English 151: Introduction to Poetry (3 crs.)
Shippensburg University

MWF 2:00-2:50 in DHC 102

Course Description: Introduction to Poetry introduces students to the nature and function of poetry's fundamental components (image, sound, interplay of concepts). The course defines and demonstrates these components through the study of poems. It also provides practice in formal and thematic analysis. Students should expect to write at least one analytic paper dealing with these components of the works assigned. This course satisfies general education requirements. This particular section of poetry will address the close connections between poetry and music. Although the course will draw heavily from the works of African American authors, it will not exclude works written by other authors. In fact, the course aims to address the works of as many authors and musical performers as possible.

Course Objectives:

  1. English 151 introduces students to the nature and function of poetry�s fundamental components (image, sound, interplay of concepts). The course defines and demonstrates these components through the study of poems. The emphasis will not rest solely on the memorization of facts but on literary (formal and thematic) analysis and critical essays.
  2. A student must remember that the "experience of literature, far from being for the reader a passive process of absorption, is a form of intense personal activity where a reader must live through, reflect on, and criticize his [or her] own responses to the text" (Rosenblatt v). As such, the course encourages students to value their emotional reactions and their previous experiences with life and literature.
  3. At least one essay written for the class will deal with the analysis of a poem and its primary components. This course satisfies general education requirements.
  4. The focus of the course will be on the listening to and the reading and discussing of individual poems/songs. The conduct of the course will emphasize class discussion.

Required Texts:


Evaluation Criteria:

  1. Class Participation (including daily preparation and participation, quizzes, short writing assignments, and group work) and Classroom Policies (10% of the final grade): Attending class is critical for success in the course because each day's work builds on that of the day before. Accordingly, students should miss class only in the case of real emergencies or serious illness. Students are allowed to miss five classes without penalty, but, if you miss class, I want a typed excuse the next class period that explains why you missed. Any absence beyond the sixth will result in a full letter grade deduction from your final grade.
  2. **Note Well the following policies: Once the door of the classroom is shut, students will not be allowed entrance into the classroom. No assignments will be accepted late and no make-up examinations will be given (Assignments are due at the beginning of class) unless the student can produce written documentation proving his or her absence was an emergency excused absence (documented medical problems, court dates, a death in the family). If a student will be absent the day a written assignment is due, he or she should turn it in early or ask a classmate to bring it in for him or her. Participation means constructive and courteous discussion, cooperative work in groups, and engagement with material covered. Average (C-level) participation means making at least one constructive comment every class period. No inappropriate language (swearing) or behavior (conflicts with the Golden Rule) will be tolerated.

  3. Bulletin Board Postings (10% of the final grade) Each one of you is REQUIRED not only to devise and post to our web site discussion questions for the poetry /music covered through the semester, but also to respond to these questions or other topics as presented.
  4. Five Essays (45%)
  5. Assignment #1: due January 17. What is poetry? (2.5%)

    Assignment #2: due February 7: Poetry Explication: (10%) By definition, an explication (from the Latin word, explicare, which means to "unfold.") is a line-by-line rendering of a passage of poetry or prose. You should select a poem that we have not read and explain its meaning in as detailed a fashion as is necessary. Within your explication, you should attend to matters of poetic form, meter, imagery, and language. Your essay�in its finished form�should be more than a line-by-line rendering but should have a detailed thesis and evidence from the poem that supports this thesis.

    Assignment #3: due March 19: Poetry Analysis: (10%) An analysis of a poem calls for a detailed examination of only a single element and its relation to the entire work. In addition, students may want to consider a comparative analysis. A comparative analysis involves analyzing the similarities and differences in two or more poems.

