The Technique of Poetry
English 355, Autumn 2010
Go directly to:
Office: (973) 353-5204; 531 Hill Hall.
Hours: Monday, 1:30–2:30, Wednesday, 2:30–4:00, and
by appointment (appointments are best).
Home: (609) 882-4642 (before 10:00 p.m.!).
(the best way to reach me).
- Readings: I'll make a deal with you. I'm
ordering just one book (The Norton Anthology of
Poetry, shorter fifth edition) to keep your costs down,
and I've kept nearly all the readings very short —
sometimes just a few pages a week. In return, though, you
have to do the readings, all of them, and with great care.
It's not enough to skim in the ten minutes before class: I want
you to read every poem multiple times, looking up every
word you don't know, and making notes as you go. (Have a
dictionary with you at all times, whether in hard copy or on the
electronic gizmo of your choice.) This is a class about close
reading, and it makes no sense for me to stand up in front
of you and interpret things you haven't read. So do the readings,
try to understand as much as you can, and be ready with questions
- Participation: This is a smallish class,
which means I want everyone to be involved in discussions. I
don't want to lecture: I'll provide any necessary historical and
biographical backgrounds and introduce you to technical terms,
but you have to do all the serious work. Participation is
mandatory, and will figure in your final grade. There's also one
specific in-class exercise, for which you'll have to do some
preparation in the Oxford English Dictionary
(OED) before class and be ready to discuss assigned
portions of the poem.
- Written Assignments: There are four short
exercises in the OED, and four close readings of
roughly five pages. I'll discuss them in class. Know that neither
the OED exercises nor the close readings require
introductions, conclusions, lists of works cited, or any of that
— they should be in clear prose, but they're not
argumentative papers, just careful engagements with language.
This means they're fairly free-form.
- Final Exam: There will be a final
examination of roughly ninety minutes. It will include questions
on poetic form and ask for a few close readings of passages of
- Attendance: Almost any excuse,
given in advance (in person, by phone, or by E-mail),
will receive my blessing. Absences not excused in advance will be
frowned upon, and your final grade will be lowered by half a
grade for each unexcused absence. The same policy applies to late
assignments: I'll grant extensions, but only if you talk
to me before the due date.
- Plagiarism: It should go without
saying, but all work in this class must be your own.
Handing in someone else's work as your own will result in an F
for the course with no second chance, and may result in
disciplinary action. I encourage you to use outside
sources, but you have to cite anything you didn't write yourself.
If you have even an inkling of a doubt about what's legitimate or
how to cite something, see me before handing in the
Schedule of Class Meetings
- Wednesday, 1 Sept.
- Introduction. Class business,
- Monday, 6 Sept.
- No Class: Labor Day.
- Wednesday, 8 Sept.
Hymn"; selections from Beowulf; riddles.
- Monday, 13 Sept.
- Geoffrey Chaucer, The
General Prologue to the Canterbury
- Wednesday, 15 Sept.
- Chaucer, selection from Troilus
and Criseide; William Langland, selection from Piers
Plowman; ballads: "Lord Randal," "Bonny Barbara
Allan"; Thomas Wyatt, "They Flee
- Monday, 20 Sept.
- William Shakespeare, "The Phoenix
and the Turtle." In-Class Exercise: Present
your findings on Shakespeare's poem from the Oxford English
Dictionary. No need to hand anything in, but you should
come prepared with notes.
- Wednesday, 22 Sept.
- Shakespeare, Sonnets 18
("Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?"), 29
("When, in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes"), 116
("Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds"), 130 ("My
Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing like the Sun").
- Monday, 27 Sept.
- Donne, "Song"
("Go and Catch a Falling Star"), "A Valediction
Forbidding Mourning," "The
Flea," selections from Holy Sonnets; George
Collar." First OED Exercise Due: Report on
any three words in the works of Chaucer, Langland, Wyatt, or
- Wednesday, 29 Sept.
- John Milton, "L'Allegro,"
- Monday, 4 Oct.
- Milton, "When I
Consider How My Light Is Spent," "Methought I
Saw," selections from Paradise Lost.
- Wednesday, 6 Oct.
- Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy
Garden"; Katherine Philips, "To
My Excellent Lucasia"; Anne Finch, "The
Nocturnal Reverie"; Aphra Behn, "To
the Fair Clarinda." First Close Reading Due:
In five pages, provide a close reading of any poem betweeen
Chaucer and Milton that we did not discuss in detail in
- Monday, 11 Oct.
