In this class, we’ll read short poems spanning 500 years of modernity—from the Renaissance sonnet to the 21st century Twitter poem. The focus of this class is tripartite: first, it provides students with an opportunity to explore the role that poetry has played in modern society and culture. To this end, we’ll read practicing poets on the purposes of poetry—from Sir Philip Sidney to contemporary Singaporean poets.
Additionally, we’ll also look at the way poets from a range of cultures and historical moments have used poetry to comment upon questions of perennial importance. Can poems help us think about what it means to create a well-run city? And how we can live a flourishing life? In weekly modules, we will read about three to five poets on topics such as the roles of children and parents, an individual’s place within the family and the city, love, religion, politics, and technology. The majority of these poems will be written in English, with a few in translation from Chinese, Malay, Tamil, and other languages.
Finally, we’ll also discuss the formal features of poetry—with lessons on prosody, form, meter, rhyme, tone, and imagery. These features constitute what an engineering student might term the “architectural and design studies” of poetry. We’ll study the formal structures and techniques that enable poems to convey meaning—what the poet Marianne Moore calls “a place for the genuine.”
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