True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.

               --Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Criticism"

elcome to the world of English 598.  "ST/ENG 598: The Forms of Verse" is a flat and sad label, like "a bale of cotton."  A bale of cotton, however, produces 325 pairs of all-cotton jeans, and so we begin
--with a small magic, a small reason to believe we can actually pull out 325 Glorias or Calvins where none seems to be.  This is a course in architecture and aesthetics, a course in plans, in craft, in seeing, in working; the course will try to gather for our toolboxes a small series of both public and personal explanations intent upon showing why there are no haphazardly built skyscrapers.  This is a course in exercise, in ritualized, historical, and magical playing, and it is one way of finding technical options at little cost to the gypsy soul somewhere sound within each poet one of us. 

     You probably won't write your best poems in here, given the time limitations; but this course will, I think, lead you to your best poems.  Antoine de St. Exupery said something to the effect that our job is not to predict the future, but to enable it.  Let me hasten to say that this course is not going to be an attempt to make lifetime sonneteers of you all, but you need to know how to do a thing so that you'll recognize when you're not doing it.  And just as the writing of free verse lends itself to sloppiness, so has the writing of formal verse lent itself to stuffiness, to parlor poetry, to stereotyping of itself, and to non
-colloquial speech (oh but I did spy thee, and my heart it did go thump-umpity...).  If you avoid inversions, and write in your own voice, something akin to the voice of your time, formal poems should not be too alien.  But they will stretch you.

     Interspersed with these assignments will be the originally devised form, from which you will derive your paper; an exploration of Asian form in-class; an exercise in form as the beginning point and not the end; and some other forms as we decide, including perhaps a
corrido, some limericks, some blues, and a prose poem.  Be thinking all along about your paper.  It is relatively open at this point, and I will be willing to accept any good idea as it ties in with the aims of this course.

This will be a wonderful class.    Excelsior.   ~

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Last modified on:
Saturday, September 09, 2000
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