In this course, I revised further by reading two whole collections (as opposed to reading from anthologies). I added new assignments, small and large. I continued my aim from an earlier revision of the course: I wanted my students to explore their own poetic means, to discover many ways into poetry writing, and not only form.

Course Syllabus

syllabus | English 2260, Introduction to Writing Poetry | spring 2015View in a new window

Instructor: Lisa Bickmore
Contact: message via Canvas; ext. 4686
Office: IAB 165F
Hours: TR 10-11:30 a.m.; MW 9-10 a.m. online; and by appointment

Required texts:

Course Overview & Objectives:

This course is designed to introduce the writer to a wide variety of poetic forms and practices, and to give the writer the opportunity to write many new poems while getting formative feedback on those poems. At the end of the course, the writer will submit a portfolio of revised poems. 

1.Students will write a number of poems in a variety of forms.
2. Students will give and get constructive feedback to and from their peers and from the instructor on their writing.
3. Students will learn to revise their poems, using the feedback they have received.
4. Students will explore and understand the place of poetry in culture and in public life.
5. Students will write regularly in a writing journal and use this space to practice various methods of invention, record observations, and show evidence of their writing process.
6. Students will have practice using and analyzing the building blocks of poetic forms, such as meter and other rhythmic devices, the line, devices of sound, and poetic tropes.
7. Students will read and analyze a variety of poems.

What you’ll do in this course:

You will read lots of poetry from many traditions and eras. As poets, you’ll build a bigger, expanded sense of your art by means of this reading; I’ll help you learn more about how to read as a writer, so that this reading can help you build an aesthetic project and the tools to use as you build it. You’ll write a draft weekly, share the draft with your classmates to get feedback, and give feedback in return to them. You’ll write informally in a writer’s journal; we’ll talk about how to use this kind of informal daily writing in your poetic practice. You’ll do some other kinds of writing/thinking as well—a presentation on a topic to help us explore the place of poetry in our culture; an essay focusing on a topic related to poetry; a collaborative (whole class) mapping project; and you’ll devise a “Poem as Public Act” project (for more details on these projects, see below). We’ll also make a class publication, focusing on your revised poems.

To be successful in this class, you should think of it as an opportunity: an opportunity to really focus on writing and learning about poetry; to create, if only temporarily, a writer’s community; to write a lot of new work; to try new things. This course is an elective course, which means you are not required to take it (although you can use it to fulfill the General Education requirement for Humanities). What this means to me is that I look for engagement and enthusiasm: you’ve chosen a course that focuses on poetry, what a fantastic opportunity that is! I urge you to treat this course this way: read with focus and intensity. Write with purpose, write regularly, write a lot. Come to class with ideas and things to say. Respond to your classmates’ work as if it were your own—give it that much care and attention. I promise you that if you do these things, you’ll find this class to be richly rewarding.

Assignment Points
Weekly drafts of poems (13 poems x 15 pts. per) 200
Preparation/Participation/Peer Response 100
Researched Presentation 50
Poet’s Daybook/(Journal) 100
Essay 1: the collection or sequence 100
Essay 2 (or other composition): Circulation 100
Poem as Public Act 50
Mapping the footprint of poetry in the community 50
ePortfolio posting (revised poems) + reflection 200
Participation in class publication 50
Total 1000 pts.

Weekly Drafts: I will assign prompts for weekly drafts. They’ll be drawn from the posted < list >.  You will be responsible for bringing three copies of your poem draft to class. From time to time, I will ask you to post your draft in Canvas for online peer review.

Preparation/Participation/Peer Response:

“Preparation” means “having read the assigned material, in order to be able to work with it in class.”

“Participation” means “sharing your thoughts, based on your preparation, in whole-class and small-group discussions.”

“Peer response” means “engaging in sometimes structured, sometimes more free form, reading and response activities with your peers, in order to give thoughtful feedback.”

I will look for and track evidence that you are coming to class prepared, that you are participating in the activities of the course, and that you are giving engaged, helpful peer response.

Researched Presentation:

You will sign up for a topic and present it to the class. You’ll have many options for this presentation: you canView in a new window

  • Create a participatory experience for the class—an activity that addresses your research.
  • Create a multimedia experience for the class to view and discuss.
  • Lead a discussion on the topic.
  • Any other ideas? Just run them by me.

