29 February 2008

Poetry of the Unexpected

Craft & Theory of Poetry
Dr. Mary Biddinger
Poetry of the Unexpected
Fall 2008: NEOMFA

This class will read and discuss single-author poetry books that take risks and embrace strangeness, while still connecting with audiences. We will consider the surreal, the absurd, the disturbing, and the humorous, and many combinations thereof. Through both scholarly and creative assignments, students will learn how to use elements of the unexpected in their own work.

Book list:

Jason Bredle, Standing in Line for the Beast
Michael Dumanis, My Soviet Union
John Gallaher, The Little Book of Guesses
Matthea Harvey, Modern Life
Jennifer L. Knox, Drunk By Noon
Dorothea Lasky, AWE

NEOMFA students who are interested in enrolling should send me an email ASAP. This course welcomes writers from other genres.


Justin Evans said...

"I tell my students if they ever get stuck in a poem, they should put a dog in their poem and see what happens. The dog doesn't have to stay more than a stanza, but I've always thought a dog can make a poem more interesting."

---Billy Collins

myshkin2 said...

Mary, I know that what I'm going to say probably goes against what most readers and commenters of your blog write and support----but I am a fairly constant and faithful reader here, so I just thought I'd toss in my take. I'm a good (or a bad) generation older than you and most of your readers/commenters, so what I'm saying surely needs to be understood in that context. But, but, I wonder about the efficacy and wisdom of teaching only contemporary poets to future poets. I've heard of most of the names on your list and have read some the work online--but in all probability they'll all be deemed unimportant and insignificant in a few years. (I don't mean this meanly--I've seen the same thing happen to my contemporaries who were promoted vigorously in my MFA programs.) So I wonder, then, why not encourage students to go beyon dthe work of their own peers/cohorts and ALSO read the more enduring work of other poets. I know I must sound like the epitome of foginess, but isn't Paradise Lost full of the {poetry of the unexpected)...or Baudelaire...or Catullus?

Penultimatina said...

Thanks for your thoughts, L! If I were teach this as a literature seminar I would definitely include a deeper scope for the selections (and I would certainly include Baudelaire, one of my favorites). Our students take three lit seminars in addition to craft & theory.

The craft & theory is a hybrid of literature and creative writing, so I use a limited, and contemporary, reading list. One of my goals is to familiarize folks with what's being published today, especially since so many students are working on their own manuscripts. There's a lot to be learned from these books.

Another motive is to get folks to buy recent small press books. I try to do that whenever I can. I have been so lucky to have people adopt my book, and have me visit their classes. It's so exciting that young people actually buy poetry books these days! I spent all of my money on music and frozen yogurt back then.

I love the idea of teaching living poets, ones who will answer my students' questions, come read on our campus, stop by our reception at AWP. When I was an undergrad at UMich I took a living poets class, and it seriously changed my life.

I'd probably be a CEO if I hadn't taken that class. Good thing I did!



Teeny Poet said...

Sounds like a fun assignment for your students. I started a poetry website, and I was wondering since your an English professor and all, if you could give me your feedback on my site. I would be greatly appreciated. peace

Steven D. Schroeder said...

Blake would have to be in there too--one of my real touchstones in the canon.

P. J. said...

You know what's unexpected? Sewing your skins together—and come to think of it, that would be a good first-day activity, kind of a getting-to-know-you exercise based on course objectives. Also, I was once surprised to hear that flesh...has a grain. I think this will be the "The Ring" of poetry courses. Don't hurt anyone!

For the record, Catullus *is* surprising, but I'd save that for a courses titled "Poetry of Roman Era Molestation" or "Poets, Don't Let This Happen to You!" and I would include an exclamation point.

Amy said...

If for some reason I don't graduate, I want to take this class...and let you know that introducing me to contemporary poets has changed everything. I *did* the "enduring" poets 20 years ago, and will always go back to them, but there's nothing like opening a new book of poems by someone who still breathes...

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