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Dr. Mairéad Byrne, University of Mississippi

This course is a celebration of twentieth century poetry. It is wide-ranging but not all-inclusive. Our two textbooks, An Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry, edited by Cary Nelson (Oxford UP, 2000), and Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, both magnificent volumes, will be supplemented by some handouts and the Modern American Poetry (MAPS) website MAPS is an online journal and discussion forum, edited by Cary Nelson. It is also a rich archive of historical, critical, and visual information relating to twentieth century poetry, and the specific poems in the Nelson anthology.

We will read both widely and closely in this course. Classes will be discussion-based, with some lecture. We will focus primarily on the materials and dynamics of American poetry, examining some of the major movements which currently shape it. We will also examine the engagement of American poetry with world culture, paying particular attention to cross-over points, i.e., where American poets go out into the world as soldiers, travelers, and expatriates, and where world cultures come into American poetry, through reading, translation, immigration, migration, and the Web. Similarly, we will be attentive to the established forms of poetry and to the points where these forms break down and are remade as a result of entanglements with other languages, music, the visual arts, prose, media, and twentieth century experience. We will proceed always by the selection of salient, exciting, but by no means definitive, examples.

We will not discuss all the poems listed for each class but I expect you to read them, and to inform yourself about context by browsing MAPS. You will turn in a half-page response (preferably printed) to some aspect of the reading at the beginning of each class. You will write two short papers (close reading and argument), and there will be a mid-term and final exam.

The syllabus may be revised as the semester progresses.

WEEK ONE: The Rush of the Twentieth Century

M 8.20: INTRO; from Hart Crane’s The Bridge, "Proem"
W 8.22
: Langston Hughes, "Let America Be America Again"
F 8.24:
Gertrude Stein, Patriarchal Poetry


M 8.27: Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon (handout); E.E. Cummings, "next to of course god america I," "i sing of  Olaf glad and big"
W 8.29: Langston Hughes, "Letter from Spain"; Muriel Rukeyser, "Poem"; Genevieve Taggard, "To the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade"
F 8.31:
Randall Jarrell, "A Front," "Losses"; Philip Levine, "The Horse"; Nelly Sachs, "Chorus of the Dead," "We Stars"
W 9.5:
Genevieve Taggard, "Ode in Time of Crisis"; Yusef Komunyakaa, "To Do Street," "Prisoners," "Communiqué"; Judy Grahn, "Vietnamese Woman Speaking to an American Soldier"
F 9.7:
Charles Reznikoff, from Holocaust, "Massacres"

WEEKS FOUR AND FIVE: Women: New Subjects, New Forms

M 9.10: Gertrude Stein, "A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson," "Identity A Poem"
W 9.12:
Marianne Moore, "The Fish,"; Elizabeth Bishop, "The Fish"; the Bishop/Moore correspondence about "The Fish" (MAPS); "On Moore’s Life and Career" and "A Moore Chronology" (MAPS); Bishop, "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore (handout).
F 9.14:
M 9.17:
Sylvia Plath, "The Bee Meeting," "The Arrival of the Bee Box," "Stings," "The Swarm," "Wintering," "Daddy," "Ariel," "Lady Lazarus"; "Two Views of Plath’s Life and Career" (MAPS). Assignment 1 due.
W 9.19:
Lucille Clifton, "poem to my uterus," "to my last period"; Gwendolyn Brooks, "The Mother" (handout); Sharon Olds, "The Language of the Brag" (handout)
F 9.21:
Robert Frost, "Home Burial"; Robert Lowell, "To Speak of the Woe That Is in Marriage"; Denise Levertov, "The Ache of Marriage"; Adrienne Rich, "Trying to Talk with a Man"

WEEK SIX: Three Modernists

M 9.24: Ezra Pound, "A Pact," "In a Station of the Metro," "The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter," "Canto 1" (Millennium), "Vortex.Pound", from "The Great Digest"; "Pound’s Life and Career," "Selected World War Two Broadcasts," "Pound on Gender" (MAPS)
W 9.26
: T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland; "On the Composition of The Wasteland" (MAPS)
F 9.28
: Wallace Stevens, Nelson 125-144 and Millennium 355-356

WEEK SEVEN: Poetry & the Visual Arts

M 10.1: Poems for the Millennium, Apollinaire, "Horse Calligram," Pablo Picasso, "A Bottle of Suze"; Marcel Duchamp, "The 1914 Box"; Pierre Reverdy, "Squares"; Francis Picabia, "Portrait de Tristan Tzara"
W 10.3:

