• Rhetoric of Poetry

    124 | CCN: 44958

    Instructor: Barbara Claire Freeman

    4 Units

    Here is an example of a poem I like a lot: 

    Last Poem #7      by Jeff T. Johnson
    Because every poem is a suicide note
    Because every poem kills itself
    Because we kill ourselves in poems
    Because death is inevitable and poetry is merely impossible
    Because you are not you and I am not I
    Because poems are for sale in stores
    Because we cannot write without reading
    Because we would rather write than read
    Because we would rather read than write
    Because we are not ourselves because we is no different than you or I
    Because we is poison in the mouth because you and I are choking on our tongues
    Because our legacy is death
    Because we write on paper or we write on slave-built machines that output to paper
    Because the weather is definitely getting worse
    Because we cannot outlive the earth
    Because we are embarrassed by this fact
    Because our songs do not die with us but they will die with the planet
    Because we are appalled by the word planet
    Because we are each other but we are alone
    Because we are reading our own poems and reproducing our own language
    Because this sounds like getting off but we cannot get off
    Because language does not fit in our mouths
    Because breath was given to us and we took it
    Because poetry is breath and thought and breath and thought are in short supply
    Because I love you no less because we are both dead
    Because you and you and you are I and I and I
    Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).
    If you are intrigued by this poem and would like to learn more about reading and writing and revising poems like it, I invite you to apply to "The Rhetoric of Poetry,"  a creative writing workshop open to no more than 20 sophomores or upper-division students. Prerequisites are: consent of the Instructor and at least one course on poetry (which may be either a poetry writing workshop or a course on modern/contemporary poetry). You will be happiest in this class if you agree that poems are poems and not prose because they are made from complex sentences or phrases that deviate from grammar only if they do so strategically, and that the "meaning" of a poem depends upon relationships between form, theme, and sound–and that you want to learn more about how this works. Course requirements include exercises in writing and revising poems, reading many contemporary poems including at least one book and probably more, writing a short essay about a poem (i.e. a "close reading") of around three pages that you will read aloud in class prior to submission.. You’ll also be required to read your own poems aloud in class so as to learn the art of reading to an audience in a way that  keeps them awake. Perhaps we will stage a poetry reading?  
    The class counts toward  fulfilling the creative-writing minor requirement.  To apply, please write to me at bcf1@earthlink.net. Please tell me why you are interested in taking this class and about your background in creative writing: if you’ve taken any poetry writing workshops and if so, where.  Feel free to include any other pertinent information you want to share.  You may waitlist yourself for the class, but will need permission from me to enroll in it.  Please note: for the first two weeks of the semester any student who misses a class without written permission from me will be dropped from the class,  thus allowing space for the next person on the waiting list to enroll, and that regular attendance is required. Also: any assigned book  must be read in hard copy, no pdf’s are allowed.