Department of English, Jadavpur University

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American Poetry

Semester 1, 2014-15

UG optional course: American Poetry

Course coordinator: Abhijit Gupta


Classes: T, W 210-3; F 210-345



Sherman Alexie, “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel”


Weeks 1 and 2 (starting July 7 and 14: 8 classes)


Eliot, Ash Wednesday; Pound, The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti; Wallace Stevens, from The Collected Poems

Weeks 3 and 4 (starting July 21 and 28: 7 classes) (29 July holiday: Id-ul-fitr)

Gender in Modernity

Required reading: Edna St. Vincent Millay, sonnets – “I being born a woman and distressed,” “Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,” “I shall forget you presently, my dear”; Amy Lowell, “Dreams in War Time”’; Dorothy Parker, “Unfortunate Coincidence,” “One Perfect Rose”

Suggested reading: Gertrude Stein, “Patriarchal Poetry”; Langston Hughes, “To the Dark Mercedes of `El Palacio de Amor’” Alice Dunbar-Nelson, “I Sit and Sew”; Lucia Trent, “Breed, Women, Breed”;


Weeks 5 and 6 (starting Aug 4 and Aug 11: 7 classes) (Aug 15 holiday)

Black, White and In-between 2

Required reading: Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “Negro,” “Mulatto,” “White Shadows/House in the World,” “Ku Klux”; Claude McKay, “Harlem Dancer”; Gwendolyn Brooks, ‘Sadie and May’; Anne Spencer, “White Things”

Suggested reading: Carl Sandburg, “Nigger,” “Man, the Man-Hunter”; Melvin Tolson, “Dark Symphony”; Angelina Weld Grimké, “Fragment,” “Tenebris”; James Wheldon Johnson, “The White Witch”


Week 7 (starting Aug 18: 4 classes)

World War II 1

Required reading: Japanese American Concentration Camp Haiku, from May Sky – There is Always Tomorrow: An Anthology of Japanese American Concentration Camp Kaiko Haiku; Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Apostrophe to Man,” I forgot for a moment”

Suggested reading: Gwendolyn Brooks, “Gay Chaps at the Bar”; Yusef Komunyakaa, “The Nazi Doll”; Randall Jarrell, “Protocols”


Weeks 8 and 9 (starting Aug 25 and Sep 1: 7 classes) Test 1 on August 26

Postwar Blues

Required reading: Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”; Sylvia Plath, “Colossus”; Gregory Corso, “Bomb”;

Suggested reading: Elizabeth Bishop, “At the Fishhouses,” “One Art”; Edwin Rolfe, “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been,” “Now the Fog,” “A Poem to Delight My Friends Who Laugh at Science-Fiction”


Week 10 (starting Sep 8: 4 classes)

Other Wars: Vietnam

Required reading: Muriel Rukeyser, “Poem”; Denise Levertov, “What Were They Like?,” “Life at War”; Allen Ginsberg, “Wichita Vortex Sutra”; Yusef Komunyakaa, “Tu Do Street,” “Prisoners,” “Communique”; Adrienne Rich, from Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972


Week 11 (starting Sep 15: 3 classes) (Sep 17: Holiday Bishwakarma puja)


Required reading: Langston Hughes, “Harlem Night Song,” “The Weary Blues.” “Song for Billie Holiday”; Jack Kerouac, “Charlie Parker”; Michael Harper, “Dear John, Dear Coltrane”; Carl Sandburg, “Jazz Fantasia”; Frank O’ Hara, “The Day Lady Died”; Jayne Cortez, “Jazz Fan Looks Back”; Bob Kaufman, “Round About Midnight,” “Jazz Chick,” “O-Jazz-O”;

Suggested reading: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Junkman’s Obbligato”, Amiri Baraka, “Black Dada Nihilismus,” “Monday in B-Flat”


Week 12 (starting Sep 22: 4 classes) (Sep 23: Holiday Mahalaya)

