English 110: Introduction to Reading Poetry


Course Syllabus



Please Print this off and keep in your notebook for future reference


Read through all of the Syllabus, carefully, at least twice.


Required Materials



Course Goals:

The primary goal of Reading Poetry is to acquaint you with the language and techniques of poetry in order to increase your understanding and appreciation for the art of poetry (Ars Poetica) , the work of the poet, and for the place and importance of poetry in human culture. Specifically, we will focus on how poet’s use images, words, sound, rhythm, and form to make the meaning and music of their poems.



Course Norms:





  1. Weekly Quizzes on ‘facts’ in weekly assigned readings.


  1. Weekly Discussions based on assigned questions, posted to your discussion group on the Bulletin Board. 


  1. Mid-Term Essay in which you ‘explicate’ a poem in order to demonstrate your understanding of the form, language and techniques the poet employs.


4.      Write a short paper – 3-5 pages, the work of a poet of your choosing, selected from the author’s in the text. 


  1. Attend a poetry reading and write a short response writing about  your experience.


Grading System:


I will use a Hundred Point Scale to determine your grade for the course.



Weekly Quizzes



Weekly Discussion Questions - 5 pts. Each






Essay on a selected poet



Poetry Reading





Details of Assignments


1. Weekly Quizzes: 1 –2 points each.   




Weekly Discussion: 5 pts. /wk. 

(See Course Calendar for Weekly Assignments)

 Discussion assignments are designed to

·         To share your thoughts and observations with your classmates. Think of these as having  conversation with your classmates  about the work and check in with  your group often from Tuesday through Friday..

·          Rather than writing a formal essay, as your text suggests, think of these as seminar or response writings. Write enough to communicate your understanding of each question or topic.



Grading Criteria for Discussion:



Good Discussion: Writing/Discussion poses interpretive rather than speculative observations.  Interpretive responses rely on evidence (specific details)  and the explanation of evidence to support the main point or assertion the writer is making.   The more evidence and explanation, the stronger the discussion.

Speculation, on the other hand, goes beyond the page and always involves and I wonder premise.  For instance:  Do you have to be a drunk/unhappy to be a good poet? is a speculative question. Interesting, but not based on knowledge from a shared reading.   A good  interpretive response would note that Robert Frost was a New England farmer and that he uses his farm experience widely in his poems. It might also note that much of Frost’s work is ‘very dark’. The writer would then offer such evidence from poems such as Apple-Picking, Home Burial, The Need of Being Versed in Country Things,  Putting in the Seed, The Ax-Helve.


Direct your writing to an interested audience, at or above the 101 level.  Always assume that your audience is curious but doesn’t already understand what you are trying to explain.  This will help you to be clear and to provide evidence and explanation of evidence.


    Edit your work before you post it.


 Weekly Discussion Points are based on

  1. Relevance
  2. Clarity
  3. Support
  4. Interpretation rather than speculation

5. Responses to work posted by classmates avoids comments like ‘way to go’, I agree’, good answer. Instead, engage in a thoughtful conversation. I think you have a good point when you say….because…..



   Etiquette for Email and Discussion Groups:


  1. We are all learners.


  1. Read/Listen carefully to each other.


  1. Treat each other with consideration and respect.


  1.  Slang, obscenity, and rudeness are not acceptable.


  1. Because we are writing to each other and cannot determine tone or facial expression, double check all communication to be sure that it is clear and respectful.



*  As the course goes on, if you find that you have questions about the grades on your quizzes or discussions, please review this page before you email me with your question. In all probability, you will find the answer to your question here.





Poetry Readings:


 Poetry Readings can be found in Seattle at


Open Books, A Poetry Symposium, on NE 45th the St. just up the block and across from Dick’s Drive-In. Usually at 7 p.m. on selected Thursdays. 


Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square, 1st and James. Check their website.


Red Sky Poetry Theatre in the Globe Café, 1531 14th Avenue.  Sunday at 6 p.m.


Foothills Poetry Series, Peninsula College.


Third Place Books, Barnes and Noble, Issaquah Books, Borders.


Check Websites for readings in the above listed places.



