Poetry, ENGL 234 (Winter 2017)

Tuesdays & Thursdays – 4:15–5:30 PM
Room: Hall 431 SGW

Professor: Michael Nardone
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2 – 3:30 PM. Room: LB 663.
Class Site: Poetry, ENGL 234.

Email: mdn [at] soundobject [dot] net
Please note that I will only be able to respond to emails on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Please write “Poetry 234” in email subject.

Through a detailed examination of the various practices and forms of poetry, this course is designed to familiarize students with the critical and technical concepts of the genre. We will study contemporary North American anglophone poetries through their sonic, textual, and embodied compositional elements. This course emphasizes contact with poets and the contexts of poetry, as we will have a number of class visits and events with the poets we will be reading and discussing throughout the semester.

5 Responses – 25% – Due 28 February, in class.
5 Responses – 25% – Due 4 April, in class.
Final Project – 35% – Due 20 April, by 5 PM, in English department mailbox.
Participation – 15% – Throughout the semester.

Based on our readings, media, class visits and discussions, each week I will post a set of questions on the class site. During the semester, you will choose 10 sets of questions, and reply to each one with a 400-word response.

Final Project:
At the end of the semster, you will select 8 of your responses, edit them, and compile them into a collection of writings that you will frame with a 400-word introduction and a 400-word conclusion. All final projects must be printed and deposited in my English department mailbox by Thursday, 20 April, by 5 PM.

Your participation grade is based on your attendance in class, your involvement in discussions, and your thoughtful engagement with and respect for your fellow students.

Please note that late submissions will automatically be marked down an entire grade. Work submitted more than one week after the due date will automatically be marked an F for that assignment.

10 January – Introduction to Poetics

12 January – Introduction to Poetics
Read: “Oral Poetry,” by M.H. Beissinger, in Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed.
Read: “Quipu,” Wikipedia.
Read: “Poetry in Space,” by Cecilia Vicuña, from The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry.

Describe your present understanding of poetry. What do you think poetry is? How is it done? Where is it done? How do poets compose poetry? In this discussion, please include some discussion of where and how you read and studied poetry previously. Have you ever memorized poems? If so, can you remember which ones? Have you ever written poems? If so, what were they like? If poetry has not really been a part of your life in any way up to this point, reflect on why that might be the case.

17 January – Text and Performance
Read: “Sappho,” on the Poetry Foundation.
Listen: “Discourse on the Logic of Language,” by M. NourbeSe Philip.

Additional Links:
“What Sappho’s Poetry Sounded Like to the Ancient Greeks,” by Daniel Mendelsohn.
PDF excerpt of ZONG!, by M. NourbeSe Philip.
PDF of “Defending the Dead, Confronting the Archive: A Conversation with M. NourbeSe Philip.”

19 January – Text and Performance
Listen: David Antin, St. Marks Talk, 1984: Part 1Part 2.

Additional links:
“Tuning,” by David Antin.
Autobiography, by David Antin.
“What it means to be avant-garde,” by David Antin.
PDF of A Conversation with David Antin, by Charles Bernstein.

During the last three classes, we have discussed the transmission of poetry across a variety of media – through performance, on sound recordings and video, on papyrus, on textiles (khipu), as well as through more standard printed publications such as books, journals, magazines, broadsides, chapbooks, pamphlets, and anthologies. For this week’s response, I want you to consider how the “same” poem is different when it travels across media. How is a poem in performance different than the “same” poem published as a written text? What elements are important in each context? How is the poem similar in its different contexts? In your response, please use as examples the works of Sappho (on papyrus and in translation), M. NourbeSe Philip (in video performance and in text), and David Antin (in sound recording and in text) that we have discussed.

24 January – Close Listening
Read: Introduction to Close Listening, by Charles Bernstein.

In-class question (respond in groups of 5-6):
Describe your impression of what “close listening” means. How does one do “close listening”? Imagine how listening – as a creative practice – might influence the way a poet composes poetry. Imagine how listening – as a critical practice – might influence the way listeners experience poetry.

26 January – Close Listening
Listen: SpokenWeb & PennSound.

For this class, we will be assembling a class playlist of poetry sound recordings. Everyone will add three recordings to the playlist. Make your contributions on this Google Doc, and follow the instructions there.

