ENGL 205 Ecopoetry Professor: Dr. Tony Barnstone This is a course in reading and writing ecopoetry. It will be a poetry writing workshop at the beginning level that trains students to write about environmental themes, broadly defined, while introducing students to the theory and tradition of ecopoetry. It specifically focuses on Pacific Rim Ecopoetry, with an emphasis on Chinese writing and culture. Ecopoetry is a relatively new term used to designate the tradition of nature poetry focused on environmental disaster, animal ethics, and the mind-body/human-nature relationship. Though such poetry has proliferated in the past few decades, with increasing awareness of pollution, global warming, petroleum-based fertilizer salination of the soil, and other environmental tragedies, it goes back much further than that. The course readings will be tailored to the focus on China and on western visions of China, dealing both with the long tradition of poetry written by western poets in conversation with the Chinese literary tradition (poets like James Wright, Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, Amy Lowell, and others) and on the Chinese nature and ecology tradition, with a particular focus on contemporary experimental work. That is, the course will explore not only the literature and environment of China but also the international discourses that nest the concept of “China” within national imaginations. The course will include readings by Asian-American ecopoets and focus on how they relate to questions of China and ecology. Some world poets will also be brought in, such as Japanese poets who write about the spiritual and environmental effects of the atom bomb (Sakaki Nanao, Tamura Ryuichi and Tanikawa Shuntaro), but the vast majority of the readings will focus specificially on China as seen by Chinese and by others. Students will be educated about specific environmental disasters, such as the drying up/draining off of the Yangtze River and the decline in life expectancy in China due to air pollution and asked to write about them. I will ask you to remember in this class to enjoy yourselves! Writing is a serious art and a difficult craft, so be kind to each other, but always honest. Give each other constructive criticism, and take your classmates’ criticism as a gift, because that is what it is. Remember that you are all writers at an early stage of your careers who will improve if you stick to and work at your art. Don’t let criticism stall your creative impulses. Take what is useful to your own creativity and craft and ignore the rest. Trust your esthetic preferences, but listen to what the rest of us say, because writing is about communication with an audience and, for the moment, at least, we are each other’s audience. This will be a paperless class. All assignments are to be posted on the blog (https://ecopoetry2022.blogspot.com), except the final e-book, which is to be uploaded to Moodle. REQUIREMENTS, IN BRIEF Write all the assigned poems and post them all on the blog Post weekly one-page crits on the blog at https://ecopoetry2022.blogspot.com (SAVE these on your hard drive so you can collect them for the final portfolio) Put together an final collection of your poems that includes a portfolio of all the assignments A nature journal to serve as your commonplace book/natural journal/artist’s book/diary Be an active, sympathetic, and responsible participant in the workshop and on the blog. Do all the reading for the course. Bring assigned books to class. Attend all classes and all the readings and craft talks this semester. Assignment Checklist: Nature Journal Final Chapbook Collection of One-Page Crits COURSE REQUIREMENTS Workshop Attendance: You will be expected to attend every class. Students who are absent will be unaware of take-home writing exercises, and will miss in-class writing exercises. They will miss participating in the community of writers and will not benefit from the class’s discussion of the craft of writing. Makeup Work for Absences: If you HAVE to miss a class, you can make up for it by 1) doing 2 extra 1-page critiques as comments on the blog for fellow student’s poems 2) posting all required writing assignments on the blog. Extra Credit: If you wish to do extra credit to raise your final grade, you can do so by doing 3 extra 1-page critiques as comments on the blog for fellow student’s poems. This will raise your final grade 1 level (from a B+ to an A-, for example). Preparation and Workshop Participation: Since this is a writing workshop, the primary coursework cannot be measured by tests or a final paper, but instead is a function of the student’s interest and attention to his or her own and especially other students’ poetry. Thus, you are expected to carefully and critically read each other’s poems at home, making comments in you one-page crits on the blog, and to come to class prepared to discuss them. Blog: The blog at https://ecopoetry2022.blogspot.com will be the electronic extension of the class, and will allow you to help each other outside of the workshop. You