“I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”
With this remark, Irish poet Seamus Heaney illustrates both the limitations and the importance of poetry. This course will delve into the nature and experience of poetry, focusing on two primary questions: What does poetry do? And how does it do it? You will learn reading strategies to help you understand the “how” and make you more confident readers of poetry. At the same time, we’ll look at what poetry does—how it responds to the poets’ world, how it resonates with readers beyond its own context, what it might change or affect. Drawing on a wide range of primarily contemporary texts, we will focus on poetry that responds, reacts, intervenes in, and generally engages with politic, social, ecological, and personal crises. This will include poems that respond to anything from armed conflicts to cancer, from climate change to racial and economic injustice. We’ll discuss how poetic interventions are similar to other art forms, and what makes poetry distinct. You will come away from this class with a greater understanding—and enjoyment—of poetry, as well as a sense of how it functions in the broader cultural landscape in which we live. Together, we will “find” poetry, discovering what it does, where it is, and how it resonates with you personally.
In this course, you will have the opportunity to sharpen your critical reading skills by writing frequent blog posts, and several short essays. Additionally, you will get to take advantage of the amazing resources in the Rose Library by doing original archival research. You will also be able to flex your critical thinking skills and your creative through multimodal projects.