With reference to two particular recordings from the two archives of poetry sound recordings we examined this week (PennSound and SpokenWeb), reflect on your experience of listening to the performance of poetry through the media of recorded sound. Why did you select these two particular recordings of poems? In close listening, what do you hear in them? Are there any sounds or events that occur that surprise you? If you are familiar with the written text of the poem, compare the sonic performance to the written text. If you are not familiar with the written text of the poem, imagine what it might look like by means of the way it is performed – I would like you to actually write it down as you think it should appear on a page.

31 January – Creole Continuum
*CLASS VISIT: Kaie Kellough.
Listen: Creole Continuum, by Kaie Kellough.
Buy Creole Continuum: HERE.
Listen: “alphabet,” by Kaie Kellough.

*For this class, I would like everyone to prepare 2 questions for Kaie – one about some aspect of Creole Continuum; the other about being a poet, his practice, performances, and written texts.

2 February – Creole Continuum
Listen: Creole Continuum, Kaie Kellough.
Buy Creole Continuum: HERE.
Listen: “Spoken Orality,” by Kaie Kellough.

Write a review of Kaie Kellough’s Creole Continuum. In the review, I would like you to include several elements: basic information about the recording (what formats it is available in, when it was made, who made it, etc.); general information about Kaie; a close listening to specific tracks of the album; a consideration of the album as a whole; and a consideration of the album with regard to the various practices and traditions of poetry we have discussed in class (especially the one with Kaie) and in our readings. I plan on finding a venue to publish the most thoughtful and well-articulated reviews of the work.

7 February – Occult Poetics
Read: “Sucking,” by Ariana Reines.
Read: “[Trying to see the proportional relation],” by Ariana Reines.

9 February – Occult Poetics
Read: “(Soma)tic Poetics: An Interview with CAConrad,” by Thom Donovan.
Read: 3 (Soma)tic Poems by CA Conrad on PAGES 107 – 114, linked here.

In the work of both CA Conrad and Ariana Reines, the poet’s body is central. Choose one poem from each poet and describe how the body informs both the techniques of composing the poems, as well as the content of the poems.

****11 & 12 February
Occult Poetics Conference at the Centre for Expanded Poetics.
Poets include Ariana Reines & CA Conrad, amongst others.
5 bonus points in your participation grade for anyone who attends the CA Conrad + Ariana Reines reading Saturday night at Drawn & Quarterly, 8 pm. Find me at the reading, and let me know you’re there.

14 February – Spit and Stutter
Read: Spit Temple, by Cecilia Vicuña.
Listen: “I was born in a space of silence,” by Cecilia Vicuña.

16 February – Spit and Stutter
Listen: Flub and Utter: A Poetic Memoir of the Mouth, by Jordan Scott.
Read: “Jordan Scott: Poet, speaker and person who stutters.”

In the two Jordan Scott poems featured on “Flub and Utter” and in Cecilia Vicuña’s “Performing Memory: An Autobiography” (the text of which is here, the performance of which is here), the poets’ performance of the poems deviates in numerous ways from the text versions of the poem. How is the sounding of the poem by the poet in performance different than a potential sounding of the poem based on the text? How is the idea of “improvisation” different in these two contexts? Describe how the poems’ “every word,” to use Scott’s phrase, “is achieved through bodily negotiation”?

21 February – No Class / Winter Break

23 February – No Class / Winter Break

28 February – Intergenre
*Your first group of 5 responses are due in class.
Read: “Verse and Prose,” by T. Steele, in Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed.

2 March – Intergenre
*CLASS VISIT: Helen Guri.
Read: “Horseplay: Some Poses in Search of Love,” by Helen Guri.
Read: Helen Guri’s poem “Reason.”

During our class with Helen Guri, she described the “very masculine voice addressing an inert object” throughout her first book, Match – a book about a man’s love affair with a plastic sex doll – as representing to a large degree the poetry culture and traditions she felt she was surrounded by as she began to initially publish her works. Describe how Guri’s essay “Horseplay: Some Poses in Search of Love” is an attempt at “speaking back to tradition.” Please cite at least three examples from the work that demonstrate this attempt.