must post one-page critical responses on your classmates’ poems on the blog on the schedule that is detailed below. One-page critical responses: Every week throughout the semester you will be required to write a one-page critical response to another class-member’s poem and to post it on the blog as a “comment” on the posted poem. Keep copies of these on your computer so you can put them in your final portfolio. Your critique might contain the following elements: 1) The most effective aspects, lines, images, moments in the poem, 2) Areas for improvement, 3) An assessment of the title, first line, and last line of the poem. Does the poem start and end with a bang? Could it be more powerful if it ended or started on a different line? Does the title do work to contextualize the poem and to deepen its meaning? 4) An assessment of the adjective-noun combinations in the poem. Are they fresh and interesting? Which ones could be improved by using verb-noun or noun-noun combinations instead? 5) Identification of cliché moments that need to be renewed 6) An assessment of the “heart” of the poem and its thought. Is the poem nuanced and full? Is it long enough and complex enough to do its emotional work effectively. 7) Is the poem told from INSIDE THE BODY? Does it utilize all the senses? Or is it told largely in the abstract? Identify moments that would be more effective if dramatized and described using the five senses. Nature Journal: Each of you will create a journal in which you will write at least three times a week. Your job is to train your eye to observe the world, and train your pen to record it, as if you were a visual artist. You are to be interested both in natural environments and built environments. That is, the interior of Home Depot is just as interesting from an environmental perspective as is a walk through the marshlands in Costa Mesa. Use this notebook exclusively for this class and bring it to every class meeting. This can function as your diary, but bear in mind that I do not want a diary in the traditional sense. Rather, I want you to use this journal as an arena for intellectual exercise. Keep your scribblings rooted within the realm of the readings, discussions, and assignments of this course, but feel free to follow your mind as it wanders. Think of it as an extension of your head. It is your space, a place in which to record immediate visceral reactions to the poems you read, or to ask questions of yourselves honestly, discussing ambivalences and insights, likes and dislikes. Each of your journal entries should be dated and titled. The journal should be a mix of different sorts of writings. Search your lives for the sources of your inspiration. Listen to the conversations that take place around you, and always look about with a writer’s eye and think how you would capture the expression on a face, the essence of a mood, the feel of a room, the smallest internal motions of the mind. Writing is an active way of being and of seeing. A writer doesn’t just look, a writer sees; a writer doesn’t just exist, a writer creates. 1. You should write your dreams down. 2. You should compose poems in in-class writing exercises in this journal. 3. You should make regular environmental entries, in which you simply record what you are seeing— the layers of damp cardboard and the smell of rot behind the CI, the facial expression of the clerk at 7-11, the way streetlights wriggle across the blacktop when it rains— in language as clear and specific as possible. See what happens when you keep an image-journal for a week; chances are that you’ll find that the entry for one day is very exciting as juxtaposed with the image from another day. This sort of cross-fertilization is essential to the creative process. 4. Diary entries, philosophical musing, personal reminiscences that might grow into story-poems. 6. Whatever else you feel like writing. I will look at the journal at the end of the semester, and while I won’t read every word in it, I will read around in it and determine how much effort you have taken to record your perceptions, your mind, your life throughout the semester. A journal hastily written in the last week or two of classes will, of course, receive a failing grade. Final Chapbook: By the end of the semester, you will be expected to have written 15-20 pages of original poetry and to collect it in a chapbook formatted as an e-book. The chapbook should include a preface of 5 pages or so that talks about your poetic path, that talks about changes and developments in your poems, directions in which you’d like to see them go, and how the reading affected and changed you and your work. In this chapbook, you should have revised the poems that have been critiqued by the workshop, and the collection as a whole should represent your best effort. The chapbook must have a title, a table of contents, and some organizational strategy. You may include poems written as reading responses, but don’t include every scrap you’ve written during the semester, only the poems you’ve worked into good shape, or