Spring 2022 Undergraduate English Courses

358:241 Introduction to Poetry

01   TTH4  2:00-3:20 PM   CAC   08241   SPELLMEYER  FH-B5

Meter, rhyme and scansion can scare people away, but these are only poetry’s tools. Of course, we should recognize the differences between Shakespeare’s sonnets and the gorgeous sprawl of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” But poetry is much more than its tools--more powerful and transformative. Our words give order to our experience, and so, when poets do new things with words, they put the world back together again in surprising and liberating ways. This is why the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau called poetry the first language of humankind. And it’s what the Chinese poet-critic Zhong Hong meant when he declared that poems “manifest the Hidden Mystery” from which arise the heavens and the earth and the “ten thousand things.”

In search of poetry’s beauty and power, we will start with ancient spells and prayers, moving to Shakespeare’s sonnets and wrapping up with a sampling of contemporary poets, primarily from the English-speaking world but also with forays into translations from Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Arabic and Nahuatl (Aztec).

Requirements include two short papers, a longer paper, a journal, and a final exam.