On the day you’re scheduled to present, you must be prepared, and must submit to me some artifact that represents your presentation and the research you did to prepare it. This can be a short summary and reflection, a handout you prepared for the class, etc.


You’ll keep a regular journal, to record details you observe, ideas that occur to you, transcribed bits of language, language play, etc. You should strive to write this way a minimum of three to four times a week. I’ll check your journal at midterm and at the end of the course.

Essay 1: The book or sequence

Choose a collection of poems (alternatively, choose a sequence of poems within a book). Here’s a short list you can choose from; if you have another collection in mind, just let me know.

Marie Howe, What the Living Do
James Galvin, X
Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband or Plainwater
Terrence Hayes, Lighthead
C.D. Wright, One with Others
Franz Wright, Kindertotenwald
Rae Armantrout, Money Shot
Matthew Zapruder, Come On All You Ghosts
Tomaž Šalamun, The Blue Tower
Frank X Walker, When Winter Come: The Ascension of York
Maria Melendez, Flexible Bones
Paisley Rekdal, Animal Eye
Larry Levis, Winter Stars
Frank X. Gaspar, Night of a Thousand Blossoms
David Kirby, The Biscuit Joint
Natasha Saje, Vivarium
Kimberly Johnson, Uncommon Prayer

Focusing on 4-6 poems, try to describe the strategies of arrangement of the book or sequence. How do the poems go together? How do they make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts—or if they do not make such a whole, why not? You should cite liberally from the poems themselves to make your argument and to support its key points.

Please use MLA documentation for all source material, including a “Works Cited” bibliography.

Essay 2: Circulation 

Investigate one publication that publishes, distributes, and circulates poetry: a print literary journal, an online literary journal, a zine, a small literary press, book publishing, or any other instance of publication. As you research, you should try to find out all or most of this:

  • something about the scope of the means of publication you’ve investigated.
  • Who does it reach and not reach?
  • Who does it include and exclude in the publication process?
  • What advantages does the form of publication you’ve investigated have, and what disadvantages, compared to what you know about other means of publication?

You should carefully explain what you found in your research, which should be as thorough as you can make it. You should cite liberally from the contents of the literary publication in order to give the reader a sense of the publication, and use MLA format to document your research and citations. Your essay should be about three or four pages long.

RESOURCES for your research:

1. Poets and Writers ( > Tools for Writers > Grants and Awards database OR Literary Journals database)

2. Creative Writing Opportunities listserv (CRWROPPS)
Subscribe: scroll down to Group Email Addresses; click the “Subscribe” address.

3. Publishers Weekly (SLCC website > Library > Browse Journals > Publishers Weekly)
Find information about publishing trends and phenomena, including specific research about poetry publishing (sometimes–poetry doesn’t make a giant splash in the Big Publishing world, because it mostly doesn’t make money).

Poem as a Public Act:

You choose your act of publication: a series of broadsides or postcards, done collaboratively with some peers, placed in public places. Submitting your work to a magazine or journal (Folio, anyone?). Organizing or taking part in a poetry reading or slam. Posting poems on a social media website, creating a podcast, etc. You define the public act, then you perform it. You’ll post evidence of your public act, along with a short reflection.

Mapping the footprint of poetry in our community:

I’ve made a Google map called “Poetry in SLC.” I will invite all of you to be collaborators with me in making a detailed map of the locations and occasions for poetry along the Wasatch Front. This map will be one of the publications of the course. Each person will be responsible for contributing at least one item to the map, then writing a reflection on the process of researching and contributing to the project.

ePortfolio post + reflection:

You will revise five to seven of your poems for the ePortfolio, your choice. In additional, you’ll write a reflective essay of about 600-800 words (or the equivalent in a multimedia or other piece). In this, you’ll consider questions like: what aesthetic principles do I currently exhibit in my work? what motivates me to write, and why poetry? who are my poetic antecedents? what are the principles that drive my revision practice? what do I hope to get better at, or try more of? and what are my poetic strengths? This revision + reflection is the signature assignment for this General Education class. (See more about General Education and the ePortfolio below.)

Participation in the class publication:

We’ll use the resources of the SLCC Publication Center to make a collaborative class publication. We’ll collectively devise the form and format of the publication. It will be an end of the semester project, and we’ll conclude the class with a reading from our publication.


