Poems from Nature
Prerequisite: Classified graduate standing in Creative Writing.
Through poetry we access our environmental imaginations. We consider the role of the human animal in the fight with and for the earth. In this course, we will study the land and what grows from it. We will learn what it means to write fluidly about oceans and rivers, to write beautifully about mulch and informatively about ecosystems. How do we convey the urgency of this moment, if that's what we feel writing should do? We will investigate the urgency of this moment, if that's what we feel writing should do? We will investigate the roots, opportunities, and restrictions of some of the current conventions employed in writing about the natural world. Through careful reading, critical and creative responses, and discussion, we will approach some of the many things "nature" can teach us, and ways these lessons can serve our poems.
Learning Objective Outcomes:
Preparation for field relating to literature/creative writing
January 29: Introduction
February 5: Book of Dog, Cleopatra Mathis
February 12: Apple Trees at Olema, Robert Hass
(specific reading attached)
February 19: Arcadia Project, Joshua Corey and G. C. Waldrep (specific reading attached)
February 26: Can Poetry Save the Earth? (SRA)
March 5: The New Collected Poems of Wendell Berry (SRA)
March 12: Indios, Linda Hogan
March 19: World Walk
March 26: Spring Break
April 2: First Field Report
April 9: EcoPoetry Anthology, Ann Fisher-Wirth & Laura Gray Street (SRA)
April 16: To See the Earth Before the End of the World, Ed Roberson
April 23: Many Ways to Say It, Eva Saulitis
April 30: Black Nature, Camille Dungy (SRA)
May 7: Last Day of Class, Second Field Reports
First Project: 20%
Second Project: 20%
Course Requirements and Expectations:
This class is focused on reading and discussing various poetic treatments of the natural world. You will be responsible for synthesizing the techniques you recognize. Close reading should fuel your writing. Focus on the act of reading. Take notes as you need to, write creative responses as you must, and do what it takes to be able to fully and deeply engage in our discussions of the texts. Beyond this, you will not be required to submit weekly homework assignments. In each class, I'll share writing prompts and discussion points to help you access aspects of the poets' subjects and approaches. These are intended to help you in this class and beyond.
Once during the semester, each student is responsible for facilitating a 30- to 45- minute presentation/discussion session that entails leading the class in probing an interesting facet of the week's text. You might, for instance, discuss the way an author engages or rejects the pastoral tradition, how an author incorporates human history into explorations of natural history, or how an author employs taxonomy in her poems. You could draw a comparison between the week's text and a book or poem we have previously addressed. You might explore editorial intention and an anthology's role in constructing and/or refuting canon. Feel free to discuss authorial intent, elaborate on the text's historical, cultural, or theoretical context, or analyze a particular poem's formal strategies. You might present information from other sources to augment the material and information already available to students. If you want to present the class with a writing prompt, feel free to do so. I encourage you to meet with me before your presentation.
On March 19th, you are to tour your natural habitat and consider it from some of the perspectives we have studied in class. Your First Field Report can draw on this tour.
Twice during the semester (on April 2 and May 7), you will participate in a reading to share portions of your own work with the class. This will be your opportunity to demonstrate your new skills and knowledge. Your First and Second Field Reports will consist of one to five poems, accompanied by a commentary of no more than 1-single spaced page, plus a 5 to 7-minute reading. This will be your opportunity to implement some of the strategies we encounter during the semester. Your commentary should summarize your intentions for your poem(s), observations on the way the course texts influenced your work, and reflections on epiphanies or challenges you had while composing the piece. My sense of what poetry can and should be is quite broad. For example, if you find yourself tending toward prose in your creative piece, feel free to follow that instinct. One longer poem may take as much energy as five shorter poems. We'll be reading poems of varying lengths and forms and discussing how structural decisions direct our interpretation of the content of the work. Be sure to talk about how/why you made your decisions in your commentary. I will collect your work and responses. We will have formal readings on both April 2 and May 7. It will likely be a public reading on May 7th.
Regular attendance and participation are required for this course. It is imperative that each student in the class actively participates in all class discussions. If you foresee yourself missing more than 2 classes over the course of the semester, I suggest you wait until a semester when you can be fully involved in class sessions.
