ENG 326 Writing Poetry: Intermediate
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Note: My intermediate poetry class is wrapping up their discussion of Erika L. Sánchez’s Lessons on Expulsion. All three of these poems appear in the final section of the book, and they model two approaches of the “function” of a poem. In the first exercise, students will list humiliations and embarrassments in a move toward candor and intimacy, and, in the second, they will think about the rhetoric of the imperative, its insistence and (sometimes) hesitance.
10/19 Writing Exercises: “Poem of My Humiliations” and “Admit It”
We will do two back-to-back writing exercises based on three poems by Erika L. Sánchez—“Poem of My Humiliations” for the first, and “Circles” and “Six Months after Contemplating Suicide” for the second—if time allows.
Writing Exercise #1: “Poem of My Humiliations”
- Re-read “Poem of My Humiliations” (62) by Erika L. Sánchez. Discuss.
- Craft a poem that is a list of things that humiliated or embarrassed you (only use things with which you’re comfortable sharing). You must create single-sentence stanzas with no line breaks.
Writing Exercise #2: “Admit It”
- Re-read “Circles” (64) and “Six Months after Contemplating Suicide” (72). Discuss.
- Write a poem in which you use the imperative mode (an insistent instruction)— “Admit it”—to the self or (a real or imagined) beloved.
Students in my online, 24PearlStreet “Every Phantom // A Story: Erasure and Revision” course explored erasure as a political and social justice act and then completed “Dear ,” an erasive poetry exercise, last week after reading the following assignments:
- “The Near Transitive Properties of the Political and Poetical: Erasure” by Solmaz Sharif.
- “Reaching Guantánamo” by Solmaz Sharif.
- Look at “The Race Within Erasure,” a Powerpoint presentation by Robin Coste Lewis, with special attention to her erasure, The Pickaninny Wins!
- “Will There Be More Than One Questioner?” by Nick Lantz.
- “We Redacted Everything That’s Not a Verifiably True Statement from Trump’s Time Interview About Truth” on Jezebel.
Writing Exercise: “Dear ”
- Write a letter in the persona of a loved one of someone imprisoned. Say everything this person needs to say in your initial draft.
- Print off the poem, and act the part of the censor. With a Sharpie or dark pen, strike out passages that seem to pose pertinent and specific information.
- Post the original poem and the censored version, along with a paragraph-long reflection that considers which version is more evocative, more like a poem.
In this writing exercise inspired by Solmaz Sharif’s Look, students will explore using found language in order to create compelling dramatic situations.
Writing Exercise: “Look It Up”
- Select 4–5 words from Solmaz Sharif’s poems in Look. (These could be the DOD terms in small caps or her language.)
- Look up each of these words in the Oxford English Dictionary, available through the Taylor Memorial Library. Take notes on each of the definitions. Reflect: Did you know all of these definitions? Do you use these words differently?
- Write down these 4–5 words. What dramatic situation would include all of them?
- Free-write a poem in which you use all 4–5 words. Try to use the words in such a way that they make sense for this dramatic situation.
- Share. (Let’s type some of them up in the Group Notes document.)
—from The Art of Perspective (Graywolf, 2016)
The following information is taken directly from my Spring 2017 ENG 2030 Craft of Poetry Syllabus.
ENG 2030 Craft of Poetry Required Texts and Materials
- Girmay, Aracelis. Black Maria. BOA Editions, 2016. ISBN: 978-1942683025.
- Johnson, Jenny. In Full Velvet. Sarabande Books, 2017. ISBN: 978-1941411377.
- Levin, Dana. Banana Palace. Copper Canyon Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1556595059.
- Rankine, Claudia. Citizen. Graywolf Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-1555976903.
- Rekdal, Paisley. Imaginary Vessels. Copper Canyon Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1556594977.
- Sharif, Solmaz. Look. Graywolf Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1555977443.
- Online Course Reader
- A bound writing journal and writing utensil, required in every class*
*If you have accommodations for the use of a computer at all times, you may complete your writing journal electronically and will not need the bound writing journal. Please be sure that you provide me with your accommodation letter as soon as possible.
A Note About Ordering Books
If you choose not to order from the university bookstore, I encourage you to consider ordering books directly from the publisher. Cutting out the middleman helps ensure that publishers and authors are treated fairly in the transaction. Here are the links to our books on their publishers’ websites:
You can also make a difference with your book purchase by placing a special order with a local or regional bookstore, like Labyrinth Books in Princeton or Black Dog Books in Newton; an independent bookstore with online ordering, like Powell’s or Strand Bookstore; or a philanthropic independent seller like Better World Books.
In this exercise inspired by Percival Everett’s novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier, and nuanced by Odysseus’s encounter with Polyphemus, my Craft of Prose students created a character with a name that causes confusion, a name that is either a negation or a pun, and then crafted a creation myth about their conception and birth in the character’s point of view. Check out Writing Exercise: “The Immaculate Conception of Nohbdy.”
On Wednesday, November 16, I gave the lecture “It’s Alive: Why Poetry Still Matters” at Rutherford Hall in Allamuchy, New Jersey. Here are the materials for that talk:
This talk also transformed into my November 2016 blog post for Ploughshares, “Truth & Dread: Why Poetry Still Matters & The Risk of (Too Much) Empathy”:
Can the act of empathy, learned from literature and poetry, become an act of appropriation when we take it to our lived lives? This is a question I haven’t been able to answer. Each of us is not a sun around which others revolve; we cannot, like black holes, pull everything into us without risking erasure, of others, of ourselves. Perhaps more than the practice of empathy, poetry offers us the opportunity to listen, and not just in the way that it appeals to the same areas of the brain music stimulates, and not just in the way that we can hear the cadence and rhythm and sounds of poetry. Perhaps poetry offers us the opportunity to hear its many speakers, to not so much as internalize each of their voices and experiences as to confirm them, to say, you are you, you are a voice, I hear you.