- John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, "The
Disabled Debauchee," "The
Imperfect Enjoyment"; Behn, "The
Disappointment"; Jonathan Swift, "A Description of a City
Lady's Dressing Room."
- Wednesday, 13 Oct.
- Alexander Pope, The
Rape of the Lock.
- Monday, 18 Oct.
- Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written
in a Country Churchyard." Second OED Exercise
Due: Report on any three words in the works of Donne,
Herbert, Milton, Marvell, Philips, Finch, Behn, Rochester, Swift,
- Wednesday, 20 Oct.
- William Wordsworth, "Lines"
("Tintern Abbey"), "Ode"
("Intimations of Immortality"), "I Wandered
Lonely as a Cloud."
- Monday, 25 Oct.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla
Khan," "The Rime of
the Ancient Mariner," "Dejection: An
Ode." Second Close Reading Due: In five
pages, provide a close reading of any Restoration or
eighteenth-century poem that we did not discuss in
detail in class.
- Wednesday, 27 Oct.
- George Gordon, Lord Byron, "She Walks in
Beauty"; Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ode to the
West Wind"; John Keats, "On First
Looking into Chapman's Homer," "Ode to a
Nightingale," "Ode on a
- Monday, 1 Nov.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Lady
of Shalott," "The
Lotos-Eaters"; Matthew Arnold, "Dover
Beach"; Thomas Hardy, "The
- Wednesday, 3 Nov.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, selections from Sonnets
from the Portuguese; Robert Browning, "My Last
Duchess," "Fra Lippo
Lippi." Third OED Exercise Due: Report on
any three words in the works of Gray, Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Arnold, or Hardy.
- Monday, 8 Nov.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, selections from Evangeline
Song of Hiawatha; Edgar Allan Poe, "The
Raven"; Walt Whitman, selection from Song of
Myself, "When Lilacs
Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."
- Wednesday, 10 Nov.
- Emily Dickinson, all selections.
- Monday, 15 Nov.
- Edward Lear, "How
Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear"; Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's
Beauty"; A. E. Housman, "Loveliest of
Trees, the Cherry Now"; William Butler Yeats, "The Lake
Isle of Innisfree," "The Second
Coming," "Sailing to
Byzantium," "Leda and the
Swan." Third Close Reading Due: In five
pages, provide a close reading of any nineteenth-century poem we
did not discuss in detail in class.
- Wednesday, 17 Nov.
- Robert Frost, "Mending
Apple-Picking"; Wallace Stevens, "The Emperor
of Ice-Cream," "Anecdote
of the Jar," "Thirteen
Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"; Marianne Moore, "The Fish";
Elizabeth Bishop, "The
- Monday, 22 Nov.
- William Carlos Williams, "The Red
Wheelbarrow," "This Is Just to Say"; Ezra Pound, "A Pact,"
Station of the Metro"; T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock."
- Wednesday, 24 Nov.
- No Class: Thanksgiving break (Friday
- Monday, 29 Nov.
- Eliot, The
- Wednesday, 1 Dec.
- Jean Toomer, "Reapers";
Langston Hughes, "The Weary
Blues," "The Negro
Speaks of Rivers"; Richard Wright, selection from
Haiku: This Other World; Gwendolyn Brooks, "We Real
Cool," "Medgar Evers"; Amiri Baraka, "An
Agony. As Now."
- Monday, 6 Dec.
- Adrienne Rich, "Diving
into the Wreck"; Sylvia Plath, "Daddy," "Lady Lazarus"; Allen Ginsberg, selection
Supermarket in California." Fourth OED Exercise
Due: Report on any three words in the works of
Longfellow, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Lear, Hopkins, Housman,
Yeats, Frost, Stevens, Moore, Bishop, Williams, Pound, Eliot,
Toomer, Hughes, Wright, or Baraka .
- Wednesday, 8 Dec.
- Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go
Gentle into That Good Night"; Robert Pinsky, "A Long Branch
Song," "The Street"; Richard Wilbur, "Junk";
Philip Larkin, "This
Be the Verse"; Anthony Hecht, "The Dover
Bitch"; John Hollander, "Swan and Shadow"; Billy Collins, "Litany."
- Monday, 13 Dec.
- Marianne Moore, "Poetry";
Archibald MacLeish, "Ars
Poetica"; Elizabeth Bishop, "Sestina";
John Ashbery, "Paradoxes
and Oxymorons." Fourth Close Reading Due: In
five pages, provide a close reading of any twentieth-century poem
that we did not discuss in detail in class.