Group 1: Langston Hughes, from "Montage of a Dream Deferred" (Millennium), "Come to the Waldorf-Astoria," "Christ in Alabama" (Nelson); "A Hughes Spanish Civil War Broadside," "Three Hughes Book Jackets" (MAPS)

Group 2: e.e. cummings, "No Thanks, No. 70," "Poem, or Beauty Hurts Mr. Vinal" (Millennium), "Space being (don’t forget to remember) Curved"(Nelson), "Paintings by e.e. cummings (MAPS)

Group 3: Frank O’Hara, "Why I am Not a Painter"

F 10.5: Midterm


M 10.8: W.S. Merwin (Nelson 912-920); "What Is American About American Poetry?", "An Online Interview" (MAPS). W.S. Merwin visit, 10.9.
W 10.10:
Langston Hughes Voices & Visions movie
F 10.12:
No class

WEEKS NINE AND TEN: African-American Movements

M 10.15: Round About Harlem:

Group 1: James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Angelina Weld Grimké, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Claude McKay, Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen

Group 2: Vachel Lindsay, "The Congo"; Carl Sandburg, "Nigger"; V.J. Jerome, "A Negro Mother to Her Child"

Group 3: Charles Reznikoff, from Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative, "Negroes"; Genevieve Taggard, "To the Negro People"

W 10.17: Langston Hughes (Nelson 512-525); MAPS
F 10.19: Negritude
(Millennium 559-582)
M 10.22: Black Arts: Insiders and Outsiders:
Amiri Baraka, "SOS," "Black Art," "When We’ll Worship Jesus" (Nelson 997-1001); Ishmael Reed, "I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra"
W 10.24:
Gwendolyn Brooks (Nelson 766-781); MAPS
F 10.26: Contemporary Black Women:
Lucille Clifton, "poem to my uterus," "to my last period" (Nelson 1029-1035); Patricia Smith, "What It’s Like To Be a Black Girl (For Those of You Who Aren’t)", "Blonde White Women," "Skinhead."

Prospectus for Assignment 2 due


M 10.29: America

Group 1: Weldon Kees, "Travels in North America"

Group 2: Ginsberg, "Wichita Vortex Sutra"

Group 3: Adrian C. Louis, "A Colossal American Copulation"

W 10.31: The South

Langston Hughes "The Bitter River," "Three Songs About Lynching," "Ku Klux," "Bombings in Dixie," Robert Hayden, "Night, Death, Mississippi," Henry Dumas, "Son of Msippi"

F 11.2: Mississippi

Etheridge Knight, "Haiku," "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane" (Nelson 968-972); Richard Wright, "We of the Streets"

M 11.5: The Land

Group 1: Ray A. Young Bear, "In Viewpoint: Poem for 14 Catfish and The Town of Tama, Iowa"

Group 2: Lorine Niedecker, "Paean to Place" (Nelson 536)

Group 3: A.R. Ammons, "Corson’s Inlet"

Group 4: Jayne Cortez, "I Am New York City"

W 11.7: The Landless

Group 1: Louise Erdrich, "Indian Boarding School: The Runaways"

Group 2: Angel Island: Poems by Chinese Immigrants (Nelson 491-493)

Group 3: Sterling Brown, "Sharecroppers"

Group 4: Marilyn Chin, "How I Got That Name"

F 11.9: Visiting Poet: Ann Fisher-Wirth

WEEK THIRTEEN: Movements and Manifestoes

M 11.12: Surrealism: Millennium 465-521
W 11.13:
The Beats: Allen Ginsberg, Howl, Bob Kaufman, "Abominist Manifesto" (handout)
F 11.15: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E:
Susan Howe, Michael Palmer, Ron Silliman, Harryette Mullen; Assignment 2 due



M 11.26: Poems That Go, Born Magazine, Questions in Cyberpoetry
W 11.28:
Web Journals, Listservs, Audio Poetry
F 12. 1: Visiting Poet: Gabriel Gudding


M 12.4: God’s Fools

May Swenson, Alan Dugan, Russell Edson, James Tate, Ntozake Shange

W 12.6: Poetry Autobiographies
F 12.8: A Reading by Mairéad Byrne



Poems That Go /

Born Magazine

Web Del Sol

Electronic Literature

E-Poets Network

Audio + International Projects

Wild Honey Press



The East Village







Buffalo Poetics http://epc/

British Poets

Poetry Etc



Poetry Daily

Electronic Poetry Center

Zuzu’s Petals

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