In this course, students will learn how to profoundly appreciate, and confidently analyse, poetry in English. Imagine figuratively poetry as a gourmet experience, then wouldn’t each poem appear in front of us as a fine dining dish? But how do we begin?
American poet Rita Dove suggestively compares the first experience of reading a book to that of using knife and fork in her poem “The First Book”:
Sure, it’s hard to get started;
remember learning to use
knife and fork? Dig in:
You’ll never reach the bottom.
“Knife and fork” are cutlery with which one can better taste and enjoy the food on the plate. The interesting word in Dove’s lines above is the gerund “learning”: while eating is instinctual, learning to eat with knife and fork enhances our experience and makes it a sophisticated, cultural one. Similarly in reading poetry, one can instinctually enjoy it. But to appreciate it in fuller scale, that is, to read each poem as a piece of life arranged in a specific manner of expression, we will have to acquire certain reading skills and familiarise ourselves (as the way we did when “learning to use/ knife and fork”- do you remember it?) with key elements in poetry.
Such key elements in poetry refer mainly to the formal ones, including but not limited to rhythm, sound patterns, poetic forms (such as sonnet and ballad stanza), syntax, speech acts, parts of speech, agency, grammatical persons, idea of the self, and figurative languages (such as simile and metaphor).
While poetry is a very broad genre, we will mainly focus on short lyric poems as our prescribed texts. It is in the lyric that we explore ideas of the self.
We will study poems in groups under such topics as private life, intimate relationships, living and the dead, public identities, wars and social conflicts, urban and social life, seasons and nature, etc.
After this course students should be able to confidently read and analyse poetry in English and see themselves as literary readers and critics. Students will appreciate poetry as a literary form and to read each poem as a piece of life arranged in a specific manner of expression. We will also learn to embrace unresolvable contradictions in life, to avoid coming to terms with clichés, and to look at one same thing through different visions: these are all important lessons that reading poetry teaches us. Ultimately, after this course, students will enjoy reading poetry and crave more.
The course consists of three contact hours per week, divided into a two-hour lecture (Friday 9:30 am -11:20 am) and a one-hour tutorial (Tuesday 9:30 am – 10:20 am).
There will be four assessment components in this course:
Participation and attendance (10%),
Tutorial exercises (20%),
A mid-term paper (30%), and
A final paper (40%).
Assignments must be submitted via Turnitin (on course Moodle page). More detailed instructions and guidelines will follow.
A course pack that contains all the poems to be introduced and discussed throughout the course will be made available via course Moodle page.