If you cannot attend a reading in person

First, Email me the reason, Then -

·        Check out a video-tape from the Voices and Visions Series in the BCC Media Center,

·        Go to any Public Library and check out an audiotape of a poet reading his/her work. Seamus Heaney, Leslie Marmon Silcoe and Richard Hugo have wonderful audiotapes. Two other good choices are Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Fern Hill, and Seamus Heaney reading his gorgeous translation of Beowulf 



Nuts and Bolts of Reading and Writing for ENGLISH 110


Reading for this Course: Read Recite Review




Writing for this course:  


Informal Writing:


In your informal emails and response to discussion postings, you will tend to sound like the way you talk, sometimes using fragments and shorthand. Be aware, though, that your audience cannot see or hear you. Be clear and respectful.   Sometimes your words may come across differently, or may be read differently, than you intended.  Be open to hearing what your audience ‘heard’, and be willing to re-state or rephrase your meaning in order to continue the conversation.  


Formal Writing: Quizzes, Mid-term, Discussion, and Essays. 

  1. This college level class assumes college level writing skills. 

2.      Write in Word 2000 (NOT Word Pad or Works).

  1. Edit your work for complete sentences, accurate citations, spelling and grammar.
  2. Run through Spell Check
  3. Save your work to your Disk. 


  1. Follow Standard College Format in Essay writing.
    1. Use New Times Roman, 12 pt.
    2. Single-space your name, course number, kind of assignment, and word count in the upper left hand corner.
    3. Center the Title in Bold, 14 point
    4. Double-space the body paragraphs.
    5. Indent five spaces for each paragraph.


  1. Avoid Plagiarism.

Plagiarism is taking the words and ideas directly from another source and     claiming them as your own. Cite your work accurately.  Inexpensive English Handbooks that cover who to cite correctly are available in the Bookstore. Hacker is a good choice.



Specific requirements for writing about Poetry:




May no fate willfully misunderstand me/

And half grant what I wish and snatch me away/

Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love;/

I don’t know where it’s likely to go better./

from  Birches, by Robert Frost.







About on-line learning and computers













A few things to think about when you think about Reading Poetry


Ours is a materialistic, active, extroverted culture. We value sports, making money, accumulating goods, being entertained. There is often little room in the stress, constant activity, and sheer noise of our modern world for the kind of quiet, listening and attention to detail that the arts -  music, literature, drama, painting, photography, and especially poetry - require. And yet, it is these very arts that make our lives more pleasant, express our deepest feelings, and reflect our cultural beliefs and values.


Still, because we rarely spend time with the arts and poetry, and then usually in a classroom where a ‘right answer’ is required, we often feel uncomfortable in their presence, as though we are on foreign ground, listening to an alien language. Not surprisingly, we may feel dumb and hence not interested.


But knowledge is powerful and transforming.   When we know more about something we often come to enjoy and value it.  It is my hope that as you work through this course and become more familiar with the language of poetry that you will come to enjoy and appreciate, maybe even love it.


Think of poetry as the synthesis of all the arts: music, painting, and photography, drama compressed into the rhythm of song, the visual landscape of emotion.  It is the palate of human expression reduced to its essence, distilled like good wine. 


The Greeks,   Aristotle in particular, considered poetry to be the highest of all the arts. The great Greek plays and Epics, Iliad, The Odyssey, were written in poetry.


Poetry is the earliest human expression. Long before recorded history, humans told their stories in poetry. The Judeo-Christian story of Genesis is exquisite poetry.   If you have a copy of the King James or Revised Standard Version of the Bible or the Jewish Torah, read the first book: Genesis.  Listen to the poetry of the language: the beat, the rhythm, the repetition of significant words and sounds the Hebrew Poet used to communicate his understanding of the sacred source of life and pass it on through the generations.


Our earliest works occur in poetic form: Creation stories, Epic Poems, The Arthurian Legends, Nursery Rhymes and Children’s games. The best examples of all forms of writing – short story, novels, plays, speeches - include the techniques of poetry: assonance, alliteration, repetition, rhythm.   It rises naturally from our bodies and our experience of the world: the rhythm of the tides, the beat of the human heart.  Listen to any baby or toddler, the way they form sounds, repeating them over and over in a singsong fashion, just as you did when you were very small.  My granddaughter who is nine months old delights in the sounds she makes. Like all of us, rhythm, repetition, the music of sound, comes naturally to her. The human heartbeat is the first sound we hear in our mother’s womb; it shapes our first experience of being human, being alive -  the beginning of music, the beginning of poetry.


In order to appreciate an art, we must feel comfortable, curious, safe enough to look, listen, ask questions. I imagine that some of you already love poetry; some may even be aspiring poets. Others know little about it, and may feel as anxious as they are interested.   This is where we all begin when we learn something new. And we are all learners.




Congratulations: You made it this far!


The beginning of any course, especially one on-line, can feel over-whelming. If, after you have read your Syllabus three times, you have questions, feel free to email me. There are no stupid questions.


I look forward to working with you.


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