The student is expected to follow the SLCC Student Code of Conduct found at

Click to access stdtcode.pdf


This course fulfills the Humanities requirement for the General Education Program at Salt Lake Community College. It is designed not only to teach the information and skills required by the discipline, but also to develop vital workplace skills and to teach strategies and skills that can be used for life-long learning. General Education courses teach basic skills as well as broaden a student’s knowledge of a wide range of subjects. Education is much more than the acquisition of facts; it is being able to use information in meaningful ways in order to enrich one’s life. While the subject of each course is important and useful, we become truly educated through making connections of such varied information with the different methods of organizing human experience that are practiced by different disciplines. Therefore, this course, when combined with other General Education courses, will enable you to develop broader perspectives and deeper understandings of your community and the world, as well as challenge previously held assumptions about the world and its inhabitants.

General Education ePortfolio

Each student in General Education courses at SLCC will maintain a General Education ePortfolio. Instructors in every Gen Ed course will ask you to put at least one assignment from the course into your ePortfolio, and accompany it with reflective writing.  It is a requirement in this class for you to add to your ePortfolio.

Your ePortfolio will allow you to include your educational goals, describe your extracurricular activities, and post your résumé.  When you finish your time at SLCC, your ePortfolio will then be a multi-media showcase of your educational experience.

For detailed information including a Student ePortfolio Handbook, video tutorials for each ePortfolio platform, classes, locations and times of free workshops and other in-person help, visit

ADA STATEMENT (Links to an external site.)

Students with medical, psychological, learning or other disabilities desiring accommodations or services under ADA, must contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC). The DRC determines eligibility for and authorizes the provision of these accommodations and services for the college. Please contact the DRC at the Student Center, Suite 244, Redwood Campus, 4600 So. Redwood Rd, 84123. Phone: (801) 957-4659, TTY: 957-4646, Fax: 957- 4947 or byemail:


schedule English 2260, Introduction to Writing Poetry spring 2015



Week 1/Jan. 13
Week 1/Jan. 15 Image

Kimberly Johnson, “Matins for the Last Frost (Links to an external site.)
Christopher Howell, “Crossing Jordan (Links to an external site.)

Poem 1: Writing Assignment #29
Week 2/Jan. 20 Intro to Mapping project

Robert Hass, “Images

Sign up for Researched Presentation  topic/date HERE.

Week 2/Jan. 22 The Line

Rebecca Hazelton, “Learning the Poetic Line (Links to an external site.)

Laura Van Prooyen, “Pine (Links to an external site.)
Kathleen Hellen, “A Month of Sundays (Links to an external site.)

Poem 2: Writing Assignment #20 or #21
Week 3/Jan. 27 Invention

Carl Phillips, “Little Gods of Making” (in The Art of Daring)

Week 3/Jan. 29 Poetic Form: Tanka (Links to an external site.) (from the Academy of American Poets site)

From  (Links to an external site.) Cool, Calm & Collected: Poems 1960-2000 (Links to an external site.)by Carolyn Kizer (read “From an Artist’s House” pp. 69-70; “Linked Verses,” pp. 71-72; “A Month in Summer,” pp. 97-110). NOTE: this is a Google book, so you’ll need to scroll to find the poems.

Poem 3: Writing Assignment #31

Intro to Essay 1

Week 4/Feb. 3 Researched Presentations: Image/Imagism.

The Mind’s Own Place (Links to an external site.),” George Oppen

Denise Levertov, “Come Into Animal Presence (Links to an external site.)
A Map of the Western Part of the County of Essex in England (Links to an external site.)

Week 4/Feb. 5 Researched Presentations: The line, the sentence, the fragment.

W.S. Merwin, “For a Coming Extinction (Links to an external site.),” “Losing a Language (Links to an external site.)

David Kirby, “Slurring and Contradicting (Links to an external site.)

BONUS: Tom Sleigh on haibun (Links to an external site.) (that prose + haiku hybrid form I was telling you about last week. It’s a good essay–I hope you enjoy it.)

Poem 4: Writing Assignment #22, #23, or #24 Sign up for two (2) Mapping Project items. (remember: click “Edit,” add your name to the two items, then click “Save.”)
Week 5/Feb. 10 Sara Eliza Johnson, Bone Map.
Week 5/Feb. 12 Sara Eliza Johnson, Bone Map. Poem 5: Writing Assignment #26, #28, or #30 Bring drafts of Mapping Project annotations to class for review.
Week 6/Feb. 17 Researched Presentations:
Lyric Poetry/poetry as song.Sara Eliza Johnson, Bone Map
 Essay 1 DRAFT
Week 6/ Feb. 19 Researched Presentations: Narrative Poetry/poetry as story. Poem 6: Writing Assignment #1 or #2
Week 7/ Feb. 24 Researched Presentations:
Poetry of WitnessCarolyn Forche, “Not Persuasion but Transport: The Poetry of Witness (Links to an external site.)

