My main news is that, along with 30,000 other people world-wide, I’ve signed up for, and am into my second week of, the free, on-line, ten-week taster course in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, or ModPo, offered by the University of Pennsylvania using the Coursera on-line platform and featuring the charismatic and hugely knowledgeable Professor of Literature, Al Filreis.
The course is delivered entirely on-line and students work their way through the links to texts and recorded seminars. There are no “lectures”; I’m learning about the poetry by reading the texts then watching a video of Professor Filreis leading a close reading of the poem with a group of students. Last week I read several poems by Emily Dickinson and sections of Song of Myself by Walt Whitman. This week it’s the work of William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Lorine Niedecker, Cid Corman and Rae Armantrout. The last three poets I confess to never having heard of.
As well as the texts, audio recordings (where available) of the poets reading their work and the video’d close readings, there are also several forums to participate in, or to simply read, online quizzes and four written assignments, to be peer-assessed, are submitted over the ten week course.
This week my workload has meant that I’m a little behind with my readings and note-taking and I’m not sure I’m going to make the deadline for the first writing assignment. It could be that I will only study the poetry without completing the writing assignments. I’m aware that this is letting others down since I won’t be available to peer-assess others’ work if I don’t submit my own assignments. However my motivation for joining the course is to learn more about poetry generally and, specifically to know more about American poetry and its influences. I feel that I’ll be able to do this without any peer-assessment of my analysis. But I will send in my assignment if I can!
The quality of the close-readings, it probably goes without saying, is superb. I’m so enjoying the lively, varied, sometimes amusing and always thought-provoking discussions of the poets’ work. Al Filreis is a joy to behold; passionate about his subject, knowledgeable, interesting, engaging – everything a student could wish for in a teacher. The choice of poets seems diverse and there are many references to the ways the poets have influenced each other along the way. The students involved with the close readings are smart and well-read and it really is delightful to watch the interaction between them all and participate through my own thoughts, if not in person.
I found out about the course because of a tweet by the poet and teacher, Abegail Morley, and I’m indebted to her for alerting me to this fantastic opportunity.