Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


"Constantly risking absurdity"

English 382-75: Contemporary Poetry in English

Fall 2005, MW 4:00-5:15PM, Davidson Hall 303


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Office: Bingham Humanities Bldg 335A
Mailbox: Bingham Humanities Bldg 315 Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:30PM
Email: alex.blazer@louisville.edu Office Phone: 852-2185
Web: www.louisville.edu/~a0blaz01/ Departmental Phone: 852-6801


Course Description

Muddy blood is the ink in the leaves of grass.

—Marvin Bell, The Book of the Dead Man


We will investigate a number of self-reflective and self-reflexive tendencies within contemporary American poetry. Post-war, post-nuclear poetry commences with a radical distrust of convention, authority, and society. At first, that doubt gradually turns inward and revises the nature of the individual. By the seventies and eightes, that uncertainty extends to the medium of poetry itself, language, and subsequently inauguarates the fundamental paradox of contemporary poetry: the poet's simultaneous profound distrust and love of language. As we examine the contemporary poet's extreme re-evaluation of subjectivity and language, we will journey through the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beat Generation (Lawrence Ferlinghetti), the confessional (Anne Sexton), the feminist (Adrienne Rich), the Black Mountain Poets (Robert Creeley and Ed Dorn), the New York School (Frank O'Hara), the avant-garde and abstract expressionist (John Ashbery), the experimental and postmodern (Marvin Bell), Language poetry (Charles Bernstein, Beverly Dahlen, and Lyn Hejinian), and finally arrive at the new metaphysical poetry of radical ambiguity (Jorie Graham). To help us in our endeavor, we will post and present a discussion board response of a poet, take an exam that compares and distinguishes poets and shools, compose a research paper.


Course Materials


required (UofL Bookstore)

Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Dahlen, A Reading (11-17)

Hejinian, My Life

O'Hara, Lunch Poems

required (online)

Bell, The Book of the Dead Man

Bernstein, Dark City

Creeley, The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975

Dorn, Gunslinger

Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind

Graham, Region of Unlikeness

Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

Sexton, The Complete Poems


Assignments and Grade Distribution


discussion board response, 10%

In order to prepare for class discussion, you will sign up for and submit a discussion board response on a poet/poem. In class, you will introduce and read the poem in a brief, informal presentation.

exam, 30%

To solidify your knowledge of the poets and schools, you will take an exam, which requires you to thematically compare and contrast poets.

short paper, 15%

You will write a short paper of 4 pages that closely reads a poem covered on the course reading list.

reading journal and annotated bibliography, 15%

In preparation for the research paper, you will submit both a reading journal of the poems you might analyze in the paper and an annotated bibliography of possible research sources.

research paper, 30%

In a 6-8 page research paper, you interpret a selection of contemporary poetry not covered on the course reading list and use 3-4 scholarly sources to support your examination.


Course Policies


Class Participation

We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. If I feel that the majority of the class isn't participating because they're not keeping up with the reading, I will give pop quizzes, and reweight the grade distribution accordingly.

Office Hours and Instructor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I'm happy to answer small questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. I do not regularly check my email on weekends, and I do not use Blackboard's messages feature.

Blackboard and Student Email

We will be using Blackboard for assignment submission and retrieval, and Netmail for class communication. It is your responsibility to update your passwords so you can use Blackboard and check your email in case you receive course related messages. I suggest that you forward your university email to your private email account (or vice versa) and review my Blackboard Basics handout.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every absence beyond four days. Therefore, missing five class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing eight classes will result in automatic failure of the course. I do not excuse any class missed beyond the four days, even if you are ill or participating in extracurricular activities. Therefore, I suggest you use your four days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies or consistently leaving class early will be treated as absences.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day, not class period, for any assignment that is turned in late. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days, not class periods, of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.

MLA Style

Formal papers and take-home exams require Modern Language Association (MLA) style while in-class exams and discussion board responses may be informally formatted. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following two categories: 1) margins and 2) font and line-spacing. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring to my FAQ on papers and using the checklist on the MLA style handout.


Do not do it. Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most serious of academic offenses. See the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Sections 5 and 6 on page 17 of the 2004-2006 Undergraduate Catalog for further information. Proven plagiarism can result in a failing grade for the assignment or the course and will be reported to the College of Arts & Sciences for further action, which can include notice in the permanent record, dismissal, or expulsion. Last year, I caught four plagiarists: all four failed their respective courses, two did not graduate with their class, and one no longer attends UofL. Do not plagiarize.

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness.

Disabilities Resource Center

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me outside of class. Contact the Disabilities Resource Center (Robbins Hall, 852-6938) for information and auxiliary aid.

Writing Center

The Writing Center (Ekstrom Library Room 312, writing@louisville.edu, 852-2173) provides drop-in assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.


Course Schedule


For each poet, read the Contemporary Authors entry in Blackboard's Course Documents.

This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.


Week 1
M, 8-22

Ferlinghetti, [Constantly risking absurdity]

First Day Questionnaire

W, 8-24
Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind
Week 2
M, 8-29
Ferlinghetti, concluded
W, 8-31

Dorn, Gunslinger, Books I and II

In Class Activity: Characterizing the Road Trip

Week 3
M, 9-5

No Class: Labor Day

W, 9-7
Dorn, Gunslinger, Books III and IIII
Week 4
M, 9-12
Sexton, All My Pretty Ones
W, 9-14
Sexton, continued
Week 5
M, 9-19
Rich, The Dream of a Common Language
W, 9-21
Rich, concluded

Week 6

M, 9-26
Creeley, Words
W, 9-28
No Class: State of the University Address
Week 7
M, 10-3

Creeley, concluded

O'Hara, Lunch Poems

W, 10-5
O'Hara, concluded
Week 8
M, 10-10
No Class: Mid-term Break
W, 10-12


Week 9
M, 10-17

Bell, The Book of the Dead Man

In Class Activity: About the Dead Man and In Class Group Activities

W, 10-19
Bell, concluded
Week 10
M, 10-24
Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
W, 10-26
Ashbery, concluded
Week 11
M, 10-31

Bernstein, Dark City

Language Poetry

W, 11-2

Bernstein, concluded

In Class Activity: Finding the Poet among the Debris of Language

Short Paper Due

Week 12
M, 11-7

Hejinian, My Life

In Class Activity: The Process of Meaning in "A pause, a rose, something on paper"

W, 11-9
Hejinian, concluded
Week 13
M, 11-14
Dahlen, A Reading (11-17)
W, 11-16
Dahlen, concluded
Week 14
M, 11-21
Graham, Region of Unlikeness
W, 11-23
No Class: Thanksgiving Break
Week 15
M, 11-28

Graham, concluded

Reading Journal and Annotated Bibliography Due

W, 11-30

Roundtable of Research-in-Progress


Week 16
M, 12-5
No Class: Reading Day
Week 17
M, 12-12
Research Paper Due