MPW 980 LIFE LINES: THE POEM AS MEMOIR Class #39298 7:00-9:40 P.M. Wednesday 3 Units Room WPH 603 SYLLABUS for LIFE LINES: THE POEM AS MEMOIR with Aram Saroyan ([email protected]/323-298-5609/www.aramsaroyan.com) Spring Semester 2010 INTRODUCTION From Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality” to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” to Lorine Neidecker’s minimalist lyrics, poets often base their work on their own and others’ real lives. Our main focus will be on reading and writing poetry, but this class will also sample a variety of prose works based on real events: from James Baldwin’s personal essay “Notes of a Native Son” to Virginia Woolf’s spoken address “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.” While the emphasis will be poetry, we welcome students majoring in other genres and ideally the course will serve as a tonic quickener across the literary spectrum. Our text will be a course Reader and The ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound, a poet’s handbook but one recommended by the best-selling novelist Larry McMurtry, among others, who rereads it every year. COURSE TEXTS THE ABC OF READING by Ezra Pound. New Directions. LIFE LINES: THE MEMOIR IN POETRY AND PROSE. Edited by Aram Saroyan. Available at the USC Bookstore, the reader includes the following works: Poetry SONNET XVIII INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE THE SOUL SELECTS HER OWN SOCIETY THE LOVE SONG OF ALFRED J. PRUFROCK THE RIVER MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER HELEN AMONG SCHOOL CHILDREN MUSICIAN I KNEW A WOMAN “Remember my little granite pail?” WM. SHAKESPEARE WM. WORDSWORTH JOHN KEATS EMILY DICKINSON T. S. ELIOT EZRA POUND H. D. W. B. YEATS LOUISE BOGAN THEODORE ROETHKE LORINE NIEDECKER 2 THE FISH SKUNK HOUR AUNT ROSE I KNOW A MAN THE DAY LADY DIED THE RICK OF GREEN WOOD SUNDOWN: THE LAST OF THE WINE PEACE MYSTERIES OF SMALL HOUSES MY UNCLE AT THE WAKE REMORSE AFTER SHOPPING ELIZABETH BISHOP ROBERT LOWELL ALLEN GINSBERG ROBERT CREELEY FRANK O’HARA EDWARD DORN PAUL BLACKBURN TED BERRIGAN ALICE NOTLEY BILL ZAVATSKY ELAINE EQUI Prose MR. BENNET AND MRS. BROWN EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY NOTES OF A NATIVE SON A DAY’S WORK PERSONISM: A MANIFESTO MY 1960s VIRGINIA WOOLF EDMUND WILSON JAMES BALDWIN TRUMAN CAPOTE FRANK O’HARA ARAM SAROYAN The reading assignment will be given weekly. Each week we’ll consider the assignment in detail and I'd like you to have your impressions of the material freshly in mind. In essence, we’re reading as writers rather than strictly for pleasure, and the more specific you can be in your response the better. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS I will give regular writing assignments, but I encourage you to generate your own projects over the course of our weeks together. Near the end of our sessions I’ll ask you to write a profile of a favorite poet in which you review his/her career, and quote from work you find of particular interest. I’ll give you notes on examples of your poetry that you choose to turn into me three times over the course of the semester: after the fourth, eighth and twelfth sessions. COURSE SCHEDULE 3 January 13, 2010 Questionnaires and Introductions Discussion of Syllabus Telephone Tree How a poem means—discussion. ASSIGNMENT: Bring in a work by a poet you particularly treasure. January 20, 2010 Reading and discussion of treasured poem assignments and how each utilizes language, rhythm, meter, vowels and consonants. ASSIGNMENT: Write a short poem with attention to the way the words “embody what they indicate.” (Alfred North Whitehead). READING ASSIGNMENT: The ABC of Reading to page 25. Reader: Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII. January 27, 2010 Discussion of reading; discussion of class poems. Reading assignment: The ABC of Reading to page 50. Intimations of Immortality. Writing assignment: TBA. From the Reader: February 3, 2010 Discussion of the Wordsworth poem and the Pound book and the Imagist and Objectivist poets: H.D. (Hilda Dootlittle), T. E. Hulme, W.C. Williams, Oppen, Zukofsky. Reading assignment: The ABC of Reading through page 70. Collect poems to return next week with notes. February 10, 2010 Reading aloud and discussion of papers turned in for notes. Reading assignment: The ABC of Reading to Section Two (page 93) and from the Reader the poems by Keats, Dickinson and T. S. Eliot. Writing assignment: TBA. February 17, 2010 Discussion of the assigned poems in the reading, and “The Instructor” in The ABC of Reading. 4 Reading assignment: Read poems in the Reader by Pound, H.D. and Yeats. Writing assignment: Write a personal poem, either directly autobiographical or utilizing a persona. February 24, 2010 Discussion of Pound selection and poems by Pound, H.D. and Yeats in the Reader. Reading aloud and discussion of assigned work. Reading assignment: Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown in the Reader. Discussion of the editing process. How reading your own work repeatedly is a vital part of the literary process. Assignment: Reread your work and edit it as you decide what to turn in for notes next week. March 3, 2010 Discussion of assigned poems and essay in the Reader and the gist of the change Virginia Woolf characterizes, and the varying strategies of Pound, H.D. and Yeats in addressing that new emphasis in their work. Reading