    Assignment #4: due April 19: Research Project: (20% of the final grade) Assume that you have been commissioned to write a Critical Headnote introducing a particular poet in an anthology of poetry intended for an introduction to African American poetry course. The editor of the anthology has asked you to select a representative sampling of the poet�s work (between 5-8 poems). Your task is to write a 1000-1500 Critical Headnote. The headnote should introduce your audience to the poet fully and explain how the poems selected help to identify who the poet is (e.g. if you pick George Herbert, your audience should be introduced to the concept of metaphysical poetry and understand how "The Altar" is metaphysical in nature). Since the anthology is intended for novices, the editor advises you to address such topics as imagery, irony, and tone as they arise in the poetry. Although this Headnote should remain the product of your interpretive understanding, it should cite 4-7 outside sources.

    Assignment #5: due April 25: What is your favorite poem and why? (2.5%)

    **Critical Note** Students are expected to do their own work at all times. If a student needs additional assistance for the completion of an assignment, he or she should seek the aid of the instructor. Plagiarism is using someone else�s work, ideas, or words without giving him or her credit for it. In our academic community, people earn their livelihood�status and monetary gain�on the basis of their intellectual labors. Their reputation builds, in part, by getting cited in the works of others. Therefore, students and others have a responsibility�legally and ethically�to cite in their work the ideas, facts, or words produced by the labors of another. Students are responsible for understanding what plagiarism is, presenting their own work, and citing their sources. Plagiarism is a major offense, and students will fail this course if they commit it.

  6. Creative Works (10%) Throughout the semester we will read, listen to, and discuss poems and songs by people famous and not so famous. Although these individuals deserve the recognition that they have received, I believe that students should have the opportunity not only to read great literature but also to write an imaginative piece of literature and to hear what their peers have to say about it. A student should consider writing a collection of poems around a central theme, memorizing their verse for class presentation, or even performance.
  7. Mid-term examination. (10%) Format of examination to be determined.
  8. Final examination (15%) Format of examination to be determined.

Grading Scale:

Students with Learning Disabilities:

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Shippensburg University makes every effort to meet the reasonable accommodations requests of students with qualified disabilities. If you require any specific accommodations for your academic success, please let me know.

Schedule of Classes:


(Our syllabus is a rough map. We will try to follow it, and deviate from it when good sense gives us reason to do so. Be prepared for changes.)

Course Overview and Introductions

Nikki Giovanni "Mastercard Blues" (handout)

Mya "Case of the X" (handout)

2Pac "Shorty Wanna Be a Thug" (handout)

Gwendolyn Brooks "We Real Cool" (187)

Amiri Baraka "Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note" (229)

"Caedmon's Hymn" (handout)

"Go Down Moses" (traditional Negro spiritual)

"The Cuckoo Song"

"The Three Ravens" (handout)

Robert Hayden "Those Winter Sundays" (167)

Sterling A. Brown "Frankie and Johnny" (116)

Robert Frost: "Stopping by the Woods," "Nothing Gold Can Stay"

Ezra Pound "In a Station of the Metro" (handout)

William Carlos Williams "The Red Wheelbarrow" (handout)

Jean Toomer "November Cotton Flower" (106)

Phyllis Wheatley "On Being Brought from Africa to America" (14)

Francis Harper "The Slave Auction" (48)

"Wade in the Water" (traditional Negro spiritual)

Wilfred Owen: "Dulce et Decorum Est" (handout)

Claude McKay: "If We Must Die" (99) (CD)

William Blake: "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" (handout)

Edmund Waller: "Go, Lovely Rose" (handout)

John Keats "To Autumn" (handout)

Thomas Hardy "Channel Firing" (handout)

William Shakespeare: Sonnet 10, 73, 130

Robert Browning: "My Last Duchess"

Gwendolyn Bennett: "Sonnets" (141)

Raymond Patterson: "Twenty-six Ways of Looking at a Blackman" (206)

James Weldon Johnson "O Black and Unknown Bards" (64)

Paul Laurence Dunbar "We Wear the Mask" (76)

February 7 (Wednesday--Day 12)

Sting: "Wild, Wild Sea," "Wrapped Around Your Finger," "Fortress Around Your Heart"

