“Look in thy heart, and write.”—Sir Philip Sidney (1591)
“The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”—William Wordsworth (1800)
“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”—Emily Dickinson (1870)
“I, too, dislike it.”—Marianne Moore (1919)
“I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.”—John Cage (1949)
In this course we’ll be asking the same question that each of these famous writers—and every other poet who has ever written—tried to answer: What is poetry? Why do we write and read poems? How do poems work and what work, if any, do they do? We’ll think about the history of poetry in English, its forms, and its future. We’ll explore rhyme’s reason, learn what a sonnet and a sestina is, and follow Wallace Stevens in pursuit of “the mind in the act of finding what will suffice.” We’ll read lots of different kinds of poems, and maybe write a few. For students with previous experience with poetry and for those who’ve never read any poetry before.