ENG 2015: POETRY WORKSHOP
Instructor’s Course Description
American poet C.D. Wright once wrote: “If I wanted to understand a culture, my own for instance . . . I would turn to poetry first. For it is my confirmed bias that the poets remain the most ‘stunned by existence,’ the most determined to redeem the world in words.” In this course, we will hold poetry to this noble standard, as an amplifier for the voices in our culture and an invocatory rendering of our world. In doing so, I’ll ask you to not only read and write poetry but also begin to look at your surroundings as a poet would. This requires close examination of images, scrutiny of your thoughts and feelings about subject matter, and consideration for other points of view. Additionally, you will be asked to think deeply about language, in terms of its meanings, its sounds, its rhythms, and its forms. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. As a means of introduction to the craft of poetry, students will submit original poems for workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers. In addition to workshop, you will be asked to engage with the writing of contemporary poets, to read like a writer would. I’ve chosen a couple of poetry collections and The Best American Poetry 2015 so that you will have a lens through which to examine the current landscape of American poetry and to see that even today poets are still trying to “redeem the world in words.”
- The Best American Poetry 2015, ed. Sherman Alexie. Scribner, 2015. ISBN: 978-1476708195
- Charms Against Lightning by James Arthur. Copper Canyon, 2012. ISBN: 978-1556593871*
- Poems by Elizabeth Bishop. FSG, 2011. ISBN: 978-0374532369
- A Larger Country by Tomás Q. Morín. Copper Canyon, 2012. ISBN: 978-0966339598*
- Miscellaneous poems/packets on Moodle
*Arthur and Morín will be reading at Centenary College on September 23, 2015.
ENG 2016: PROSE WORKSHOP (ONLINE)
Instructor’s Course Description
This online course will introduce students to a variety of prose forms: flash fiction, the short story, personal essay, and memoir. Using Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing as a technique and terminology guide, students will analyze published prose and write their own pieces for workshop, a collaborative discussion about the effects of writers’ choices on readers. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. We will base our discussions on how texts work rather than what they mean, after Francine Prose’s ideal of “reading like a writer.” My approach to teaching writing is founded on the belief that our writing skills must be practiced and cultivated, and that one must continually challenge one’s aesthetics, habits, and concerns throughout one’s writing life in order to write anything of consequence to one’s readers and, perhaps more importantly, one’s self.
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway. Longman, 2014. ISBN: 978-0134053240
- The Best American Short Stories 2014, ed. Jennifer Egan. Mariner, 2014. ISBN: 978-0547868868
- The Best American Essays 2014, ed. John Jeremiah Sullivan. Mariner, 2014. ISBN: 978-0544309906
- Miscellaneous readings on Moodle
My third manuscript, previously called Bluff, has a new title: Hollow Point. At 74 pages, it’s all ready except for a few revisions and the addition of some more poems in the person of Othello‘s Emilia.
Yesterday, Akron Poetry & Poetics editor Mary Biddinger announced her return to the reinstated University of Akron Press. Coordinator of Print Manufacturing & Digital Production Carol Slatter and Editorial and Design Coordinator Amy Freels returned to work Tuesday under the new leadership of transitional director Jon Miller and the umbrella of the University of Akron’s Library. This is a great victory for the press’s supporters who protested the University’s July decision to shut down the press and lay off its entire staff. I’m especially grateful to the Press’s staff, board, and authors. We saved the University of Akron Press!
Now that staff is back and the University has assured ongoing support for its Press, my second poetry collection Groundspeed has returned to the production calendar for publication in early 2016.
Below are statements from editor Mary Biddinger, transitional director Jon Miller, and the University’s president Scott Scarborough about the future of the Press.
MARY BIDDINGER’S STATEMENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT HER RETURN
Many, many, many thanks to everyone who helped us Save the University of Akron Press. I am very happy to be back at work making beautiful poetry books and supporting our authors, who spoke out so passionately against the closing of the press.
TRANSITIONAL DIRECTOR JON MILLER’S LETTER TO UA PRESS AUTHORS (EXCERPT)
Thank you for your patience and support of the Press these last three weeks. I’d especially like to thank Kevin Kern for his advocacy and his updates on behalf of the editorial board. I appreciate all that Tom Bacher has done for the Press, and I look forward to working with him. And I am very grateful for the poise and professionalism of Carol Slatter, Amy Freels, and Mary Biddinger as we discuss the nature and possibility of their continued work for the press. We are also fortunate to have the support of Phyllis O’Connor, our Dean of Libraries.
I am optimistic about the future of the Press–for 2015-2016 as well as for many years to come. Otherwise I would not have accepted this role.