John Donne: Sonnet 10

Blink 182: "Adam�s Song"

David Bowie: "Rock �N� Roll Suicide"

Third Eye Blind: "Jumper"

Bobby Gaylor: "Suicide"

Neil Young: "My, My, Hey (Out of the blue)"

Kurt Cobain: "Come as You Are"

Andrew Marvell: "To His Coy Mistress"

Meatloaf: "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"

Robert Herrick: "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time"

David Matthew's Band: "Trippin Billies"

John Donne: "The Good Morrow" (handout)

Martina McBride: "My Valentine" (handout)

Sarah McLachlan: "I will Remember You"

Mazzy Star: "Fade Into You"

Meatloaf: "Heaven Can Wait"

Chris De Burgh: "Lady in Red"

Berlin: "Take My Breath Away"

T.S. Eliot: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Pearl Jam: "Last Kiss"

Third Eye Blind: "How's It Gonna Be"

Stylistics: "Have you seen her?"

Fiona Apple: "Paper Bag," "Never is a Promise," "Sullen Girl," "Criminal," "I know," "sleep to dream"

M.C. Lyte "Paper Thin" (handout)

A Tribe Called Quest "Description of a Fool" (handout)

May Swenson "Women" (handout)

"Millie Pulled a Gun on Santa"

John Donne: "Song"

2Pac "Wonda Why They Call U"

Salt N' Pepa "Tramp" + "Shoop, what a man"

Tori Amos: "China"

Jars of Clay: "Much Afraid"

Trent Reznor: "Hurt"

                           Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Friendship"

                           Helen Steiner Rice: "Somebody Loves You"

Mary J. Blige + Dru Hill + R. Kelly

John Lennon: "I am the Walrus,"

Bob Marley: "Soul Rebel," "Trench Town Rock"

"Riders on the Storm," "Roadhouse Blues," "Moonlight Drive"

Pearl Jam:

Nirvana: "Polly,"

Sharon Olds: "Sex Without Love"

Tom Petty: "Into the Great Wide Open"

Robert Hunter: "End of the Road," "Touch of Grey," "I Will Love You," "I Will Wait for You"

                            Phish: "Wading in the Velvet Sea,"

                            Metallica: "Nothing Else Matters"

                            Aerosmith: "Crazy," "Amazing,"

                            Stevie Nicks: "Leather and Lace," "Battle of the Dragon," "long distance winner,"  "after the glitter fades,"

                            Fleetwood Mac: "Landslide," "Go Your Own Way"

Etheridge Knight "Hard Rock Returns to Prison"

L.L. Cool J.'s "Illegal Search"

KRS One's "Who Protects Us From You" + "Endangered Species" + "$#@ the Police"

Public Enemy's "Night of the Living Baseheads" + "Can't Truss It"

Vanilla Ice: "Ice, Ice Baby"

Enimem: "Slim Shady," "I Am What I Say I Am," "Kim," "Drug Ballad," and "Rock Bottom"

                           Emily Dickinson: "Hope is a Thing with Feathers,"

Edgar Allan Poe: "The Raven," Dream within a Dream"

Rush: "Half the World"

Jars of Clay: World's Apart

Tracy Chapman: "Fast Car," "Revolution," and "she's got her ticket"

Pink: "You Make Me Sick"

Counting Crows:

Cyndi Lauper: "Time After Time"

Walt Whitman: "A Noiseless, Patient Spider,"

Maya Angelou: "Still I Rise," The Rock Cries Out to Us Today"

Rita Dove: "Parsley,"

Nikki Giovanni: "ego tripping"

TLC "Waterfalls" (handout)

Ralph Waldo Emerson "Success"

Rudyard Kipling "If"

Sarah McLaughlin: "Fear," "Do What I Have To," "Path of Thorns"


Bob Dylan "Like a Rolling Stone"

"Stairway to Heaven"

"Free Bird"