poems recently written that you think have a lot of promise. However, you MUST include the sonnet. At the back of the chapbook or in a separate document you should include copies of all of your one-page responses to other student poets. Proofread! A writer must respect writing and respect his or her audience. Therefore, don’t turn in poems riddled with typos and misspellings. Otherwise, the class will be distracted from your poem! Computers: I’m going to ask you all to bring a table or a computer to each class so that you can comment on each other’s poems on the blog, Jamboard and other online tools during our class discussion. WORKSHOP GUIDELINES Don’t expect us to workshop your poem every week, or even every two weeks. The goal is not to get others merely to edit your work, but for you to find ways to enter the zone in which you write, and the zone in which you revise, and to think about poetics. Do not assume that poems are autobiographical, and that there is an identity between the speaker of the poem and the author The workshop is a friendly place, where we offer and receive constructive criticism with grace and gratitude. Please leave all competition, drama, personal attacks, or other forms of negative behavior at the door. The workshop is a place to open your mind and your poetic practice. We will be studying numerous modes and schools and approaches to writing poetry, and they will affect and enliven our discussion. However, please leave dogmatism out of the conversation. Whether you yourself are an elliptical, formal, narrative, lyric, neo-beat, or a language poet you should approach each of your classmates’ poems in terms of what the poem itself is trying to do and its success or failure on its own terms. When you present your poem to the workshop, you must remain silent and let the class discuss the poem without comment until the discussion about it is over. At the end of our discussion, you can ask questions but you cannot defend the poem or attack the discussants. If a roomful of extremely intelligent and literate poetry lovers missed the point of your poem, that is extremely important information for you to have and should in itself suggest directions for revision. Don’t wait for me deliver my comments first; speak up, and be prepared to speak up. Though we can’t get through all your poems in the class, you can post poems to share on the blog and get comments on them from your classmates. CLASSROOM MANNERS Please mute your cell phones before coming to class. Please don’t just get up and leave, except if you need to go to the bathroom—that’s fine. Please don’t do work for other classes in this workshop. Please don’t read the newspaper, magazines, or any text that we are not discussing in this course. Please don’t disrupt class by talking to your neighbor, rather than focusing on and participating in the discussion. GRADING CRITERIA: 1. Your grade in this course will depend primarily on how much enthusiasm, dedication and creativity you bring to class discussion, assignments, and your own writing. Thus, participation is a very important factor in your grade. 2. It will also reflect how much your writing improves during the semester. 3. Expect uncompleted assignments and/or multiple absences to reduce your final grade or to cause you to fail. 4. I will expect students to produce finished drafts of their poems at the end of the semester. 5. The Moodle schedule details when reading will be due. Readings and assignments for each date are DUE on that date—not on the next day. 7. However, I don’t wish students to worry about grades too much. This is a course in creativity, after all. Thus, any student who attends all classes, does all the reading, and completes all the assignments satisfactorily will receive a B- in the course. That base grade will go up and down based on the quality of your work and attendance, participation, assignment completion, and rewriting of the poems. English Department Course Objectives 1) Students will analyze the formal, linguistic and aesthetic aspects of a text in essays, examinations and other assignments. 2) Students will describe human language using accepted linguistic terms. 3) Students will synthesize information and interpretations through research or textual analysis. 4) Creative-writing-emphasis students will write in a range of genres. The Learning Outcomes are: 1) To learn about the tradition of nature poetry worldwide, but with a particular focus on China. 2) To learn and emulate traditional and contemporary Chinese nature writing techniques. 3) To connect contemporary ecological theory with the Daoist and Chan conceptions of nature. 4) To practice presenting creative work professionally, beyond the classroom, in fora, readings, and publications. DISABILITIES Students desiring accommodations on the basis of physical, learning, or psychological disability for this class are to contact Disability Services. Disability Services is located on the ground floor of the Library building and can be reached by calling extension 4825.
- Teacher: Tony Barnstone