We are working to return the Press to a condition that will satisfy authors, readers, faculty, and students. I wish our progress could have been quicker. It has been a very tough time for the entire campus, however. In this context, I think our progress has been about as quick as it could be. Provost Mike Sherman and President Scott Scarborough have responded to our arguments and recommendations in ways that would surprise their critics. They have demonstrated a genuine and patient interest in developing a deeper understanding of the great promise of this gem of a university press. I expect there will be more good news over the next few days, weeks, and months. Please bear with us. And thank you so much for your continued patience and support.
PRESS RELEASE FROM UA PRESIDENT SCOTT SCARBOROUGH
The University of Akron Press has been and will continue to be a vital part of the academic core of this institution. As we complete its transition to University Libraries, we will take all steps necessary to make sure it maintains its well-earned reputation as a vibrant, active academic press, and to maintain its full membership in the Association of American University Presses. It will honor all existing publishing commitments, continue to seek out new, high-quality works to add to its catalog, and proudly continue to support its nationally recognized poetry series.
After consultation with Professor Jon Miller, transitional director of the University of Akron Press and Phyllis O’Connor, interim dean of University Libraries, regarding staffing plans within University Libraries, we are re-engaging the services of the two staff members who will help ensure operations of the UA Press.
University of Akron Provost Mike Sherman sent out this statement to Akron employees about the future of the University of Akron Press, my publisher. The statement doesn’t mention publishing any other books beyond what’s already under contract, and there’s not any revelation about the future of the Akron Series of Poetry & Poetics. I have applied for pro bono representation from the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) through the Cleveland Bar.
I want to update you on developments concerning the University of Akron Press, which is transitioning to University Libraries.
I am pleased to announce that Dr. Jon Miller, associate professor of English, has agreed to serve as transitional director for the University of Akron Press. Dr. Miller has published two books with UA Press; served on the Faculty Senate’s Library Committee for six years, including the last two as its Chair; and, has significant experience as a scholarly editor of journals, an encyclopedia, and critical editions.
Dr. Miller will work with Tom Bacher, current UA Press director, and Phyllis O’Connor, interim dean of University Libraries, to manage the current activities of the UA Press (acquisitions, editing, marketing, distribution, etc.) and recommend a staffing and operational plan to meet obligations for previously published and currently contracted publications. As part of this process, they will determine how the Press’ future operations are incorporated into the ongoing strategic planning relating to University Libraries. Dr. Miller also will help strengthen opportunities for University of Akron students to publish their scholarly works and to learn about careers in editing and publishing through internships and classroom experiences. In addition, he will ensure that IdeaExchange@Uakron continues to showcase the research-based information generated from faculty and students.
The University’s three-year financial plan approved by the Board of Trustees in June includes a strategic investment fund to enhance the academic mission of the University. That fund will be accessed to help facilitate the transition of the UA Press to UA Libraries.
We will continue to update you on these and other developments in the weeks ahead.
All the best,
William M. “Mike” Sherman
Senior Vice President, Provost and Chief Operating Officer
August 11, 2015
Instructor’s Course Description
As a means of exploring the craft of prose writing, we will read, analyze, and imitate two living writers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jesmyn Ward. By reading two, book-length works by each writer—a short story collection and book-length essay by Adichie and a novel and memoir by Ward—we will see how these writers develop their unique styles across genres and locate how their personal concerns inform their fictional narratives. Additionally, we will supplement these texts with short stories and essays by some of the most influential prose writers of the 20th century to understand the history and development of American prose over the last one hundred years. We will translate these immersive reading experiences into writing skills through discussion, exercises, and workshop. Several times throughout the semester, students will turn in original writing for workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers, and later revise two of the pieces using the comments received in workshop. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. We will base our discussions on how texts work rather than what they mean, after Francine Prose’s ideal of “reading like a writer.” My approach to teaching writing is founded on the belief that our writing skills must be practiced and cultivated, and that one must continually challenge one’s aesthetics, habits, and concerns throughout one’s writing life in order to write anything of consequence to one’s readers and, perhaps more importantly, one’s self.
- The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Anchor, 2010. ISBN: 978-0307455918
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Anchor, 2015. ISBN: 978-1101911761.
- The Best American Essays of the Century, ed. Joyce Carol Oates. Mariner, 2001. ISBN: 978-0618155873.
- The Best American Short Stories of the Century, ed. John Updike. Mariner, 2000. ISBN: 978-0395843673.
- Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward. Bloomsbury USA, 2014. ISBN: 978-1608197651
- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. Bloomsbury USA, 2012. ISBN: 978-1608196265
- Class Participation (10%)
- Group Presentation (15%)
- Four Workshop Pieces (40%)
- Two Revisions (15%)
- Two Imitations (10%)
- Discussion Board Participation (5%)
- Final Reading (5%)