Craft of Poetry Discussion Exercise: “What Is a Poem? What Is Poetry?”

Note: In this in-class discussion exercise, my ENG 2030 students were able to interrogate the questions “what is poetry?” and “what is a poem?” by looking at different texts, some poetic and some religious and some musical, in order to answer the question. The links to the texts are below the directions.



  • A traditional Irish blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

  • These passages of religious texts (Qu’ran and Bible).

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Have you considered him who turned away?

And gave a little, and held back?

Does he possess knowledge of the unseen, and can therefore foresee?

Or was he not informed of what is in the Scrolls of Moses?

And of Abraham, who fulfilled?

That no soul bears the burdens of another soul.

And that the human being attains only what he strives for.

And that his efforts will be witnessed.

Then he will be rewarded for it the fullest reward.

And that to your Lord is the finality.

And that it is He who causes laughter and weeping.

And that it is He who gives death and life.


Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.




  • Benjamin Bagby performing excerpts from Beowulf with harp accompaniment:








Group Notes Documents

This semester I started a Group Notes document in Google Drive, one for each of my classes. I created it so that students with learning differences would have built-in note-taking services; absent students could catch up on missed discussions; students could contribute insights they couldn’t, for whatever reason, share in class; students could add additional notes from their readings; and students wouldn’t lose their handwritten notes or have their typed notes lost in a computer crash.
For my Craft of Poetry class, it’s become a sort of playpen for our in-class writing exercises, where students can share their work and collaborate on things like lineation and formatting. It’s also incredibly easy to set up, and although I don’t yet have a majority of any three of my classes participating, the use of the resource by a few pioneering students has helped it gain some traction.
If my students give their permission and I can anonymize the contributors, I hope to share the documents in full after the Spring 2017 semester.

Photos from Field Trip to Princeton

On Wednesday, September 21st, I took my five Poetry Workshop students to see a Reading by Jenny Johnson and Joy Williams at Princeton University.

ENG 2015 Students Rachael, Ken, Devon, Heidi, and Tina outside Princeton’s Berlind Theatre, September 21, 2016.
ENG 2015 Students with poet Jenny Johnson (third from left)


Statement from University of Akron Provost Mike Sherman regarding the Future of the University of Akron 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.

Dear Colleague,

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