Wednesday, November 1st

Reminder! Please send me an email with you first three choices for the Lit Journal Exploration Project!

Wednesday, November 1st 

  • Detail Question: What’s the most memorable costume you’ve ever seen (or worn?)
  • We read the poem of the day, Dorethea Tanning’s “All Hallows Eve” and discussed how it fit into the basic consideration of a sonnet, which are, at its heart, how sonnets have fourteen lines and a turn, or volta.
  • We discussed how this structure allows sonnets to act as an argument, sometimes describing a situation or idea (as in “The Lull” or “Country Song”) and then turning back to consider it or look at it in a different light. The difference between a sonnet and a 14 line poem is that the sonnet will at some point reflect back on itself in some way
  • Other markers of sonnets that we discussed included: the presence of meter (traditionally iambic pentameter) and a rhyme scheme (usually abab cbcb efef gg for a Shakespearean sonnet). These techniques are not required for a modern sonnet, however.

Homework for Friday November 3

  • Choose: A literary journal to explore by going to the Poetry Resources pages on this blog, looking over the journals, and then Emailing Miss Cole ( with your top three choices. I’ll give the journals to the first person that emails me and do my best to accommodate everyone’s first choice.
  • Read: Some poems in syllabics: “Cash Register Sings the Blues” by Maria Nazos, “Corpse Bird” by Ron Rash, “The Air Smelled Dirty” by Marge Piercy
  • Write:  Keep working on your poem drafts! Here’s another prompt for you to try:


Based on what you learn today’s reading, write a sonnet. It doesn’t have to be a perfect sonnet, and it doesn’t necessarily have to employ meter, or even rhyme (although if you want to challenge yourself, I invite you to do both of these things). What it should have is 14 lines (sonnets are always 14 lines, after all) and also a volta, or turn, where the speaker comes to conclusion or begins to reexamine the issue discussed in the first part of the sonnet.


Monday, October 30th

Monday, October 30th

  • We discussed the Lit Journal Exploration Project, which will be due on November 27th and the brief paper for which will be included in your final portfolio
  • Before we talked about the detail question today, we discussed the basics of poetic meter, focusing on the Big Five metrical patterns: iambs (a short stress followed by a long stress, ex: “But SOFT what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS”), trochees (a long stress followed by a short stress, ex. “TYger TYger BURning BRIGHT IN the FORests OF the NIGHT”), dactyls (one long stress followed by two short ones, ex.  “HALF a league, HALF a league, HALF a league ONward”), anapests (two short stresses followed by one long one, ex: “Twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas and ALL through the HOUSE”), and spondees (two long stresses that directly follow each other, ex “and the MOON ROSE OVer an OPen FIELD). The process of figuring out these meter patterns is called scansion. 
  • Detail Question: You all scanned your names (lots of trochees!) and clapped them out
  • We read and scanned the Poem of the Day, “The Spring and the Fall” by Edna St. Vincent Millay and then talked about its scansion and how the sound patterns are used

Homework for Wednesday, November 1

  • Choose: A literary journal to explore by going to the Poetry Resources pages on this blog, looking over the journals, and then Emailing Miss Cole ( with your top three choices. I’ll give the journals to the first person that emails me and do my best to accommodate everyone’s first choice.
  • Read: A couple of sonnets: “The Lull” by Molly Peacock, “Wave” by Don Patterson, “Country Song” by A.E. Stallings and “Worth” by Marylin Nelson
  • Write:  Keep working on your poem drafts! Here’s another prompt for you to try:

Take one (or several!) of the metrical patterns we discussed today and play with it. Try to write, intentionally as you can, in a kind of meter. It doesn’t all have to be the same meter (think about how “The Spring and the Fall” alternates between anapests and iambs and then that important trochaic line at the end), but do use meter as a consideration

Friday, October 27th

Reminder: Victoria Chang’s reading will happen today at 4 PM in the Elliston Poetry Room!

