Friday, January 06, 2006

Contemporary Poetry: Write That Syllabus!

Look out world: next year they're letting me teach contemporary poetry. Here's your chance to write my syllabus.

Okay, more precisely: The course is called "Contemporary Poetry in English," which would seem to include writing from any country except Canada--not that Canadians don't speak English, but that there is already a separate full-year course on modern Canadian poetry. It's a one-semester (13-week) course, so figure at most one short collection of poetry per week.

"Contemporary" I would usually interpret to be post-1945, but most of the "modern" courses here run to 1960, so perhaps we should think post-1960; in any case, it seems likely that I'll emphasize much more recent writing. Given my own interests, it also seems likely that I'll focus on American poetry.

I've got plenty of ideas of my own. But I'm interested in hearing suggestions, either just of what you all think would be important or that you've taught before. Also, has anyone ever found a contemporary poetry anthology that would work for a course like this? All the ones I can think of have various drawbacks, but let me know what you think.

9 comments:

GJPW said...

Cedar Sigo, Selected Writings (2nd Edition) (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2005).


(Happy new year to you.)


--Guillermo

MissWanda said...

Jack Spicer. He's left out of most university modern courses. A shame too, very influential to many poets today.

Billy said...

Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry : From Fin-De-Siecle to Negritude, ed. by Rothenberg and Joris, is an incredibly diverse collection. They've done an outstanding job of helping to currate a broad experience of postwar poetry.

Lyle Daggett said...

Thomas McGrath, Sharon Doubiago, Joy Harjo, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Wanda Coleman, Sesshu Foster, Anya Achtenberg, Dale Jacobson, Olga Broumas, Jack Hirschman, Etheridge Knight, Kamau Brathwaite, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Martin Espada, Janice Mirikitani, Kimiko Hahn, Adrian Mitchell, Michael S. Harper, Sandra Maria Esteves, Judy Grahn, Nellie Wong, Adrian C. Louis.

Just off the top of my head.

Nick said...

you could use Paul Hoover's Norton Postmodern anthology, and not feel dirty, at least--if I had to use one, that'd be the one--but a collection a week is absolutely the way to go, I think (will be doing that with grad students this coming fall....)--Nick

elbowlina said...

Why limit yourself to just America.

If you do the one collection a week, consider some New Zealand stuff maybe. But then I am biased.

Arif said...

If it were my course, I would focus on diaporic poets (and you could make an argument that Canadian-Iranian (Iranian-Canadian?) poetry is not Canadian?
Then you get into these idiotic categories like "transpoetry."
I like poets such as A.K. Ramanujan
and I dislike most anthologies because many of them try to catalogue writers according to banalities like "ethnicity," gender. I would be interested in taking your course if you could do something that is not thematic; that doesn't try, for instance to find "postcolonial" tropes such as "the migrant's double vision" as a means to arrange itself. In short, I would veer away from anthologies and find poets that move me. And I would try to marginalize white males so for once, we can begin to think of how different cultural identities will create a new avante-garde - that will never reduce itself to Bhabhian tropes.

eshuneutics said...

Teaching contemporary poetry. That is an interesting challenge. What is the difference between modern and contemporary? When I studied in the UK, "modern" was Eliot who wasn't very modern! Modern is generally taken to be post 1945. Contemporary was what was happening there and then... a "living" poet was the touchstone. The best guide to UK contemporary poetry is Schmidt's Eleven British Poets but that wouldn't pass the "living" test.
The real problem with contemporary poetry is that academia often adds a silent test: can the student understand it. (That test is never applied to Shakespeare or Chaucer). Significant poets get by passed. Pound is not contemporary because he is dead. But he is contemporary in that his poetical method (not his politics!) is still beyond much of the drivel that passes today for poetry. Robert Duncan is sadly neglected. In English, the neglected master is Thom Gunn...dismissed too easily as an American and dismissed too easily from the American canon as Anglo-American.
Heaney is overlooked too. An interesting theme might be poets who are not just poets. Margaret Atwood for example. Or Mark Doty. Why do they choose to write in poetry as an alternative to other forms. Anyone could draw up a list of favourites. But that is not really teachable...or it shouldn't be. Good luck with an impossible task.

mairead said...

I'm doing this too -- a year later than you. I'd love to see your syllabus, & Nick's, & anyone else who has one. I'm thinking of starting in the 1990s, with the advent of listservs. Though the mention of Poems for the Millennium has made me think. It'll be a combination of issues (print v web; politics of publication; creative writing economy; best of the small press) & one book a week: so far I'm thinking of Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bok, Kenneth Goldsmith, Saul Williams, maybe Sina Queyras, maybe Kamau Brathwaite. Poems from Guantanamo? Do you or any readers have any strong must-haves, especially non-American but available in English?
Mairead