First Day prompt, course readings and announcements:
Apple Trees at Olema, February 12:
"July Notebook" p. 3; "Variations of a Passage in Edward Abbey" p. 18; "Snowy Egret" p. 34; "On the Coast Near Sausalito" p. 43; "Maps p. 46; "Song" p. 54; "Palo Alto, The Marshes" p. 55; "Meditation at Lagunitas" p. 70; "Child Naming Flowers" p. 101; "The Beginning of September" 104; "Spring Rain" 135; "Calm" p. 143; "Conversion" p. 148; "The Harbor at Seattle" p. 151; "A Story About the Body" p. 158; "January" p. 160; "The Apple Trees at Olema" p. 162; "Natural Theology" p. 189; "On Squaw Peak" p. 198; "Dragonflies Mating" p. 205; "My Mother's Nipples" p. 210; "Iowa City Early April" p. 226; "Faint Music" p. 232; "Interrupted Meditation" p. 260; "the Problem of Describing Color" p. 273; "The Problem of Describing Trees" p. 274; "That Music" p. 302; "Poem with a Cucumber in It" p. 318; "Drift and Vapor (Surf Faintly)" p. 320; "The Dry Mountain Air" p. 335; "Exit, Pursued by a Sierra Meadow" p. 347; "September, Inverness" p. 348
The Arcadia Project, February 19:
(I will list readings by author and page. Please read all the work by that author.)
Introduction p. XIX; Brenda Hillman, p. 14; Forrest Gander, p. 40; Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, p. 60; Laura Moriarty, p. 78; Timothy Donnelly, p. 109; Dan Beachy-Quick, p. 123; Marcella Durand, p. 145; Erin Moure, p. 165; Will Alexander, p. 176; Leslie Scalapino, p. 181; Lyn Hejinian and Jack Collom, p. 187; Jonathan Skinner, p. 197; Arthur Sze, p. 213; e. tracy grinnell, p. 225, Ann Lauterbach, p. 230; Craig Santos Perez, p. 267; Stephen Ratcliffe, p. 270; C. D. Wright, p. 276; Heather Christle, p. 291; Sherwin Bitsui, p. 293; Kathryn Neurnberger, p. 304; Karen Rigby, p. 315; Rusty Morrison, p. 322; Paul Hoover, p. 345; C. S. Giscomb, p. 357; Kamau Brathwaite, p. 362; Jack Collom, p. 367; Susan Briante, p. 390; Johannes Goransson, p. 392; Juliana Spahr, p. 398; Dana Levin, p. 445; K. Silem Mohammad, p. 458; Standard Schaefer, p. 460; Laura Mullen, p. 485; Joyelle McSweeney, p. 489; Chris Green, p. 512
FYI: February 21, 7 p.m., Studio One in Oakland, a reading by The Arcadia Project contributors: Paul Hoover, Brenda Hillman, Laura Moriarty, Rusty Morrison, Camille Dungy, Stephen Ratcliffe, Nicole Mauro.
Friday, Feb. 22, 8-10:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23, 8-10:30 p.m. Two Conferences on Ecopoetics readings, featuring performances by poets who are dynamically engaged with ecopoetics. Maude Fife Room, Wheeler Hall, University of California, Berkeley.
Can Poetry Save The Earth, February 26:
Introductions, p. xiii, p. 1
"Western wind, when will thou blow," Anon Was an Environmentalist p. 28; "Earth's most graphic transaction," Syllables of Emily Dickinson p. 75; "source then a blue as," Williams and the Environmental News p. 149; "white water rode the black forever," Frost and the Necessity of Metaphor p. 123; "not man / Apart," Ocean, Rock, Hawk, and Robinson Jeffers p. 170; "surprised at seeing," Elizabeth Bishop Traveling p. 228; "that witnessing presence," Life Illumined Around Denise Levertov p. 266; "asking for my human breath," Trust in Maxine Kumin p. 290; "It looks just like the Cascades," Gary Snyder's Eye for the Real World p. 344;
"Just imagine," Can Poetry Save the Earth? p. 355
Wendell Berry, Collected Poems, March 5:
Sparrow, p. 20; The Plan, p. 26; The Design of a House, p. 33; Three Elegiac Poems, p. 55; October 10; p. 63; March Snow, p. 68; The Dream, p. 72; The Sycamore, p. 73; The Meadow, p. 74; The Peace of Wild Things, p. 79; Grace, p. 79; The Man Born to Farming, p. 115; The Supplanting, p. 117; To Know the Dark, p. 121; February 2, 1968, p. 122; Enriching the Earth, p. 125; A Praise, p. 129; The Wish to be Generous, p. 130; Song in a Year of Catastrophe, p. 134; To the Unseeable Animal, p. 161; Breaking, p. 166; The Country of Marriage, p. 167; Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, p. 173; A Song Sparrow Singing in the Fall, p. 176; The Mad Farmer Manifesto: The First Amendment, p. 177; The Wild Geese, p. 180; Anger Against Beasts, p. 182; The Mad Farmer’s Love Song, p. 189; Testament, p. 190; History, p. 201; Where, p. 204; Stay Home, p. 229; For the Hog Killing, p. 230; The Fear of Love, p. 234; The Lilies, p. 237; The Hidden Singer, p. 241; To The Holy Spirit, p. 242; A Warning to My Readers, p. 248; Creation Myth, p. 249; Horses, p. 262; The Law That Marries All Things, p. 284; From The Distance, p. 287; The Gift of Gravity, p. 295; The Record, p. 310; The Wild Rose, p. 314; In a Motel Parking Lot, Thinking of Dr. Williams, p. 317; For an Absence, p. 333; Come Forth, p. 342; They, p. 346; Cathedral, p. 346; The Millennium, p. 347; Why, p. 348; The Inlet, p. 349; Some Further Words, p. 359; A Letter (to Ed McClanahan), p. 369; Questionnaire, p. 375
For March 19: Some Ideas for Free Bay Area Nature Walks:
www.thinkwalks.org; www.baynature.org; And more! Go explore!