Friday, October 27th

  • Detail Question: Do you believe in ghosts?
  • We read the poem of the day, Victoria Chang’s “Mr. Darcy” and talked about how the poem uses repetition via homophones and rhyme, and how the repetition was a grounding influence in the poem
  • We listed ways that repetition shows up in everyday life, including routines, habits, chores, spells, affirmations, and songs and talked about how repetition is one of the central, foundational tools of poetry, whether on the level of the sound (rhyme, alliteration, assonance and consonance etc. all involve the repetition of particular sounds) or the level of the word or phrase, as in repetend (the repetition of a word or phrase throughout a poem) or anaphora (the repetition of a word or phrase specifically at the beginning of a line or a sentence)
  • We read Catherine Pierce’s “On Greed” and talked about the concept of “leapfrogging” repetition in poems — how you can choose not just one word to repeat, but several phrases. We compared this to Corey van Landingham’s “Elegy“, which chooses only one word to repeat, and talked about how these effects are very different
  • Finally, we talked about Amit Majmudar’s “Pandemic Ghazal” and talked about how repetition of a visual tic (like Majmudar’s enjambment after “virus”) can also count as repetition, and how forms function as a way to give us recognizable, shareable patterns that have particular kinds of repetitions built in (as in the Ghazal, which repeats words at the end of specific lines)

Homework for Monday, October 30th

  • Read: My brief handout with notes on form
  • Read: Ron Rash’s syllabic poem “The Corpse Bird“, A.E. Stallings’ poem “Fairy-Tale Logic“, Caitlin Doyle’s poem “Wish” (you’ll need to scroll down past a brief interview to find the poem) and Tim Seibles’ “Zombie Blues Villanelle
  • Write:  Keep working on your poem drafts! Here’s another prompt for you to try:

Use the lessons we talked about today regarding repetition in one of your own poems. Imitate either Pierce’s “leapfrogging” from repetition to repetition (“I want” “strange” “diadem” etc.) and repeat several words or phrases throughout the poem. Or, imitate Van Landingham’s “Elegy” and choose one word to repeat and reinvent throughout the poem. Or choose a form with repetition (like the ghazal) and try your hand at that.

Wednesday, October 25th

Wednesday, October 25th

  • Detail Question: What’s something a little monetary value that you would be heartbroken to lose?
  • We checked in about poetry workshop. Remember, our first workshop group’s poems will be due on Monday, September 6th. The first group is Angie, Jacob, Ian, and Peter.
  • We briefly went over the differences between narrative and lyric poetry and discussed how poems are rarely all one thing or all the other. “Her Kind,” for example, has elements of both the lyric and the narrative present (though it leans lyric)
  • We read our Poem of the Day, John Masefield’s “Cargoes” and talked about its sound techniques, focusing particularly on the contrast between euphony (pleasant sounds) and cacophony (less pleasant sounds) and the difference between assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) and consonance (repetition of consonant sounds) and how these effects are used within this poem. We also touched briefly on its meter. (More on that later!)
  • We contrasted “Cargoes” with Rita Dove’s “American Smooth” and talked about the subtlety in sound techniques and how they aren’t always obvious.
  • We capped off our discussion by talking about Yeats’ “The Lake Isle at Inisfree” and discussed how some of the sound techniques are obvious to the ear and the eye (rhyme and alliteration for example) but there are some, like the abundance of “l” sounds, that are less obvious. Remember — poets often think on the level of the sound, whereas fiction and nonfiction writers write on the level of the sentence.

Homework for Friday, October 27th

  • Read: A short excerpt from Dorianne Laux and Kim Addinizio’s excellent book A Poet’s Companion, entitled “Repetition, Rhythm, and Blues
  • Read: The following repetition-heavy poems: “On Greed” by Catherine Pierce, “Elegy” by Corey van Landingham, “Pandemic Ghazal” and “Transimigrant Ghazal” by Amit Majmudar
  • Write: Keep working on those poems! Here’s another exercise to try:

Write a poem that imitates John Masefield’s “Cargoes” by leaning hard into assonance (work those open vowel sounds!) for one or two stanzas, and then leans hard into consonance in the next stanza. What happens to the subject matter you deal with in both stanzas? Try to tailor the sonic effects your creating to evoke a particular emotion in your audience based on the subject matter you’re talking about.


Monday, October 23rd

Monday, October 23rd: 

Class is canceled today, Monday, October 23rd, due to an unforeseen circumstance (check your emails for this). In lieu of our class meeting today, please do the following:

  • Read: The Poetry Workshop FAQ! If you have any additional workshop-related questions, come prepared to ask them on Wednesday
  • Read: Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Pied Beauty,” Rita Dove’s poem “American Smooth” and W.B. Yeats’ famous poem “The Lake Isle at Innisfree“. Pay special attention to the sounds in each poem, particularly assonance (repetition of vowel sounds), consonance (repetition of consonant sounds) and alliteration (repetition of sounds at the beginning of a word).
  • Post: I’ve put up another discussion board post and would like each of you to post a draft of a poem that you’re currently working on, along with a little reflection about your process with this poem so far.
  • Write: Continue to work on your poems for workshop! Here’s another prompt, based on the readings we’ll be talking about on Wednesday:

Write a poem that, like the Hopkins, Yeats, or Dove poem, pays particular attention to sound. Make sure that you choose a sound (not a letter, but a sound) and from your first line and repeat that same sound in the next two lines, then choose another sound and scatter it through the next few lines, and so on. Pay attention, also, to alliteration, which is the word-initial repetition of sounds, and employ that a few times in the poem as well.


