We are poets because, at some point in our lives, a poem sang to us—like nothing else. (Louise Gluck writes an account of feeling suddenly personally spoken to and un-lonely when reading Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; Elizabeth Bishop was inspired by 17th-Century lyricist George Herbert, who also visited her in a dream. Ask any poet and there’s another story.) To become a poet means, among other things, to go to singing school. As William Butler Yeats wrote in his “Sailing to Byzantium”:
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence.
In this class, we are going to read magnificent old poems as well as newer poems, looking at how they are fashioned and why they work: formal and free verse, long- and short-lined poems, poems written originally in English as well as a few poems in translation. This isn’t going to be a dry academic experience, but a way of revitalizing your own work–revising your drafts into stronger poems, and creating new poems out of sheer excitement and love of the craft. The best teachers in the world are the poems themselves—and so we are going to read together and help one another see what ideas are there for the taking. We are going to read like robbers.
Our texts will be Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud (ed. Robert Pinsky—Amazon-available, but I’d love it if you’d order it from Changing Hands Bookstore!), as well as handouts I bring to class or send out via e-mail. These, plus a journal dedicated to the class experience are all the materials you will need. There will be time to share your own work; there will be a final class reading. Please bring, on the first day of class, a favorite short poem—a poem you love, maybe wish you had written—to read aloud. (The poem may be in the anthology, but it would be even more interesting to bring in something for us from elsewhere. Make copies sufficient for the class size)Limited Enrollment
About Jeredith Merrin
Jeredith Merrin--brought up in Pacific Northwest, on the old Oregon Trail--took her MA in English (specializing in Chaucer), followed by a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in Anglo-American Poetry and Poetics. CUP, a special honoree in the Able Muse Press poetry competition, is her forthcoming third collection; her previous books, Shift and Bat Ode, appeared in the University of Chicago Press Phoenix Poets series. She’s authored an influential book of criticism on Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, and her reviews and essays (on Moore, Bishop, Clare, Mew, Amichai, and others) have appeared in The Southern Review and elsewhere. Her poems may be found in such journals as Ploughshares, The Southern Poetry Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Yale Review. A retired Professor of English (The Ohio State University), she's won numerous teaching awards and twice been a MacDowell Colony fellow. She lives in Chandler and is currently completing a chapbook, having to do with owls.Register