Poetry cooked and raw: from Emily Dickinson to the Beat Poets

Course Dates: 22/09/21 - 08/12/21
Time: 12:30 - 14:30
Location: Online
We will explore how poets changed during the 20th century from writing in formal ‘poetic’ language and regular forms towards writing in more natural language, freer forms and with more direct expression of feelings. We will look at free verse, political poetry, the Beat Poets, confessional poetry and prose poetry.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £239.00 Senior fee £191.00 Concession £146.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT125

Started Wed, day, 22 Sep - 08 Dec '21

Duration: 12 sessions (over 12 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course will explore the remarkable fact that, after over a thousand years of writing poetry in regular forms, usually with regular rhythm and special ‘poetic’ language, poets in the 20th century aimed increasingly to write in simpler, more natural language, often in free verse. We will investigate what brought this huge change about and read poems by many of the poets who led it.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

We will look at Emily Dickinson writing for herself; Eliot’s and Pound’s early experiments, especially Pound stripping language back to the image; Robert Frost's and Edward Thomas's pursuit of the speaking voice; and the various experiments with simple direct language in the 1920s and 30s often associated with socialism and how Auden and others reacted against this.

In the 1950s/60s we will look at Frank O'Hara’s apparently completely simple style, and trace the changes in Robert Lowell’s style from his early formalism to the freedom of his poems from Life Studies onwards, relating this (as Lowell admitted when talking of “poetry cooked and raw”) to the influence of the Beat Poets, especially Allen Ginsberg and his love of William Blake. We will look at the rise of confessional verse with Lowell’s influence on two of his students at Boston University – Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath – and the work of others such as John Berryman and Randall Jarrell.

Finally we will trace how prose poetry has developed since its adoption by Baudelaire with its special attraction for some poets and their usual abandonment of it after a time. We will consider whether prose poetry has become so similar to flash fiction that it may be indistinguishable.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Understand why many poets moved in the 20th century towards more natural language and freer forms
• Appreciate these poets’ originality
• Enjoy reading and discussing many fine poems.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

You should be interested in modern poetry. No other skills are needed.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will receive the poems by email a few days before each session so you can read them if you wish. There is no other work outside the class. At the start of each session I will ask for volunteers to read a poem so we can all take part. The session will be run in a seminar style, with everyone who wishes included in discussions.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No. Copies of all the poems and background information about the poets will be provided in advance and shared on the screen.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please see our range of poetry and other literature courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature on the website at www.citylit.ac.uk.

Laurie Smith

Laurie Smith has taught poetry writing and literature courses at the City Lit for some years, focussing on modernism and writers' radicalism. He researches and lectures at King's College London, helped to found Magma poetry magazine which he sometimes edits and has been a Trustee of the Poetry Society.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.