Important Announcement! 

Class is canceled on Friday because I’ve got a family obligation that came up at the last moment. I’ll put up the readings for Friday on the discussion board (plus the usual blog post). Please complete the assignment online and we’ll discuss narrative vs. lyric poetry on Monday.

Wednesday, October 18th

– Detail Question: If you could enhance one sense (not necessarily a physical one) which would you choose?
-We read the poem of the day, “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden
– We discussed the Smith essay about Sharon Olds and why we write narrative poetry essay, in conversation with the poem “I Go to Back to May 1937
– I went on a little side jaunt about the importance of the narrative “I” in poetry and how, in poetry, the speaker of the poem (i.e. the poem’s “I”) is not necessarily the same as the author of the poem. I also said that the current trend of trying to take the “I” out of poems is ridiculous (and I stand by that claim). If you don’t want to write I-centric poetry, that’s fine! But telling your own story and controlling your own narrative is an important act of claiming (as the essay we read for today suggests). So use narrative all you want! It’s a tool, just like any other tool.
– We talked about how the details that a poem leaves out are just as important as the details a poet chooses to include, using Ted Kooser’s “I”-less “Abandoned Farmhouse” as an example of this

Homework for Friday, October 20th

Remember that class will be canceled on Friday so instead I’d like you to:

  • Read this informative little essay about the difference between narrative poetry, lyric poetry, and drama. We won’t be discussing the “drama” side too much in class (sorry Abby!) but it’s worth noting that there is a great tradition of poems that were written as “dramatic monologues” (which are typically persona poems that are addressed to “a silent listener other than the reader”, as opposed to a narrative poem, which typically presumes a reader).
  • Read: My brief little breakdown of the differences between narrative and lyric poems and read the example poems attached to each (some of them may be familiar!)
  • Post: I’ve linked three poems to the discussion board and would like you to read all three and comment on two of them. You’re free to say what you liked or disliked about the poems, but please answer the following questions for each poem:
    • Do you think this poem is a narrative or a lyric poem? Why or why not?
    • What narrative or lyric techniques do you see at work in the poem?
    • Which of Greg Orr’s temperaments do you see at play in the poem? (Cite examples, and don’t be afraid to go back and look at the quadrant if you need to!)
  • Write: Continue to work on your poems for workshop! Here’s another prompt for today:

Several of the poems for this week choose narrative moments that focus on a childhood memory from the perspective of a much older speaker, but you’ll notice that the memories that these poems recount have a profound influence on the way the speaker views their present-day circumstances and relationships. In Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift,” for example, the older speaker remembers his father fondly and nostalgically as he removes his wife’s splinter, “shav[ing] her thumbnail down / so carefully she feels no pain.” The juxtaposition here allows us to see two sides of love – the paternal love Lee learned from his father, and the romantic love he now shows his wife.

In comparison, Dorianne Laux’s “The Tooth-Fairy” uses the same poetic structure but accomplishes a very different goal: she shows us a happy, almost sentimental childhood memory by describing how the speaker’s parents worked together to paint glittery footprints from the Tooth Fairy on her pillow, the juxtaposes this memory with a battery of far more sinister, and often scary, imagery, complicating the easy sweetness of the initial image. The portrait she shows us of this family is messy and complex; the poem shows us that families are not only one thing.

Using these poems (and several others from this week, such as “I Go Back to May, 1937” and “Gathering the Bones Together”), write a poem that uses this same technique: juxtaposing a specific image from a childhood memory and complicating it, somehow, by introducing facets of the older speaker’s life.

