Poetry, ENGL 234 (Winter 2018)

Tuesdays & Thursdays – 4:15–5:30 PM
Room: Faubourg B-050, 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.

First 5 Responses – 30% – Due 27 February, in class.
Final Project – 50% – Due 19 April, by 5 PM, in English department mailbox.
Participation – 10% – Throughout the semester.
Reading Reports – 10% – Due by 12 April in class.

I have to live, by Aisha Sasha John.
Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier.
Injun, by Jordan Abel.
Creole Continuum, by Kaie Kellough.
Kith, by Divya Victor.

All of these books* will be available at Librarie Drawn & Quarterly at a 10% discount! All you have to do is tell a staff member that you are a student in my class. If you can, buy the books there, and support a great bookstore. Otherwise, the books are available at regular price at the Concordia Bookstore.

*Except for Kaie Kellough’s Creole Continuum, which you have to buy HERE.

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 500-word response. The first set of 5 responses is due in class on 1 March (*Updated).

Final Project:
At the end of the semester, you will select 8 of your responses (5 from the second half of the semester, 3 in edited form from the first half of the semester), and compile them into a collection of writings that you will frame with a 400-word introduction. All final projects must be printed and deposited in my English department mailbox by Thursday, 19 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.

Reading Reports:
Throughout the semester, I will post a number of readings that will be taking place at Concordia and in Montreal. I will also refer you to Where Poets Read as a great resource to find out where great poetry events are happening. For the reading reports, you will attend two readings or lectures during the semester and write a short (250 word) commentary on each event, connecting it with a theme or concept from the course. Reading Reports are due 12 April in class.

Throughout the semester, we will collectively develop a lexicon out of our class readings and discussions. That lexicon can be found: HERE.

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.

9 January – Introduction to Poetics.

11 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.

16 January – Text and Performance.
Read: “Sappho,” on the Poetry Foundation.
Listen: “Discourse on the Logic of Language,” by M. NourbeSe Philip.
Read: Excerpts from ZONG!, by M. NourbeSe Philip.
Additional Materials:
–Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho.
–Text of M. NourbeSe Philip’s “Discourse on the Logic of Language”

18 January – Text and Performance.
Read: Spit Temple, by Cecilia Vicuña: “Performing Memory” (37-117) and “The Quasar (119-121).
Listen: “I was born in a space of silence,” by Cecilia Vicuña.

In the last two classes, we have discussed the transmission of poetry via bodies in performance and various types of media. For this response, I want you to select one of the poems we focused on – Sappho’s poems (on papyrus and in Anne Carson’s translations), M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong poems (as recordings and as text) and “Discourse on the Logic of Language” (as video and as text), or Cecilia Vicuña’s “Performing Memory” (as video and as text) – and analyze how the “same” poem works differently in its different contexts? How is a poem in performance different than the “same” poem published as a written text? What aspects of the poem are similar in its different contexts? What elements of the poem are important in each context?

19 January – Liz Howard at Drawn & Quarterly. Info: Here.

23 January – Creole Continuum.
Listen: Creole Continuum, by Kaie Kellough.
Buy Creole Continuum: HERE.

25 January – Creole Continuum.
*CLASS VISIT: Kaie Kellough.
Listen: Creole Continuum, by Kaie Kellough.
Buy Creole Continuum: HERE.

Select two tracks from Creole Continuum and, in close listening, discuss how the compositions engage with and materialize the idea of a creole language and of creolity that we discussed in class and with Kellough himself. Please cite specific passages from the tracks and how they function as part of the whole composition. Finally, please include some reflection on the practice of listening to a poetic work without the text, as only an oral/aural composition.

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

1 February – Close Listening.
Listen: SpokenWeb & PennSound.

For this class, we will assemble 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 how it might appear by means of the way it is performed.

6 February – I have to live.
*CLASS VISIT: Aisha Sasha John.
Read: I have to live, by Aisha Sasha John.

8 February – I have to live.
Read: I have to live, by Aisha Sasha John.

Write a review of I have to live. In it, please include a close reading of two poems from the book, and discuss how they relate to the whole collection. Please include contextual information concerning the book and it’s author, based on our class discussions. For this response, I want you to post your review on the Internet somewhere – GoodReads, Amazon, personal site or blog, or even on social media. When you post the review, take a screenshot of it on the Web, and include that with your response.

