LI 571.70, Fall 2011

Dr. Swartwout GB318-O 

651-2641 or at the University Press 651-2044


Contemporary American Poetry’s Angels and Outlaws:

Main Guard & Avant Garde, 1960s to Post-Millennial


 Texts required: Postmodern American Poetry, The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and The Vintage Book of Contemporary Poetry 2nd edition, plus a single-author collection of contemporary poetry of your choice (published 2005-2009)

Basics to aid you in passing the class:

      Turn in each assignment typed and on time. Late work does not receive credit.

      Be well prepared to deliver your presentation on its assigned date.

      Attend class and be on time. No “makeup quizzes.”

      Do ALL the reading: primary and secondary texts. This class is reading intensive.

      I’m happy to have a conference with you during any office hours or other free time. I'm usually in the University Press office when I'm not in class.

How your grade will be assessed:

      daily assignments, quizzes, participation = 20%

      midterm exam = 20%

      research paper = 20%

      professional book review = 10%

      book review presentation = 10%

      final exam = 20%

Book review, due Oct. 5: You will each choose a contemporary poet, someone who has been writing and whose book has been published in the last five years, 2005-2009. I’ll provide further information on writing professional reviews, but do check out some good reviews at or to get a feel for what makes the review different from a “book report” or a research paper.

            1) read one of her or his recent poetry collections,

            2) write a critical analysis of the writer’s work (1,000 words, minimum) with a clear thesis statement (your argument, your opinion supported by your critical research), and

            3) make a short presentation on the author and book to the class.

Research paper, due Nov. 16:

This paper should be 6–10 pages in length, present an argument about contemporary poetry’s issues (i.e. a researched inquiry with your opinion and its support—not a mere report on facts found in a Google search), and cite/document information from at least five authoritativesecondary sources. No fan sites; no personal-opinion resources such as blogs, rants or rumors; although if you interview an author, that would be scathingly impressive. All critical papers should be typed, doublespaced in a traditional, 12-point font with 1-inch margins all around. A bibliography of works cited (not consulted, but actually cited) is required and is not a part of your page count.

The graduate-student research papers will be a minimum of 10 pages in length and will be revised toward possible publication.

Readings are due on the day they are listed. Have them read and be ready to discuss them that day.


Students are expected to know the Student Handbook’s policies on plagiarism, class behavior, and attendance.

Syllabus  (N = in Norton; V = in Vintage; A = Autumn House. Read all of the author’s selections, unless otherwise noted by a particular page number. Read the entire poem even though it is listed here by its first page only.)

Week 1

08/24: Introduction to periods and issues

Week 2

08/31:  Foundations in the1920-40s: Roethke (V  40+), Bishop (V 25, 28, 34, 37, 38), Lowell (V 8, 9, 10, 12, 13

Confessionals: late Lowell (V 18-21), Sexton (V 304+), Plath (V 368+)

Week 3

09/07: Beats: Corso (N 208+), Kerouac (N 75+), Ginsberg (V 238-246; N 135, 136, 142, 143), Ferlinghetti (N 42+), Ed Sanders (N 366+)

Week 4

09/14: Black Mountain poets/Objectivists: Olson (V 73; N 3+), Creeley (V 231-233, N 143+), Olson’s essay on Projective Verse in N pp. 613-621,  Levertov (V 178+, N 86), Dorn (N 195), and Levertov’s essay on Organic Form in N pp. 628-633

Week 5

09/21: New York School: Ashbery (V 274+ and N pp.177, 178, 180), O’Hara (V 204+ and N pp. 121, 124, 129), Koch (N 112 “Permanently”, 113 “Alive…”), Berrigan (N 280+), Schuyler (V 170+, N 93), Harry Mathews (N 206 “Histoire”), Blackburn (N 155+)

Week 6

09/28: Deep Imagists: Wakoski (N 342+, handout), Bly (handout), Merwin (V 256, 257 both, 258, 259), Kinnell (V 295+), Strand (V 381+), James Dickey (V 155-160 the first 3 poems)

Week 7

10/05: Book review due. Start presentations. Spanning schools, but which?: Di Prima (N 273 both, 276 “Backyard”), Bukowski (N 56+)   Listen to two Bukowski poems “The Soldier, His Wife, and the Bum” and “Fan Letter” (note that Henry Charles Bukowski’s alter ego/protagonist was named Henry Chinaski) at   

Political activism: Jones/Baraka (N 258+), Lorde (V 402 “Coal”), Wanda Coleman (N 475 both), Rich (V 345+ and handout), Jayne Cortez (N 335, 337)

Week 8

10/12:  Finish presentations. Midterm exam.

Week 9

10/19: Philosophical skepticism: Ammons (V 265+), Pinsky (V 453+), Gluck (V 503+), Haas (V 461+ &AH 112), Jorie Graham (V 549, 552)

Narrative imagists (surreal quotidian): C.K. Williams (V 425+), Philip Levine (V 313&AH 202 both), Paul Violi (N 436+), Billy Collins (AH 47-50, handout), Carolyn Forche (handout), Marvin Bell (handout)

Week 10

10/26: The Cosmopolitans and New Formalists: John

Hollander (V 333), Anthony Hecht (V 165 “Peripeteia”), James Merrill (V 244, 248), Marilyn Hacker (V 483, handout), Gjertrud Schnackenberg (V 571+), Bernadette Mayer (N 468+)

Week 11

11/02: American Surrealists: Codrescu (N 480+), Silliman (N “from Tjanting”), Simic (V 431+), Elaine Equi (N 599) and Silliman’s essay “Of Theory, to Practice” in (N 660-663)

Aleatory Movement: Cage (N 18), Mac Low (N 70, 71), Coolidge (N 369-372) and Coolidge’s essay “Words” in N pp. 649-652

Week 12

11/09: L*A*N*G*U*A*G*E poets: Waldman (N 451+), Hejinian (N 385+), Howe (N 347 from Speeches at the Barriers), Bernstein (N 566, 570 “Whose Language?”), Perelman (N 498+), Padgett (N 399+)

Week 13

11/16: Research paper is due. 

Wendell Berry (AH 15+), Baron Wormser (AH 391+), Stephen Dunn (AH 77+), Bridget Pegan Kelly (AH 170, 172), Jim Carroll (N 575+), David Trinidad (N 595+), Rita Dove (V 557, 558 &AH 68, 70 “Daystar”), Mary Oliver (V 409+), Amy Gerstler (N 607 “BZZZ” and “Bitter Angel”), Li-Young Lee (AH 194+), Sharon Olds (AH 272 “The Lumens,” handout)

Week 14

Thanksgiving. Read a poem to your favorite turkey.

Week 15

11/30: Very 21st-century: Denise Duhamel (AH 74, 75, handout), Bob Hicok (AH 126+), Nick Flynn (AH 87+), Jane Mead (AH 239+), Tim Seibles (AH 320+), Natasha Trethewey (AH 363+), Dean Young (AH 400+)

Week 16

12/07:  Next Generation, Emerging Poets (handout)


Finals Week: Final exam on Dec. 14 at 6 pm