Monday, October 16th

Monday, October 16th

– Detail Question: What’s your favorite word?
-We read the poem of the day, “Fifth Grade” by Amy Fleury
– We discussed the Orr essay and compared it to his poem “Gathering the Bones Together” and then compared the poem to Judy Jordan’s “Help Me to Salt, Help Me to Sorrow
– We discussed the function of time in both the poems you read for homework this weekend
– We compared these two poems (and the poem of the day, “Fifth Grade”) in terms of unity of time and place. Both these poems allow for a of skipping around on the part of the poet, and information is meted out slowly

Homework for Wednesday, October 18th

  • Read: Abandoned Farmouse” by Ted Kooser
  • Read: “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds
  • Read: This short essay “The Very Act of Telling: Sharon Olds and Writing Narrative Poetry” by Aaron Smith
  • Write: Each week for the next month, I’ll be giving you a prompt each class period for you to start chewing on and working through. You don’t have to respond to every single prompt, but you will need to generate at least two poems for your portfolio,  so I recommend taking a crack at as many prompts as possible. Here’s today’s:

Both Judy Jordan’s “Help Me to Salt, Help Me To Sorrow” and Greg Orr’s “Gathering the Bones Together” use a patchwork of memories and temporal leaps to center us in different, but similar, emotional states throughout the poem. “Gathering the Bones Together” uses delineated section markers (1 – 5) to skip between particular time periods and locations, both real and imagined, to give us insight into the speaker’s brother’s accidental murder and how the speaker processes his relationship to violence and to guilt.

In “Help Me to Salt, Help Me To Sorrow,” the speaker grounds us first in a present moment with concrete place- and person-based images (“In the moon-fade and the sun’s puppy breath, / in the crow’s plummeting cry, / in my broken foot and arthritic joints, / memory calls me”) and then leaps temporally to thread us in and out of a developing narrative. Unlike “Gathering the Bones Together,” there are several settings and time periods we slip through without specific section breaks as we gain a fuller portrait of the speaker’s life. Some leaps are direct (“It’s still 1976 — … No, it’s 1969”) some use markers from the setting (“Again the washed-out photo in the family album”) and one, in the beginning, gives the reader a sense of where the poem is going by directly acknowledging the time shift: “It’s a strange leap but I make it / and bend these small harvests.”

Both of these poems teach us different poetic techniques to slip through time. Write a poem that focuses on a specific event in your life that skips between two different time periods to give the reader a fuller understanding of what that specific event means to the speaker, using either Orr’s technique of little numbered snapshots or Jordan’s technique of time and place markers.

Friday, October 13th

Friday October 13th

– Detail Question: What’s an image that you associate with fall?
-We read the poem of the day, “Hex” by Simone Muench
– We discussed what it means to have an aesthetic and how each person’s aesthetic is influenced by their experiences and who they are
– You each shared the poem you brought in and talked about how it fit into your personal aesthetic

Homework for Monday, October 16th

Wednesday, October 11th

Wednesday October 11th

– I gave you a few minutes to brainstorm the detail question for today, which was “what is poetry to you.” Everyone had really great answers, and we talked about the relationship between poetry and emotion
– We read the poem of the day, which was “How to be a Poet” by Wendell Berry
– We went over the quadrant for the four poetic temperaments and discussed an example for each one. (The article and the example poems we talked about today are linked under the “resources page.)
– You freewrote for a few minutes about which of the four temperaments you think comes most naturally to you

Homework for Friday, October 13th

  • Read: Greg Orr’s short essay “The Making of Poems
  • Read: Greg Orr’s poem “Gathering the Bones Together
  • Find: Print and bring with you to class a poem that’s important to you. (We’ll be sharing these on Friday, so shorter is better). This shouldn’t be a poem we’ve looked at in class!
  • Write a couple of sentence about why the poem is important to you

Friday, October 6th

Friday, October 6th

– We read the poem of the day, which was “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton
We decompressed from workshop and talked about what we liked and didn’t like about the process in class and how we can make it better for next time
– We talked about revision and went over the guidelines for the final portfolio
– We discussed revision as a living process that changes depending on who you’re revising your piece for (yourself, a particular group of readers, a publisher etc.)
– Small note! If you were not in class today, please bring a hardcopy of your workshop reflection with you when we return to class on Wednesday

Homework for Wednesday, October 11th

  • Read: Gregory Orr’s excellent essay “On the Four Temperaments of Poetry.” I recognize that it’s a little bit dense, but do read it since it’s foundational to what we’ll be discussing for the next couple of weeks in class. Do your best to understand as much as you can! I’ve tried to link to certain poems and people who might not be familiar to you within the essay. Grasp what you can, and we’ll talk about it in more depth after break