Tarfia Faizullah, “Against Explanation (Links to an external site.)

Larry Levis, “Anastasia & Sandman (Links to an external site.)

Week 7/ Feb. 26 Researched Presentations: Documentary Poetics.

Based on a True Story. Or Not. (Links to an external site.), Kathleen Rooney

Documentary Poetics (Links to an external site.),” Mark Nowak

The Book of the Dead (Links to an external site.),” Muriel Rukeyser

Poem 7: Writing Assignment #6 or #8

Intro to Essay 2

Essay 1 FINAL (submit online.)
Week 8/ Mar. 3 Researched Presentations:Found poetry (Links to an external site.)/Concrete poetry (Links to an external site.).

George Herbert, “Easter Wings (Links to an external site.)
May Swenson, “Fountains of Aix (Links to an external site.)
Lorna Dee Cervantes, “Valentine (Links to an external site.)

Found poems (Links to an external site.) (definition & examples)

Daybook/Journal Check #1.
Week 8/ Mar. 5 Researched Presentations:
Poetic Form: the sonnetRachel Richardson, “Learning the Sonnet (Links to an external site.)” (read the essay and read half a dozen sonnets from the lists at the end–you choose)
Poem 8: Writing Assignment #12 or #25
Week 9/ Mar. 10 Researched Presentations:
Poetic Form: the sestina
(r (Links to an external site.)
ead the article and the linked poems)
Read: Anne Waldman, “How the Sestina (Yawn) Works” (Links to an external site.)McSweeney’s, Sestinas (Links to an external site.) (read at your own risk–subject matter & language all over the place!)
Week 9/ Mar. 12 Researched Presentations:
Poetic Form: Open Form (often understood as “free verse”) (Links to an external site.)Read: Gregory Corso, “Marriage” (Links to an external site.)
(you’ll have to scroll down a few poems)

Vijay Seshadri, 3 Sections

Poem 9: Writing Assignment #4 or #17  
Week 10/ Mar. 24 Researched Presentations:
Poetic Form: Syllabic VerseVijay Seshadri, 3 Sections
Essay 2 DRAFT

Poem as a Public Act, completed and posted.

Week 10/ Mar. 26 Researched Presentations:
Poem 10: Writing Assignment #9, #10 or #11 Work on the map day.

Initial discussion: class publication

Week 11/ Mar. 31 Guest speaker: Wade Bentley, whose book What Is Mine was recently published.

Before class, please read these poemsPreview the documentView in a new window, so you’ll be prepared to ask questions and engage with Mr. Bentley.

Week 11/ Apr. 2 Researched Presentations:
The Abcedarian”The Pursuit of Form (Links to an external site.),” Robert Pinsky

Ode to Meaning (Links to an external site.),” Robert Pinsky

BabelPreview the documentView in a new window,” Barbara Hamby
View in a new window

Poem 11: Writing Assignment: #34 or #35 Cleanup work on the

mapping project.

Brainstorm title/design elements for class publication

Week 12/ Apr. 7 Researched Presentations
The Ars Poetica”Paper Cuts (Links to an external site.),” Alexandra Pechman
Essay 2 FINAL (submit online)

DON’T FORGET! Meet in the Publication Center: layout of individual poem.

Week 12/ Apr. 9 Peer Review ONLINE. No class. (I will be at a conference.) Poem 12: Writing Assignment #12 or #14
Week 13/ Apr. 14 Philips, “On Restlessness” (from The Art of Daring)

Presentations on:

Syllabic Verse AND Sestina

Discussion of ePortfolio + reflection assignment

Mapping project completed.
Week 13/ Apr. 16 Favorite Poem Project: Bring your favorite poem to class. If you want, you can send me a digital copy or a link. We’ll share poems, then discuss how cultures form their canons. Poem 13: Writing Assignment #13 or 15
Week 14/ Apr. 21 On Revision (1): Bring a poem you’re revising.
Week 14/ Apr. 23 Peer Review ONLINE. Online discussion. Poem 14: Writing Assignment #18, #32, or #33
Week 15/ Apr. 28 On Revision (2): Bring a different poem you’re revising. Daybook/Journal Check #2
Week 15/ Apr. 30 Meet in Publication Center to print poems.
Final: Tues., May 5

11:20a.m-1:20 p.m.