American Interiors-1

Required Reading: Claude McKay, “America”; Allen Ginsberg, “America,” “A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley”; Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “I Am Waiting”; Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”; Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”; E. E. Cummings, “next to of course god america I”; Frank O’ Hara, “A Step Away From Them,” “Ann Arbor Variations,” “Ave Maria”; Jayne Cortez, “I Am New York City”;  Theodore Roethke, “Night Journey”; Robert Hass, “After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa”

Suggested Reading: Paul Simon, “America”; Frank O’ Hara, “A Step Away From Them”; Bob Kaufman, “No More Jazz at Alcatraz”; W. C. Handy, “Beale Street Blues”; Charles Bukowski, “Pershing Square, Los Angeles, 1939”


Oct1-9 Puja break


Week 13 (starting Oct 13: 4 classes)

American Interiors-2


Weeks 14-15 (starting Oct 20, 27: 7 classes) Test 2 on Oct 21

Identity and Dissent

Required Reading: Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”; Adrienne Rich, “Trying to Talk with a Man,” “What Kind of Times are These?”; Ishmael Reed, “I am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra”; Frank O’ Hara, “Homosexuality”; Sylvia Plath, “Ariel,” “Lady Lazarus,” “Daddy,” “The Bee Meeting,” “The Arrival of the Bee Box,” “Stings,” “The Swarm,” “Wintering”; Lucille Clifton, “poem to my uterus,” “to my last period,” “poem in praise of menstruation”; Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks,” “Sisters in Arms”; Gwendolyn Brooks, “To Those of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals,” “We Real Cool”; Amiri Baraka, “When We’ll Worship Jesus”; Megan Falley, “Fat Girl”; Patricia Ann Smith, “White Blond Women”;

Suggested Reading: Mark Doty, “Homo Will Not Inherit”; Charles Bukowski, “i wanted to overthrow the government but all i brought down was somebody’s wife”


Week 16 (starting Nov 3: 3 classes)

Love, Longing, Loss-1

Maxine Kumin, “How It Is”; Alice N. Persons, “Why I Have a Crush on You, UPS Man”; Sandra Cisneros, “One Last Poem for Richard”; Etheridge Knight, “Feeling Fucked Up”; Charles Bukowski, “Raw With Love,” “Cold Summer,” “An Almost Made Up Poem,” “The Great Lover”; Robert Creeley, “The Rain”; Adrienne Rich, “Whenever in this city, screens flicker” (from 21 Love Poems, Poem #1)

Suggested Reading: Lucille Clifton, “the women you are accustomed to”; Dorianna Laux, “The Lovers,” The Thief”; Frank O’ Hara, “Having a Coke with You”; Charles Bukowski, “A Smile to Remember”; ”; Kenneth Rexroth, “Quietly”


Week 17 (starting Nov 10: 4 classes)

Love, Longing, Loss-2


Week 18 (starting Nov 17: 4 classes)

Bonus Tracks: Songwriting

Required Reading/Listening: Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”; Robert Hunter, “Ship of Fools,” “Box of Rain,” “Terrapin Station”; Tom Waits, “Burma Shave,” “Diamonds On My Windshield,” “Emotional Weather Report,” “Nighthawk Postcards (from Easy Street),” “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”; Cole Porter, “Let’s Do It,” “You’re the Top,” “Love for Sale”; Sixto Rodriguez, “Cause”; Warren Zevon, “Genius,” “Desperadoes Under the Eaves”; Van Dyke Parks, “Surf’s Up”; Woody Guthrie, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos/Deportees,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Hobo’s Lullabye”; Paul Simon, “The Dangling Conversation,” “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”

Suggested Reading/Listening: Robert Hunter, “Friend of the Devil,” ,” “Scarlet Begonias,” “Touch of Grey,” “Ramble on Rose”; Tom Waits, “Tango Till They’re Sore,”

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