Poetry Syllabus

Required Texts:
Writing Poems, Michelle Boisseau, Longman, 2003.
Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins, Random House, 2002.
Poets on Place: Interviews and Tales from the Road, W.T. Pfefferle, Utah State University Press, 2005.

Course Description and Objectives:

Introduces students to poetry writing. Students will work within a workshop atmosphere providing and accepting critiques of their own work and the work of others. In addition, there will also be in-depth discussion of some classic and contemporary work by established writers. 

Objectives include:
  • to guide writers in developing skills in poetry writing
  • to study recent trends in contemporary poetry
  • to research manuscript submission processes and to develop these for each writer
  • to study recent interviews of American poets in hopes of understanding a poet’s process and inspiration.
Course Units:
  • selections of contemporary poetry in textbook.
  • selections of interviews with American poets from textbook.
  • study of literary magazines.
  • review of poetry in recent Georgetown Review.
  • manuscript submission for publication.
  • spoken-word poetry (including public performance).
  • poetry portfolio.
  • participation in writing workshops (10 points)
    You receive a grade based on your participation in our class meetings. These workshops are crucial to your development as a poet, and therefore crucial in your value to the class. You should be expected to be active in every workshop, especially those where your poetry is not actually being discussed.
  • assessment of final portfolio (30 points)
    At semester end you turn in a final portfolio of your work. This will include early and revised drafts of your best poems.
  • assessment and completion of manuscript submission (20 points)
    By semester end, everyone will have chosen a national literary mag to which they will then prepare a professional submission of a batch of poems. Choosing an appropriate magazine, preparing your work professionally, and getting those poems in front of an editor are all crucial steps in your development as a poet.
  • E1: response paper on interviews (20 points)You will write an essay that responds to at least two of the interviews in the book. You can take any line of inquiry with this essay.
  • E2: response paper on poems (20 points)You will write an essay that discusses a selection of poems that you have read this semester. These poems must include at least one poem from Poets on Place, at least one poem from Georgetown Review, and at least one poem that you find on your own – can include anything from the Billy Collins book.

Academic Honesty:

I expect you to be familiar with and to comply with the college's Honor System. If I discover that you have plagiarized, I shall report your name to the Honor Council, and you will fail this course. For more information about Georgetown’s Honor Code, check this website: http://spider.georgetowncollege.edu/ honorsystem.htm.


It is expected that you attend every class, and that you arrive on time. Attendance is mandatory. Any student missing 3 sessions will lose one full letter grade.


8.31 Class introduction. Discuss poems from Billy Collins book. Boisseau, Chapter 1.

9.7 Read the David Citino and Michael Dennis Browne sections in the text. Choose one Billy Collins poem to read aloud in class and discuss. Exercises.

9.14 Read the Nicole Cooley and Frederick Smock sections in the text. Choose another Billy Collins poem to read aloud in class and discuss. Exercises. Boisseau, Chapter 4.

9.21 First workshop. All writers bring two new pieces. Read the Naomi Shihab Nye section.

9.28 Read the Barbara Drake and Campbell McGrath sections. Discuss and Assign E1.

10.5 Second workshop. All writers bring two new pieces.

10.12 Discuss outside readings from Georgetown Review. Assign first of individual workshop sessions. Boisseau, Chapter 10.

10.19 Third workshop (group A poets).

10.26 Fourth workshop (group B poets).

11.2 E1 due in class. Discuss manuscript submission project. Review of literary magazines.

11.9 Fifth workshop. All writers bring in one revised piece (with its earlier draft) from third and fourth workshop only. Boisseau, Chapter 7.

11.16 Discuss and Assign E2. Come prepared to discuss your choices of poems from Poets on Place, the Billy Collins collection, and Georgetown Review.

11.23 Manuscript submission workshop. Bring what you intend to send. Boisseau, Chapter 11.

11.30 Sixth workshop. Bring portfolio poems in revision.

12.7 E2 due in class. Bring manuscript submission materials. Bring final portfolio, showing six poems in early and revised versions.