Introduction to Poetry

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
~William Blake (from “Auguries of Innocence”)

The word poetry comes from the Greek verb ποιεῖνto make. A poem, ποίημα, is literally something made. Of all the things that humans make, poetry is surely among the most marvelous. Though made using only words and the voice, poetry has a multi-media quality, combining music (in its rhythm and the sound of its words), painting (in its vivid imagery), philosophy (in its probing the most fundamental questions). Through its concentrated, arresting language, poetry wakes us up and calls us to reflect, to see and think about things for the first time or in a new or deeper way.

In Introduction to Poetry, we will experience this special art form as we listen to great recitations, read poems out loud, memorize and recite. We will explore the details of each poem as we look at imagery, figurative language, symbols, tone, voice, rhythm, meter, rhyme, and form. We will see how the poet conveys meaning through all the elements and tools of poetry.

Introduction to Poetry is a year-long Lit/Comp course, though students may take just one semester. Fall semester will focus primarily on English poets, Spring on American poets.

Weekly assignments will include both aural and written work. Students will listen to recordings, read out loud, and memorize poems (working towards class recitations). They will also scan poems (marking accents to see the poem’s rhythm and possible meter), write definitions of unfamiliar words, annotate each poem as they observe its details, and write reflections and questions. Each semester will include an essay on a poem, progressing through drafts to a final paper. Assignments will also include poetry writing exercises, giving students the opportunity to explore words creatively.

Satisfying additional requirements, students may take this course for Honors credit.

Students also have the option of auditing this class if they don’t want to receive credit, but just want an opportunity to read and discuss poems. Parents/Adults are welcome!

Fall Semester will include…

Anonymous Medieval and Renaissance Ballads
Shakepeare’s Sonnets
Metaphysical Poets: John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell
John Milton
Romantic Poets: William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), John Keats (including odes “To Autumn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn)
Alfred Lord Tennyson (including “The Lady of Shallot”)
Gerard Manley Hopkins
William Butler Yeats
T.S. Eliot (including “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)

Spring Semester will include…

Walt Whitman
Emily Dickinson
Robert Frost
Wallace Stevens
William Carlos Williams
T.S. Eliot (including “The Waste Land” and Four Quartets)
Langston Hughes
W.H. Auden

"Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted."

~Percy Bysshe Shelley