Ecopoetry Anthology, April 9: Read all the work by the poets listed below.
Preface; Introductions; Walt Whitman; Emily Dickinson; Robert Frost; William Carlos Williams; Robinson Jeffers; Jean Toomer; George Oppen; Charles Olson; Elizabeth Bishop; Barbara Guest; Denise Levertov; A. R. Ammons; Rae Armantrout; Juliana Baggot; Dan Bellm; Robert Bly; Elizabeth Bradfield; Lorna Dee Cervantes; Jennifer Chang; Matthew Cooperman; Alison Hawthorn Deming; Elizabeth Dodd; Louise Erdrich; Annie Finch; Jessica Fisher; Ann Fisher-Wirth; Carol Frost; James Galvin; Louise Gluck; Ray Gonzalez; Jorie Graham; Donald Hall; Joy Harjo; Lola Haskins; Allison Hedge Coke; H. L. Hix; Rodney Jones; Judy Jordan; Brigit Pegeen Kelly; Maxine Kumin; Stanley Kunitz; Philip Levine; Larry Levis; W. S. Merwin; Thorpe Moeckel; Richard O. Moore; Naomi Shihab Nye; dg nanouk okpik; Lucia Perillo; Adrienne Rich; Alberto Rios; Ira Sadoff; Craig Santos Perez; Reginald Shepherd; giovanni singleton; Gary Snyder; Gerald Stern; Laura Gray Street; Jeffrey Thomson; Jean Valentine; Charles Wright
Black Nature, April 30: Read the poem on the page listed.
Lucille Clifton, p. 6; Yusef Komunyakaa, p. 14; Robert Hayden, p. 19; Gerald Barrax Sr., p. 27; Gerald Barrax Sr., p. 40; Carl Phillips, p. 41; Cyrus Cassells, p. 43; Richard Wright, p. 51; Marilyn Nelson, p. 53; Anthony Walton, p. 54; Lucille Clifton, p, 57; Major Jackson, p. 77; Audre Lorde, p. 78; Claude McKay, p. 97; Margaret Walker, p. 99; Honoree Fannone Jeffers, p. 100; Alice Dunbar Nelson, p. 103; Amber Flora Thomas, p. 114; Major Jackson, p. 117; Thomas Sayers Ellis, p, 123; Tara Betts, p. 124; Lenard D. Moore, p. 126; Robert Hayden, p. 128; Kamilah Aisha Moon, p. 135; Lucille Clifton, p. 141; Natasha Trethewey, p. 142; Alice Walker, p. 147; Nikki Giovanni, 151; G. E. Patterson, p. 153; Anne Spencer, p. 155; Rita Dove, p. 156; Paul Laurence Dunbar, p. 159; Douglas Kearney, p. 166; Natasha Trethewey, p. 175; Sterling Brown, p. 188; devorah major, p. 192; Yusef Komunyakaa, p. 196; Patricia Spears Jones, p. 197; Douglas Kearney, p. 208; Robert Hayden, p. 211; Harryette Mullen, p. 225; Tim Seibles, p. 230; Ishmael Reed, p. 234; Toi Derricotte, p. 237; Janice Harrington, p. 239; Afaa Michael Weaver, p. 244; Lucille Clifton, p. 260; June Jordan, p. 265; Margaret Walker, p. 270; Michael S. Harper, p. 279; Sean Hill, p. 290; Indigo Moor, p. 295; Wanda Coleman, p. 303; Frank X. Walker, p. 309; Terrance Hayes, p. 310; Ross Gay, p. 333; Kendra Hamilton, p. 344; Tim Seibles, p. 348.
Copyright © 2013 by Camille Dungy.