There is still a remarkable split between courses and programmes designed to teach the practice of poetry and those designed to teach its history; that is, between ‘lit-crit’ modules taught to ‘straight’ literature students, showing how poetry developed as an art and how poetic ideas and forms were passed down across time, and ‘creative’ modules taught to aspiring poets, on the craft and construction of poetry.
This course attempts to do both, simultaneously.
Tim Dooley, who is behind the course, believes that studying the history of poetry is the best way to learn how to write poetry. The course is based on Tim’s many years of teaching experience, and uses the tried and tested materials he has taught from for decades. It is intended to be adaptable for all ages and experience levels, and to work equally well in an extramural setting as well as an academic one. All materials provided are for educational purposes only.
Week 1: Gilgamesh
The course begins with some of the world’s earliest poems, the epic of Gilgamesh and the Psalms. It looks at how these very early poems establish a sense of the art of poetry as an art of recording, or of documenting.
Week 2: Sappho
The second week looks at Sappho as the beginning of the personal lyric, and the introduction of both personal relationships and of the physical body to the poem.
Week 3: Epic Simile
Introduction In the third week, students are introduced to the epic simile: the technique of making a detailed and complex comparison, unfolding over several lines. The week is structured around four 20th century poets who have each reworked or re-contextualised...
Week 4: Tang Dynasty
Introduction This week examines how many of our ideas about poetry in the west have their roots in ancient Chinese poetry. It focuses on the poetry of the Tang Dynasty (sometimes also transcribed as T’ang), which included many of China’s most famous poets, such as...
Week 5: Irish Lyric
Introduction This week looks at the development of Irish poetry, finding in its particular traditions a number of poetic practices and ways of working which modern students can adapt to their own poetry-writing. It begins with another insight into how the practice...
Week 6: Anglo-Saxon Verse
Introduction This week looks at Anglo-Saxon poetry, and the ways in which the earliest English poetry has come back to influence more recent poets such as Hopkins, Hardy, Auden, and Hughes, following its reintroduction to school syllabuses in the late Victorian...
Week 7: Hafiz
Introduction This week looks at the Persian poet Hafiz (also transliterated as Hafez) and the poetic form of the ghazal which he mastered. Hafiz’s was a lyrical poetry, with his ghazals often celebrating love or expressing feelings of loss. He was born in Shiraz,...
Week 8: The Sonnet
Introduction This week looks at the sonnet in an attempt to get students to see beyond just the rhyme scheme and metrical traditions, but to see the sonnet as a particular vehicle for various different kinds of rhetorical effects. The structure of the sonnet...
Week 9: Complex Stanzas
Introduction This week turns to the complex stanza, which arises out of the Baroque stylings of the golden age of Spanish poetry. The complex stanza is one in which there is a fixed and repeated, but intricate and twisting, pattern of rhymes and rhythms which the...
Week 10: Basho
Introduction In the final week, we turn to the haiku, a well-known but often not well-understood form of ancient Japanese poetry, as well as other Japanese forms such as the haiban and the renga. The haiku form was created by a group of Japanese 17th century poets,...
The course makes use of the following books.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh. Translated by Andrew George. Penguin Classics.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh. English Version by N.K. Sanders. Penguin Classics.
- Sappho: Stung With Love: Poems and Fragments. Translated by Aaron Poochigan. Penguin Classics.
- Homer in English. Edited by George Steiner. Penguin Classics.
- Oswald, Alice. Memorial. Faber.
- Logue, Christopher. War Music. Faber.
- Heaney, Seamus. Aeneid VI. Faber.
- Morgan, J.O. At Maldon. CB Editions.
- Wang Wei. Selected Poems. Translated by David Hinton. New Directions.
- Li Po and Tu Fu. Translated by Arthur Cooper. Penguin Classics.
- Three Tang Dynasty Poets. Translated by Robinson & Cooper. Penguin.
- Poems of the Late T’ang. Translated by A.C. Graham. Nyrb.
- The Earliest English Poems. Translated by Michael Alexander. Penguin Classics.
- Three Northumbrian Poems. Edited by A.H. Smith. Methuen.
- The Finest Muse: Early Irish Lyrics. Edited by Maurice Riordan. Faber.
- The Hafez Poems of Gertrude Bell. Ibex.
- Hafez. The Nightingales are Drunk. Translated by Dick Davis. Penguin Little Black Classics.
- Hafez, Khatun, Zakani. Faces of Love. Translated by Dick Davis. Penguin.
- Petrarch in English. Edited by Thomas P Roche. Penguin Classics.
- Spanish Poetry of the Golden Age in Contemporary English Translations. Edited by Tony Fraser. Shearsman.
- The Sidney Psalter. Oxford World Classics
- Bashō. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches. Translated by Noboyuki Yuasa. Penguin Classics.
- Hass, Robert. The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson and Issa. Bloodaxe.