Art of Poetry Syllabus

1. Why Poetry?
The purpose of poetry. What can you do in poetry that you can’t do in prose? Distinguishing poetry from prose.

2. Thinking Like a Poet
Feeling vs. idea, imprint vs.theme, conceptualizing compelling emotional states, re-creating vs. describing, triggering memory, using dreams, using extreme states, the happy accident and how to use it, the “leap” and how to use it.

3. Poetry Toolbox: Image, Metaphor, and Symbol
Seeing inside a word, what is a cliché, how emotion drives compression, “picturing” an emotion.

4. Poetry Toolbox: Line Break, Syntax and Pacing
Anticipation, surprise and misdirection.
Lessons from comedians and magicians. The art of suspense: what keeps a reader reading? Building and relieving tension.

5. Poetry Toolbox: Rhythm and Sound
Touching more than the intellect and heart, appealing to instinct. What is rhyme? How sound makes meaning. What is rhythm? How rhythm persuades the reader to read on.

6. Making Meaning
The problem of meaning, obscurity (benign and non-benign), “diffcult” poetry, engaging the intellect, making choices for overall synergy, advantages/disadvantages of ambiguity, gaining (and keeping) the reader’s trust.

7. Beyond Narrative: Contemporary Forms and Styles
Spontaneously created forms, “riffed on” forms. Today’s highly publishable styles: Objective, Ironist/LangPo, Surrealist, etc.

8. Choosing and Developing a Voice
Point of view options to consider, how first, second, third person drives voice, finding the right voice for your poem.
9. Throwing Out the Bathwater and Reconstructing Baby
Seeing without muse-colored glasses, re-ordering, tightening, rethinking line breaks, removing “triggers” and “on-ramps,” smoothing/removing “speed bumps,” correcting unwanted ambiguities, dissociating yourself from causes and origins and concentrating on effects, openings and closings.

10. Revision, Continued
Attitude, techniques, realizing your intentions, coping with criticism, revision in whole and parts.

                               Copyright, Joan A. Houlihan


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