13 February – Somatics.
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.

15 February – Somatics.
Read: “Intermedia,” by Dick Higgins.
Read: Excerpts from Grapefruit, by Yoko Ono.

In the work of both CA Conrad and Yoko Ono, the body is central. Choose one poem from each poet (one from Conrad’s “3 (Soma)tic Poems,” one from Ono’s Grapefruit) and describe how the body informs the techniques of composing the poems, their content, as well as their potential as events. In conclusion, please compare affinities and differences between the two poems.



27 February – NO CLASS. (*UPDATED)

1 March – Publishing Poetry.
*Your first group of 5 responses are due in class.
*CLASS VISIT: Ashley Opheim.

6 March – Poetry and Politics.
Read: “Not Your Noble Savage: On Literary Colonialism and Native Writers,” by Alicia Elliot.
Read: California Lecture: from “Poetry and Politics,” by Jack Spicer.

8 March – Poetry and Politics.
Read: “How to Stop Worrying Abt the State of Publishing…,” by Joey Yearous-Algozin.
Read: Lemon Hound, Eclipse, Jacket2 Reissues.

If you were editing a poetry publication, how would the publication be assembled? How does it appear? How do you envision readers would engage with it? What poets would you ask to contribute to it? Where and by what means would the publication be circulated? How would it be supported in terms of community and finances to make it happen? Please discuss this publication with reference to one or two of the poetry publications in our class readings and discussions.

13 March – Poetics of Resistance.
Read: “The Quality of Light,” by Cecily Nicholson.
Read: “Active Solidarity with directly impacted communities,” Cecily Nicholson in dialogue with Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand.

15 March – Poetics of Resistance.
Read: Mercenary English, by Mercedes Eng.
*CLASS VISIT: Cecily Nicholson and Mercedes Eng.

How can poetry document a place? What are ways it describes and maps the people, activities, and transformation of a place over time? Please reference examples in Mercedes Eng’s Mercenary English in your response.

20 March – Injun.
Read: Injun, by Jordan Abel.

22 March – Injun.
Read: Injun, by Jordan Abel.

In the video of Jordan Abel performing from Injun, how are the qualities of the reading – its disembodied voice, its layerings, its fragmentation – features that are central to the composition to the work’s text?

27 March – Whereas.
Read: Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier.
*Please note our discussions of this book will focus mainly on Part II of the book, the section entitled “Whereas.”

29 March – Whereas.
Read: Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier.
*Please note our discussions of this book will focus mainly on Part II of the book, the section entitled “Whereas.”

In the introduction to the poem “Whereas,” Layli Long Soldier writes that her poem is a response to the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, directed at its “delivery, as well as the language, crafting, and arrangement of the written document.” For your response, select two passages from “Whereas” and explain exactly how one functions as a response to the apology’s delivery and how the other functions as a response to the apology’s language.

3 April – KITH.
Read: Kith, by Divya Victor.

5 April – KITH.
*CLASS VISIT: Divya Victor.
Read: Kith, by Divya Victor.

5 April – DIVYA VICTOR reading
Sign in with me at the reading to earn extra points on participation grade.
Event details: HERE.

In our readings of and dialogues on Divya Victor’s KITH, we discussed several elements of the composition that were used to explore the experience of both bodies and memory in diaspora. Some of these elements were: movement between languages; movement between genres – specifically guide book, instruction book, lexicon; a mixture of clarity and opaqueness; movement between sections that have entirely different tone or style; different subject positions; the blurring between public and private concerns; and the hybridity of the work, in how it incorporates media such as photos, drawings, and diagrams. For this response, select two different passages that show how some of these elements (or ones of your own choosing) explore a poetics of kithness in diaspora.

10 April – Individual Meetings.

12 April – Preface and Conclusion.

19 AprilFinal Project Due in department mailbox by 5 pm.