In this course we will assess the stranger aesthetic virtues of poems we—and the rest of the world—are writing now.
Without disavowing the values of form, clarity, logical coherence, and so many other key terms of the workshop that represent the straightforward, we will find and discuss the occasions of confusion, misdirection, indefinite pronoun reference, mixed metaphor, odd music—a syllable in one word unearthed two lines later in another word as if out of nowhere—that lend contemporary poems (ours and others) their mystery, spontaneity and richness. Our readings will include contemporary and recent examples of these virtues in “elliptical poets,” New York School poets, and others who resist the straightforward approach and continue to surprise us with their leaps from theme to theme, powerful and unpredictable music, and shifting subjects and discourse, including Lucie Brock-Broido, Mary Ruefle, Louise Glück, John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, Tracy K. Smith, Timothy Donnelly, and James Tate.
Students will be expected to submit one poem per week and to comment on one other, and detailed instructor feedback will be offered for each poem shortly after it is submitted so that we may change course at will as the course unfolds, both in our approaches to writing and our reading list, designed to be as adaptive as possible.
The goal here is the production of four to twelve strong poems and the cultivation of a new respect for the beauty (and sublimity and power and so on) of the wilder and stranger strains of contemporary poetry that manifest in our readings and, most importantly, in our own writing.