assignment: Louise Bogan, Theodore Roethke and Lorine Niedecker. and Edna St. Vincent Millay by Edmund Wilson in the Reader. Assignment: Identify a poet for a final prose paper. Collect papers to return next week with notes. March 10, 2010 Discussion of Wilson’s memoir and of the poems by Bogan, Roethke, and Niedecker. Literary relationships. Discussion of the poets you’ve chosen to profile. Assignment: Use this interim to read more about and by the subject of your profile. March 17, 2010—Spring Break. No meeting. March 24, 2010 Discussion of the possibility of publishing a class magazine. Why Doing It Yourself (DIY) makes sense in today’s literary culture. Discussion of blogs, zines and web pages. Reading assignment: Read poems in the Reader by Ginsberg, Creeley, Dorn and Blackburn, and the prose by James Baldwin and Truman Capote. Writing assignment: TBA. 5 March 31, 2010 Discussion of the reading and the mix of the personal and the sociopolitical in poetry and prose. Discussion of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Possible titles for a class literary magazine.. Reading aloud and discussion of writing assignment. Reading assignment: Read poems by O’Hara and Berrigan, and the prose by O’Hara and Saroyan. Writing assignment: Write a profile of a favorite poet. April 7, 2010 Reading aloud and discussion of writing assignment. Finalize details of class magazine. Reading assignment: Read poems by Notley, Zavatsky and Equi in the Reader. Collect profiles and other papers to return with notes next week. April 14, 2010 Discussion of more recent poets and current “poetry scene.” Bill Zavatsky, Elaine Equi, Alice Notley. How Ginsberg’s “candor” is illustrated in the work of these poets. Jokes, lies, etc.—as in Berrigan. Choose title for class magazine, settle details of production. Discussion of poet profiles. Reading aloud and discussion of pieces handed in for notes. April 21, 2010 Reading and discussion of poet profiles. Plan for a publication party at our last meeting. No assignment. April 28, 2010 Last meeting. Evaluations. Distribution and celebration of class magazine. YOUR GRADE Your grade will be based on the writing you do for this workshop and on your contribution to the in-class study that we do together. The following criteria will be used: 6 Participation Homework Submitting work for class critiques Critiquing other’s work 15% 35% 25% 25% Grading Guidelines A final grade in this class is based on the participant's total performance throughout the semester, not on any single individual work. In order for the class discussion of new work to be a helpful resource for each writer, I ask you to keep in mind the following general guidelines: Listen carefully as work is read aloud by the author. Unless writing notes distracts you from listening, make notes for your comments afterwards. The writer may direct questions to people or to the group as a whole. He/she can initiate topics for discussion. Writers do need to know what works and what is strong, as well as what needs improvement. Specifics help. Criticism always refers to the work and never the person. Please double-space any prose assignment. I will excuse a necessary absence, but please try to be in touch before the class in question. Otherwise, I expect you to be here promptly for class and not depart until the class is dismissed. A final grade will be based on your total performance throughout the semester, not on any single individual work. What’s important to me is that you’re participating in this course with the fullest attention and effort. If I sense that you have less than a full commitment to what we’re doing, it will affect your grade. At the same time, I know that each of you has your own rhythm and approach and I'm not expecting anything other than your best effort and attention individually, working in the way you personally are learning to work. I’ve read that a good writing instructor helps the student to write in his/her own way, while a bad one encourages the student to write in the style of the instructor. That's something I keep in mind. EATING IN CLASS In general, try to confine your eating to before or after the class and/or during the break (which is usually around 8:30 p.m.) If you must eat in class, try to 7 make it quiet food and/or food without crinkly wrappers, noisy tops et al. which I find distracting. Thank you. FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION I encourage you to seek one another out since this is a unique and temporary society you have here as fellow writers. EVALUATION DAY Your opportunity to write your evaluation of the course and instructor generally occurs during our last session together. LAST WORD I look forward to working with you. Tell me any concerns or interests you have which you would like to have discussed, clarified or otherwise elaborated. I want your ongoing feedback. This course is what we make it together. Statement for Students with Disabilities Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776. Statement on Academic Integrity USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00, while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A: http://www.usc.edu/dept/publications/SCAMPUS/gov/. Students will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be any suspicion of academic dishonesty. The Review process can be found at: http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/SJACS/.