII.B.1.a.). If the charge occurs close to the end of an academic semester or term or in the event of the reasonable need of either party for additional time to gather information timelines may be extended at the discretion of the Department of Student Community Ethics (DSCE).

Violations of the Academic Integrity Policy include:

  • Cheating - Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in any academic exercise.
  • Fabrication – Creating and/or falsifying information or citation in any academic exercise.
  • Plagiarism - Representing the words or ideas of someone else as one’s own in any academic exercise.
  • Facilitation - Helping or attempting to help someone to commit a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy in any academic exercise (e.g. allowing another to copy information during an examination)

Any violation of the Academic Integrity Policy will result in no less than failure of the assignment and, if egregious enough, failure of the course. I report all violations to Student Community Ethics. I am required to meet with you to discuss any violations,and will withold your grade until you have attended that meeting and signed all required forms.

WCU instructors reserve the right to use plagiarism prevention software (such as as well as Google, Yahoo, and/or other Internet search engines to determine whether or not student papers have been plagiarized. With plagiarism prevention software, instructors may upload student papers into a
searchable database or teach students how to upload their own work as part of the course requirements.


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.





english department wcu home hunter library