English H165: Honors Introduction to Poetry

This American Lyric

Spring 2015 Tues/Thurs: 12:15-1:30pm

Honors Hall Room 8

Prof: Wendy Tronrud                                                  Office: Klapper, 350   

Email:                              Office hours: Tues 11-12pm & by appt.

 Course Blog: 

Course Description:

Our course will be grounded in a series of questions and explorations around American identity and poetry. In particular, we will focus on the lyric tradition given its own emphasis on identity and subjectivity. While we will look at a diverse cross-section of poetry, a central thread of this course thinks about how poets and poems create, respond, refute and question aspects of American identity.

Identity is complex; so too is poetry. Nothing is to be taken for granted. This course invites questions, confusions, and deliberations. American lyric poetry is rife with investigations into the nature of personal voice, of this “I” who speaks. When a poet uses “I” in a poem what kind of self are we encountering? How does a solitary speaker correspond to society at large? What aspects of an individual’s identity (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, subculture) get to speak in a poem and what aspects get heard? Can a poem be a form of communication or protest? In other words, is there a difference between a personal and a public or political poem? Understanding the lyrical poem’s connection to musical and visual forms is a particular focus of this course.

Your concurrent study into American history post 1865 will greatly add to our explorations of American identity and poetry in this class. Poems are both imaginative and historical documents. We will begin our study in the mid-nineteenth century and loop, pause, and listen up to the present day. We will spend some time thinking about the role that lyric poetry plays in our contemporary experiences with poetry and I hope that this exploration will lead us to think about who we are as readers and why we read in the ways that we do.

 Goals and Objectives:

  • To approach poetry with willingness, personal commitment, and playfulness.
  • To become a better reader more attuned to the nuances of language.
  • To develop an intimate knowledge of texts and authors, demonstrated orally and in writing.
  • To become well versed in poetic vocabulary (e.g., syntax, diction, meter, line break).
  • To demonstrate said knowledge of poetic vocabulary through critical literary essays that utilize close reading and formal analysis.
  • To improve basic fundamentals of written language skills (e.g., grammar, proper word choice).
  • To recognize a wide range of poetic forms (e.g., ballad, sonnet, free verse, etc.)
  • To provide accurate evidence in written analysis from in-class texts and secondary sources.
  • To correctly utilize MLA guidelines.

ENGL 165 fulfills the Pathways requirement in the Flexible Common Core in the area of Creative Expression.

 Note: We will read and, occasionally, view sensitive material. If you object to or are uncomfortable with depictions of sex, drugs, violence, profanities, and so on, you should drop the course. Your continued enrollment in this section indicates your comfort with and responsibility for reading these texts.

Grading Information:

Participation                                                     20%

  • Writing Journal included

Blog Postings/Comments                                10%

Creative Response One Pagers                        15%

Three Close Reading Papers (2-3 pages)       20%

Mid-Term Poetic Convention Exam               10%

Presentation                                                        10%

Portfolio                                                               15%

Note on Participation:

Every class will involve some assortment of group discussion, note taking, and in-class writing activities. Class work cannot be made up if you are absent, so make sure you are here as much as possible. You are also responsible for contributing to class discussions. Note: to get an “A” in participation you must speak up at least once per class (a comment or a question), be active during all group/partner work and in-class writing. You also cannot be absent no more than once or twice.

Important Policies:

  • Revision: The drafting and revision process is an important part of each essay and this will be reflected in terms of grading.
    • If you don’t have your draft when you come to class, you will be politely asked to leave missing instruction and a participation grade for that day.
    • If you miss any stage of the drafting process (dialogic journal, 1st draft), your overall final grade will go down a full grade point (from 95 to 85) and you will have to make an appt with the writing center to get your writing workshopped before moving on to the next stage. If you do not get your draft workshopped, the final paper will not be accepted and you will fail the assignment.
  • Lateness: Given the drafting/revision process, I will not accept late papers under any circumstances. This is not meant as a punitive measure, but one of fairness.


This class relies extensively on technology so you must have regular computer and web access. Throughout the course I will be posting announcements, readings, occasional journal prompts, links, etc. on to the course blog.

The URL for the course blog is:

The password for protected pages is: lyrical

This blog will be accessed through You are expected to have an active QC email address that you check at least once a day because that is the address used by It is your responsibility to contact the OCT help desk to make sure that your email account is in working order.

To blog, you must visit and sign up for a username. Remember that you must use your QC email. After creating a username, you should log into and visit the course blog ( On the right-hand side bar there should be a box titled “Add Yourself to Blog.” You should input the password (lyrical) and you will be added as an author on the site. This will allow you to post new entries and comments.

For almost every class, students will be expected to make a contribution to the course blog either as a poster or as a commenter. The general guidelines for effective posts and comments are listed below:

  1. Posts: Throughout the semester each student will be required to generate two blog responses (each worth 3% of your final grade), which should be uploaded onto the course blog by 6pm the day before class so other students will have ample time to comment. Responses should be well thought out and organized, but do not have to be written as formal papers. Posts should be around 300-600 words After we discussMLA formatting, all quotations should be cited accordingly. (A sign-up sheet for blog response dates will be circulated within the first two weeks of class).
  2. Comments: During classes where you are not responsible for writing a blog entry, you are expected to comment on someone else’s post. These comments should demonstrate an engagement with other students’ ideas and/or questions. For this reason, commenters are expected to quote at least once from either the original blog entry or any other preceding comments on the page. Comments should be about 50-150 words in length and must be posted no later than 11:30pm the day before class. Comments will be evaluated not individually, but collectively for a total of 4% of your final grade.