7 March – Citizen
Read: Citizen, by Claudia Rankine.

9 March – Citizen
Read: Citizen, by Claudia Rankine.

****10 March
Claudia Rankine will read at Concordia University! DO NOT MISS IT.

In the encyclopedia article “Verse and Prose,” the author describes “prosimetrum” as “an extended work of prose into which, at more or less regular intervals, the author inserts poems or passages of verse.” He further describes that prose is devoted to advancing “narrative or argument,” and verse is reserved “for moments of lyric intensity.” Describe how Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is a work of prosimetrum. What is the “narrative or argument” that is advanced in the prose? What are the moments of “lyric intensity” in verse? Please cite sample passages. Describe how the two modes are interrelated throughout the work.

14 March – Planetary Noise
Read: “Poetries, languages and selves: The being of Erin Moure,” by Sina Queyras.
Listen: Close Listening with Erin Moure.

16 March – Planetary Noise
*CLASS VISIT: Erín Moure.
Read: Postface to “O Cadoiro,” by Erin Moure.
Read: “Outside the Fold: A Conversation with/without Erin Moure and Chus Pato.”
Listen: Remarks on translation, Erín Moure.

For this response, develop your own heteronym. Describe the cultural contexts and language(s) in which your heteronym writes. What kind of writing does the heteronym do? What are the subjects that heteronym writes about? Discuss this in terms of the forms, practices, and contents of writing we have discussed throughout the semester. Compare this heteronym’s work with two of the poets we have discussed and do so with concrete examples from those poets’ works and the heteronym’s work.

21 March – Blockadia
Read: Once in Blockadia, by Stephen Collis.
Listen: Stephen Collis @ Capitalism vs. The Climate.

23 March – Blockadia
*CLASS VISIT: Stephen Collis.
Read: Once in Blockadia, by Stephen Collis.
Listen: Poetry against pipelines, Stephen Collis.

Toward the end of Once in Blockadia, in the poem “One Against Another,” Collis writes: “What am I but turbulence / Outside the text / Small passage through which / The collective facts of struggle pass / Battered antennae picking up / What I half understand?” For this response, I want you to discuss: How does this question shed light on Collis’s conception of the commons and the poet’s relation to the commons? How does the idea of “turbulence” relate to the political issues Collis addresses and also to his sense of poetic diction?

****23 March
Erín Moure, Stephen Collis, and Chus Pato will be reading at Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, 7 pm. Event details here.

28 March – Concrete
Read: Anthology of Concrete Poetry, edited by Emmett Williams.
Read: “Crystals,” by Christian Bök.
Read: Place of Scraps, by Jordan Abel.

Additional links: Two texts I have written on concrete poetry:
“Concrete Poetics: A Line in the Constellation” and “The Concrete Element.”

For this response, I want you to locate a piece of “concrete poetry” in Montréal. Please document that piece of concrete poetry by means of a description and, if possible, with a photograph. Why is it a piece of “concrete poetry” and how does it function as one? Please discuss this work you have located in relation to at least one work in the Anthology of Concrete Poetry, Jordan Abel’s Place of Scraps, or an example we discussed in class.

30 March – Publishing Poetry
Read: Jacket2, Reissues; Eclipse, Periodicals.

If you were editing a poetry publication and had an unlimited budget, how would the publication be assembled? What would it look like, and how do envisions readers would engage with it? What poets would you ask to contribute to it? Where and how would the publication be circulated? Please discuss this publication with reference to two of the poetry publications in our class readings and discussions.

4 April – Workshop
We will spend the class of 4 April doing a workshop on the second round of responses. Please bring in the responses you are working on and be prepared to work in groups with classmates. I will move from group to group to discuss issues with classmates.

Response example: here.

6 April – Publishing Poetry
*Your second group of 5 responses are due in class.
*CLASS VISIT: Ashley Opheim.
Read: On Metatron.
Read: California Lecture: from “Poetry and Politics,” by Jack Spicer.

11 April – Individual Meetings
Sign up for these meetings on the Google Doc linked: here.

13 April – Preface and Conclusion

Final Project is due Thursday, 20 April, by 5 PM.
Please deposit printed copy in my English department mailbox.


*BONUS: Automatic A+ attendance grade for the 1st person who can identify the poem and its author quoted in the image at the top of this page – “MORE LIKE OVID → / ← MORE LIKE BOETHIUS”.