October 17, 2010

Okay, people, let’s get organized.

Those who have currently signed up to read are as follows: Everett, Meg, Debbi, Alyssa, Erin, Kristin, Christine, and Helen.

Matt, are you reading, or are you working on music and/or an art slideshow?  Anyone else want to come on board?

Kristin’s suggestion, since we apparently gave the title “Why Poetry Matters,” was to read poems from our copo poets that address that issue or that concern art in a metapoetic way.  I like this idea, and, as Kristin or someone said, if we announce that at the beginning, then our audience can listen for/interpret that commentary as we go.

A few suggestions off the top of my head:

Pineda, “My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task”

Brooks, “What shall I give my children? who are poor”

selections from Ginsberg, e.g. end of Part I of “Howl”

Walcott, “Sea Grapes” and Omeros Chapter LXIV.I (239)

Clifton, “telling our stories,” “libation,” “why some people be mad at me sometimes,” “my dream about the poet”

Bishop, “The Monument,” “One Art”

Plath, “Two Views of a Cadaver Room,” “The Arrival of the Bee Box,” “Kindness”

What else??

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The Howl Challenge

September 14, 2010

The latest in a series of creative writing challenges that are not required unless you want me to respect and love you.  I’m just sayin’.

1)  Compose at least 15 lines of poetry that begin with the phrase “I saw the best minds of my generation…” and that closely imitate Ginsberg’s formal and syntactical patterns.   2) Post your poem here.

p.s. where are my sestinas, slackers?

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The Sestina Challenge

September 9, 2010

A basic definition of the sestina can be found here and a more indepth discussion from another class here.   Comprised of  seven stanzas (six sestets and a triplet), the sestina takes its most essential form from the repetition of six key words at the ends of lines, but they must follow a specified order.  The links here show the order by number or letter, and you can see it by looking at Bishop’s poem or the examples the sites provide.  The triplet, sometimes called the envoi, also must use all six of the words in a specified order (internally and at the end of the line) but many practitioners fudge the order as long as they get all six in to that final stanza.

Your turn:  Write a decent sestina alone or in collaboration with other classmates.  Earn undying admiration for doing it in iambic pentameter.  Do not be sentimental lest Matt insult you.  Post.

Two hints:

1) Choose at least one word that is flexible–e.g., may be used as a noun or a verb, has several definitions  (break), or has homophones (to, two, too).  Avoid choosing all words that have the same grammatical function (all verbs, e.g.) unless there is some compelling reason to do so.

2) When you are ready to start, put all the words on a page at the ends of lines where they must appear so you can visualize the order more concretely.

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Ask Dr. Scansion

September 6, 2010

Q:  Dear Dr. Scansion,

I am new to formal analysis of poetry and am anxiously wondering: what terms do I really need to know? Can you help me navigate this new period in my education?



A: Dear “Sylvia,”

The terms of formal analysis and prosody are numerous, and some people may be comfortable taking on a more complex set, but for the most part you should have a vocabulary that includes the following:

1) basic accentual patterns: iamb, trochee, spondee, pyrrhic, anapest, and dactyl (Note: some people think that the pyrrhic doesn’t exist in English.  You will need to resist peer pressure and decide what seems true to you.  For my part, I believe.)

2) common metrical feet: trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter

3) common stanza names: couplet, triplet, quatrain, sestet, octave

4) useful ways to characterize sound patterns: rhyme, half- or slant-rhyme, assonance, consonance, dissonance, alliteration

5) terms that describe line/sentence formations: end-stopped, caesura, enjambment

You may want to be comfortable with a handful of other terms, for example:  sonnet, sestina, blank verse, free verse.

Sylvia, there are resources for people like you.  This site has a wealth of information about prosody and form, or you can turn to sites like the glossary on  for better for verse, which is less exhaustive but has clear definitions.  In either case, don’t forget that reliable friends and grown-ups you trust can be helpful in working through these tough times.  Eventually you may even come to see formal and prosodic analysis as an important part of how you think.

All best wishes,

Dr. Scansion

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Thursday Poems?

August 31, 2010

Yesterday Dr. Lorentzen was lining up readers for Thursday Poems, and I took the only open slot, October 21.  I could read alone that day, but I thought I’d see what the feeling was for CoPo doing something collaboratively– not required, but whoever wanted to–from our coursework.  Responses, suggestions?

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