HUMS 626
Love, Death, and Politics: Where Poets Find Their Inspiration

Edwina Trentham             

Course Description
In this course, we will focus on what Terrence des Pres calls the "impersonal force" of politics and the very personal experiences of love and death, in order to study the work of five poets reading at the Summer 2004 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut. We will read and discuss the work of Grace Paley, Richard Blanco, Suzanne Cleary, Joan Joffe Hall, and Martha Collins. We will also attend readings at the Sunken Garden by Suzanne Cleary (June 30), Joan Joffe Hall (July 14), and Martha Collins (July 28), and view videos of the readings of Grace Paley and Richard Blanco. Class will be held at The Makeshift Theater at Hill-Stead Museum on the nights we attend the readings. You will keep journals in response to the work of the featured poets and the poetry readings, will write six poems of your own, and also write either a short critical essay on one of the poets or brief reviews of two of the poetry readings. In addition to studying the work of the poets, we will read and discuss a collection of critical essays by Adrienne Rich, Terrence des Pres, Carolyn Heilbrun, Tess Gallagher, and others, on the different ways poets think and write about the internal and external world. You will then explore these ideas through your own research on the work of the assigned poets in order to write your critical essays or reviews. See course calendar for due dates. You will also give a public reading of your work at the end of the semester, and we will produce a book of work by everyone in the class.
Course Format
We will spend part of the class time in large group discussion of the poets and their work, reading the assigned collection of poetry by each poet before discussion and before attending or viewing each poet's reading (see course calendar). We will also look closely at the technical aspects of writing poetry, exploring the ways in which form and content work together. In addition to full class discussions, the class will be divided into three six-person groups, for work-shopping of student poems. Each of you will provide copies of your poems for group members and me, to take home, read, and respond to in detail and in writing, so that the work-shopping of poems in subsequent classes can be substantive and helpful. I will be part of a different group for each workshop, but I will give written feedback on all student poems and would be happy to meet with you individually at any time.

The second to last class (August 9) will be devoted to putting together a collection of our poems and the last class (August 11) is set aside for the public reading of your work.

The due dates for short critical essays (5-7 pages) and reviews of readings (two reviews of 3 pages each) are listed on the course calendar and those are firm dates. At the end of the semester you will submit a portfolio of your first five poems, rewritten in response to group and class discussion and your own growing understanding of your poetic voice as the semester goes on. The portfolio should include the original and the rewrite of those five poems, marked appropriately, and should also include the original of a sixth poem, which will be read and discussed in class on August 9.

I welcome suggestions about different ways to approach the reading and discussion, as well as additional examples of work by other poets and critical essays that might enrich our discussion.

Blue Cloth
by Suzanne Cleary (available in class for purchase)
In Angled Light by Joan Joffe Hall
Begin Again by Grace Paley
Some Things Words Can Do By Martha Collins
City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco

A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry by Mary Oliver
Additional Costs
Parking at the Sunken Garden Festival is $5.00 per car, although in the past we have not been charged parking because we arrive early for class. Admission to the readings is free for students, and although dinner is available for approximately $10.00, many people bring their own meals for a picnic on the lawn. Alcohol and coolers are not permitted.
Directions to Hill-Stead Museum

From Hartford: Take 84 West to Exit 38 Route 6 Bristol. Go straight at light at end of exit. At next light take right on Bird’s Eye Road. Take first left on Mountain Road. *Go to second stop sign and take a right. This is still Mountain Road. The museum entrance is 2/10 of a mile on the right. If you see a church or Miss Porter's School, you have gone too far.  

From Points West: Take 84 East to Exit 37 Finnemann Road. At light at end of Exit take a left. Go straight and cross over Route 6 (Whole Donut is on the right). After you cross over Route 6, take your first left onto Mountain Road and follow * above.

The Makeshift Theater, where class will be held on reading nights, is on the left of the driveway, as you bear left after passing the Garden on your right and the Museum and bookstore on your left. There is parking on the right, directly across from the Makeshift Theater. There will probably be a sign, but, if not, I will be there waving frantically.

Course Schedule
Note Class will be held at the Hill-Stead Museum in the Makeshift Theatre on June 30, July 14, and July 28.
June 28 Who are we and why are we here?
Form groups. Blue Cloth available in class for purchase.
June 30 Suzanne Cleary Reading at Sunken Garden
Discussion of Blue Cloth.
1st poem due with copies for your group and for me
July 5 No class: 4th of July celebrated. Have fun!
July 7 Discussion of Cleary's reading
Continued discussion of Blue Cloth
Workshop 1st poem
July 12 Discussion of In Angled Light
2nd poem due
with copies
July 14 Joan Joffe Hall Reading at Sunken Garden
Workshop 2nd poem
July 19 Discussion of Begin Again
3rd poem due
with copies
Cleary and Hall essays and reviews due
July 21 We will view Grace Paley video in class
Workshop 3rd poem
July 26 Discussion of Some Things Words Can Due
4th poem due
with copies
July 28 Martha Collins Reading at Sunken Garden
Workshop 4th poem
August 2 Discussion of City of a Hundred Fires
5th poem due
with copies
August 4 We will view Richard Blanco video in class
Workshop 5th poem
Choose title and cover for book and plan August 11th reading
Paley and Collins essays and reviews due
August 9 6th poem due with copies for full class discussion (19 copies)
Bookmaking and party! Copies and covers for book due.
Blanco essays and reviews due
Portfolios due
: Originals and finals of first five poems and original of sixth poem
August 11 Student reading at Russell House.
Be prepared to read your own work (5 minutes per student)
Invite all your friends and relatives!
Portfolios returned.