In addition to writing posts and comments, your blogging grade also includes apresentation/discussion leader component. Students who are acting as posters for a particular set of readings are also expected to act as in-class discussants for that day. These are informal presentations. Students should speak to their blog post (you will need a copy of it in front of you). Discussants should also have read the comments on their blog post and come to class prepared with at least two comments or questions about particular agreements/disagreements or simply comments they would like to explore more to help stimulate class conversation. (We will review specific question types within the first two weeks of class). Discussant presentations are worth 2.5% for each response for a total of 5% of your final Participation grade.

*I will not accept any late blog responses, comments or discussant presentations. These cannot be made up so remember to check your own schedule before signing up for response dates. Let me know well in advance (at least 1-2 weeks beforehand) if you will be absent for a particular class and cannot complete the assignment so we can try to reschedule.


Drop files to upload
Drop files to upload
Drop files to upload

Course Requirements

Writing Journal: You will need a spiral bound notebook or binder in which you can keep detailed and organized notes. Your writing journal will be used both in class and for your homework unless otherwise noted.

The writing you do in this journal is meant to encourage exploration of the reading and writing process in an informal and creative space. The journal counts as a part of your participation grade. It’s the ideas that count, not the grammar. Much of this writing is designed to help you think more deeply about the poetry we will be reading. Absences will prevent you from participation in this activity, negatively affecting your final grade. I won’t be checking this everyday, but will do random checks periodically throughout the semester. It is up to you to keep this up to date.

 Poems resist our attempts to quickly skim or read for meaning. Instead, they invite multiple interpretations, even conflicting ones. The point of our reading this semester is not to answer the poem, but to ask questions of it and to think through multiple possibilities of meaning and interpretation. We will focus not on the quantity read, but the quality of the reading.

Reading protocol: 1. Read each poem aloud at least TWICE. 2. After the first time, underline words and/or lines that stand out to you and jot down a personal response as to why these stuck out. 3. Look up every word you are unsure of--don’t assume you know the meaning. Write down the definition next to word on the page. 4. Read the poem aloud a second time--this is important! Don’t skip this step. Write down or annotate what you noticed the second time around that you didn’t catch the first? Note your questions and confusions. The sounding of the lines is as important as the poetic verse and figurative language. What is this poem communicating overall? 5. Notice the form of the poem: stanza, meter, rhyme, etc. How does the form relate to what you wrote for #4?

 Dictionary: It is requirement that you read each poem with a dictionary at hand. Never take for granted that you truly know a word---look up each and every word that you are not sure about and occasionally look up words that seem obvious! Words mean multiple and often times surprising things and many poems play with these multiple meanings.

 Note about computers in class:

  1. Readings need to be printed and annotated OR annotated on some type of ereader. Reading from a phone or another device that does not allow you to annotate the text will not be permitted.
  2. Writing journal—if you are more comfortable typing your journal, rather than using a piece of paper, then please set up one word document where you will keep each class’s written work. If I ask for everyone’s journals--you need to be able to send this to me immediately in an organized fashion.
  3. You should not have your computer open when we are discussing the reading.

 Class Expectations:

Active participation: This is your class and I expect you to be present, not only physically but mentally, and to participate and engage yourself and your peers. Class discussions are a vital part of our class and it is essential that all are actively involved.

Respectful discussion: Discussion is encouraged but you must always be respectful of ideas shared by your peers; the classroom should be a challenging, fun, and positive place for all.

Preparedness: Please come to class prepared, with readings and assignments completed and updated blog postings. It is important that you attend class and arrive on time. Missed classes and frequent lateness will impact your ability to participate in class discussion and will negatively affect your final grade.

No electronics: Cell phones must be turned off before entering the classroom – no phone calling/text messaging/game playing during class session. Use of electronics at anytime will lower your participation grade.



Assignments: (More detailed instructions will be provided)

Creative Response Papers: Imitation, Ekphrasis, Mash-up (1-2 pages each)

Each of these assignments is designed to be a creative way for you to respond to a poetic text that we’ve read and discussed of your choosing. Not only does responding creatively push us further in our reading and understanding of particular texts, but each of these is designed to help lead you into the larger essay assignments discussed below. Therefore, these short assignments are extremely important to developing your reading and writing practices, but also to contributing to and informing our in-class discussions.

 Three Short Close Reading Essays (2-3 pages)

You will choose one aspect of a poem on which to do a close reading. This should be a chunk of the text into which you can dig more deeply and thus cannot be the whole poem. Typically, around 4 lines should suffice. You will complete a dialogic journal on these lines and then you will move into a discovery or 1st draft. After peer-review and conferencing, you will then develop this into your final draft.

 Presentation: Lyrical Conversations and Conflicts

You and a partner will select two poems, each one from a different poet, and you will further analyze each poem’s relationship to its historical context. These poems can be from completely different historical time periods or from similar ones. The goal here is that with your partner you think through the “conversations and conflicts” that reside in each poem in relation to its historical context and that you bring the two poems in conversation with each other. *Further details to follow

Each presentation will be 7-10 minutes long (no more) and will make use of one of the visual tools at our disposal: powerpoint, prezi, wordpress blog, etc.


In lieu of a large final paper or exam, your end of the semester portfolio is a presentation of your work from across the semester. In addition to choosing what goes into your portfolio, you will make additional revisions (responding to my comments from your final graded work). You will also complete a series of reflections thinking through your development as a reader, writer and thinker of poetry. This portfolio will be submitted online through Google Drive. Further instruction and details to follow.


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