“One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poet steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different” (T.S. Eliot, 1920). This is not a 'creative writing' course per se nor is it just a lit. crit. course about recent poetry: students should be willing to approach the texts from the 'inside' as well as the outside. Harold Bloom has written of “the anxiety of influence” poets may feel in relation to their precursors. This can hinder a poet’s own poetic development and result in writing that is merely derivative. However, many poets also demonstrate the ‘benefits of influence’, of serving their (poetic) apprenticeships – rather as a carpenter does - as they seek their own poetic voices. We may, for instance, follow a clear line of descent in poetic influence from the poetry of John Keats to Wilfred Owen; Owen to Philip Larkin; Larkin to Carol Ann Duffy. Who are the new voices in English poetry in the first few years of the twenty-first century? What is distinctive about their writing? This course will combine critical and creative approaches to the study of these poems and will appeal to students who are interested in writing as well as analyzing poetry.
In six of the classes, we will examine poems by a number of notable contemporary poets and analyze what is fresh and original about their poetic styles. On the alternate (six) weeks we will discuss poems we have composed in the styles of some of these poets. The poets will be chosen from the following list: Simon Armitage, Emily Berry, John Burnside, Selima Hill, Sarah Howe, Luke Kennard, Mimi Khalvati, Mick Imlah, Paul Muldoon, Alice Oswald, Carol Rumens, Jo Shapcott.
This course has four main aims:
- to acquaint students with some of the outstanding English poetic voices of the C21st (to date).
- To help to develop skills in creative writing as well as critical analysis.
- to improve students’ reading, writing, analytical and research skills.
- to situate these poetic works within their socio-political, historical and literary contexts.
This course will not be a series of lectures. The classes will take the form of group discussions and readings augmented where appropriate by audio‑visual materials. In six of the classes we will explore and discuss poems by some of the poets listed above. In alternate weeks we will explore, discuss and revise poems participants have written in response to poems we have read.
The course is assessed 100% by coursework. This comprises two components: 30% for attendance, group-work and class participation; 70% for a portfolio of exercises arising out of the work done in class.
The portfolio will include: a) critical analyses of poems studied, b) students’ own (edited) poems written in response to the poems we have explored and c) a contribution to a class poem based on Alice Oswald’s long poem Dart (2002).
Handouts and information about the selected poems will be provided together with critical, biographical and bibliographical material. Please attend the first lecture for more details.