If you could learn from any poet, who would you choose? Aracelis Girmay, Whitman, Plath? If you could learn from any poem, which would you choose? Reading poetry like a poet transforms every poem into your personal tutor.
In this course, we will learn from Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” and Mary Szybist’s “So and So Descending from the Bridge,” from Franz Wright and Brigite Pegeen Kelly and innumerable more. This learning will reach beyond the poems into the minds of the poets. We will study their writing to learn how to write.
Though often done alone, whether at the window of a coffee shop or the head of your bed, the writing of poetry is never a solitary act. It is surrounded, always, by the poets who came before and the poets who will follow. To write poems we love, we must read poems we love. We must take the poets we love as our teachers. In this course, we will learn how.
Each session, we will spend the first thirty minutes discussing an important aspect of reading (and writing) poetry before diving into the close reading of an elucidating poem. More poems as well as a selection of relevant prose will also be available to read throughout the week.
Week 1, 7/16/19: Reading Love
Discussion: how poems can become our teachers.
“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden
“In the Middle of the Century” by Yehuda Amichai
“What Did I Love” by Ellen Bass
“Loving you less than life, a little less” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
“For What Binds Us” by Jane Hirshfield
Prose: Molly Peacock and Edward Hirsch on reading poetry
Week 2, 7/23/19: Reading Loss
Discussion: the need for risk in poetry.
“Given to Rust” by Vievee Francis
“Section 6” by Whitman
“After Your Death” by Natasha Tretheway
“Author’s Prayer” by Ilya Kaminsky
“What the Living Do” by Marie Howe
Prose: Lorca’s “Play and Theory of the Duende”
Week 3, 7/30/19: Reading Transgression
Discussion: uses of the line and other nuts and bolts.
“April Orchard” by Franz Wright
“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks
“Dependencies” by Evie Shockley
“Guadalajara Cemetery” by Ai
“The Lion and the Gazelle” by Ross Gay
Prose: Emily Rosko and Robert Wrigley on the line
Week 4, 8/6/19: Reading Transcendence
Discussion: finding the poems who will become our teachers.
“Ode to the Drum” by Yusef Komunyakaa
“A Blessing” by James Wright
“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
“Psalm” by Paul Célan
“Door in the Mountain” by Jean Valentine
Prose: Marvin Bell’s “32 Statements on Poetry”
Andrea Michalowsky has an MFA in poetry from Pacific University and a BA in writing seminars from Johns Hopkins University. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review as an honorable mention in their international poetry contest and received a Vaclav Havel Scholarship to the Prague Summer Program for Writers. Her current book-length project presses past love into ownership of the self within the structural arc of the sonnet. She’s interested in diverse forms, from the traditional to the experimental, and specializes in the ghazal. In addition to reading and writing poetry, she offers personalized sessions as a poetry mentor.