Topic: Generative Genres: Elegies, Odes, and Civic Poems

Section 1: Tuesday and Thursday 9:30-10:45 AM

Professor: Katy Didden

In this course, we will study three poetic genres that have rich literary traditions: elegies, odes, and civic poems.  Together, we will test the theory that having a strong knowledge of literary genres can be extremely generative for our own work, and can help us diversify our creative writing repertoire, as each genre offers unique writing strategies and tools.  How do dialogue and repetition function in the context of elegy, for example?  What do we mean by pastoral elegy, self-elegy, anti-elegy, public elegy?   How do turn, counterturn, and stand function in the ode?  How are odes versatile enough to inspire soldiers and athletes to greatness (like the odes of Pindar), but also to praise the small miracles of daily life (like Neruda’s “Ode to My Socks”)?  What do we mean by the civic poem, and how does the civic poem relate to current trends in the poetry of engagement and documentary poetics?   Studying elegies, odes, and civic poems, we will also consider ongoing questions about the private versus public functions of poetry, and how the notion of the public poem continues to evolve.  For this course, we will read articles to help us define each genre.  We will also read selections of historical examples, and at least one collection of contemporary poetry for each genre (possible texts include Marie Howe’s What the Living Do, Max Ritvo’s Four Reincarnations, Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, and Solmaz Sharif’s Look).  Students will write a portfolio of poems inspired by our study of genre, write critiques for their peers, co-facilitate class discussions, and participate in a roundtable presentation at the end of the semester.

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