Meet in class for folio assembly, signing of the poems, and a class reading. Also: treats.

**Your final assignment is due, posted to your ePortfolio, at midnight 5/5.**

Writing Assignments & Prompts.

  1. Write a poem that defines something, using as little abstract language as possible.
  2. Choose ten words from the dictionary for which you don’t know the meaning. Assign each word a part of speech. Write a poem, using each word in the part of speech you’ve given it. Pay particular attention to sound.
  3. Write a poem in which each line is a complete sentence (i.e., no enjambments).
  4. Write a poem using nesting rhymes. (emotion/motion/ocean/shun). Make it 18 lines long, six three-line stanzas.
  5. Write a poem, the title of which is a line taken from Shakespeare, Milton, or Wordsworth. Make the poem speak in some way to the title.
  6. Write a persona or voice poem—a poem in which the speaker is decidedly not yourself.
  7. Take three entries from your journal. No two can be dated within four days of each other. Write a poem that explores how the three entries are connected.
  8. Write a poem in which you include one object and one action per line. Each individual line should make sense in and of itself, but don’t worry about connecting one line logically to the next.
  9. Write a poem in which every line is seven syllables or less
  10. Write a poem in which every line is more than seven syllables long.
  11. Write a poem that is all one sentence, at least thirty lines long.
  12. Write a villanelle.
  13. Write a pantoum.
  14. Write a ghazal.
  15. Write a sestina.
  16. Write a mirror poem, in which the second half of the poem repeats the first half of the poem, but in reverse. Try not to end-stop lines; use as much enjambment as possible.
  17. Write an eleven line poem where each line ends with a word (four or more letters) taken from the title. Example: the title is “bowling”—end words could be wing, bong, bowl, lion, glow, gown, bingo, glib, long, blow, boil…
  18. Write your own elegy.
  19. Write an ode to something ordinary, un-wonderful.
  20. Write a poem based on your own name.
  21. Write an anaphoric poem (where each line or stanza begins with the same word or phrase, such as “I remember” or “this was the day” or “I promise you” or “A curse be upon” or something like that.)
  22. Get up at 4:30 in the morning. Write a poem about the world at 4:30 in the morning.
  23. Write a poem about a specific place that you find yourself in, one with which you have intimate—personal—associations.
  24. Write a poem about a specific photograph.
  25. Write a poem that directly imitates one of the poems we’ve studied. Imitate syntax, line-breaks, theme, tone, sound, imagery—whatever you like about the poem, or whatever seems most essential to it.
  26. Write a poem made up only of questions.
  27. Write a poem that is a letter to someone or something.
  28. Write a poem with two disconnected memories in it. Let the poem, through juxtaposition, create connections or sparks between them.
  29. Write a poem that has the following in it: a piece of fruit or vegetable; a window, door, portal; a machine or mechanical device; a famous person, real or fictional (not the 20th c.); an exotic place; something from science—theory, principle, name, or idea; a means of transportation; a part of the body; an item, saying, event, etc. from another culture; an idea from philosophy or religion or belief system.
  30. Write a poem about a movie.
  31. Write a series of tanka.
  32. Write a sonnet, or series of sonnets.
  33. Write a prose poem.
  34. Write a poem of 20 lines in blank verse (Links to an external site.) (unrhymed iambic pentameter). That’s 10 syllables per line (some variance acceptable), 5 stresses per line, more or less in this pattern: ˘ /  ˘ /  ˘ /  ˘ /  ˘ / (with ˘ = unstressed, and / = stressed) (again, some variance is acceptable). Unrhymed = NO rhyme.
  35. Write a series of 10 rhymed couplets (20 total lines). Let’s call them heroic couplets (Links to an external site.), i.e., rhymed couplets in either iambic pentameter or tetrameter (see above for definition of iambic pentameter; tetrameter is the same, but with 8 syllables, 4 stresses).

Many of these ideas are taken from the following:

The Practice of Poetry, ed. Robin Behn & Chase Twichell (Harper Perennial, 1992)

The Working Poet, ed. Scott Minar (Autumn House Press, 2009)