ACL 1002
Studying Poetry and Poetics
Semester 2 2012
Footscray Park

Unit Co-ordinator/Lecturer
Ian Syson

Available for consultation:
St Albans
8.209 ph 9919 2106

We acknowledge the Elders, families and forebears of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung tribes of the Kulin Nation who were the custodians of University land for many centuries. We acknowledge that the land on which we meet was the place of age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal and that the Kulin Nation people's living culture had and has a unique role in the life of this region.



Topic Lecturer


Outline of Unit: What is Poetry?

Ian Syson


Poetry and Form

Ian Syson


Poetry and Communication

Ian Syson


Sound (in) Poetry

Ian Syson


Romanticism: Poetry as Reflection?

Robert De Young


The Sunlit Zone

Lisa Jacobson


Poetry as Activism

Ian Syson

8 Working Class and Dialect Poetry Ian Syson




Poetry and Song

Robert De Young


Concrete Poetry and Cyberpoetry Ian Syson


History and Poetry

Ian Syson

Major essay due on Monday 22 October
Commentary is required by by 5.00pm on Friday 26 October


Poetry and poetics continue to be a living part of contemporary culture, as the recent resurgence of youth-oriented and 'new-wave' poetry writing, reading and performing in Australia suggests. The study of poetry and poetics, in addition to expanding students' abilities to think critically and creatively about written language and expression, also provides critical knowledge about how forms of literary expression and production are related to the history, politics and cultures of the settings in which they develop.

This unit will be presented this semester as an introduction to the study of poetry: attention will be paid both to the formal elements of poetic texts and to the various contexts -- theoretical, historical, socio-cultural and personal -- that are also relevant to such study. It is thus not organised around a chronological history of poets, nor does it concentrate upon a select few texts. Neither are the poems listed for each week grouped by a common subject. Rather, the lecture each week will focus upon a selected aspect of poetry, and the selection of poems for the accompanying seminars is made with this in mind whilst also introducing other, related aspects. The reason for doing this is that there are ways of 'looking at' or 'being aware' of a poem that are arguably the precondition of one's being able to read it 'properly': each week we will be focussing upon one of these 'ways'.


The unit is designed so that each student attends one 1 hr lecture and one 2 hr tutorial per week for twelve weeks. The lectures aim broadly to cover central themes and debates while the tutorials are sessions for closer discussion and argument about specific poems and the issues they raise. In the weekly outline below poems are nominated for lectures (focus poems) and tutorials (discussion poems).

The Focus Poems will be discussed in the lecture whereas the Discussion Poems will receive close attention in the tutorial. Students are expected to have read both sets of poems.

Each tutorial will be initiated by one or more casual student presentations.

Because the questions for assessment range between general issues and specific topics, it will be necessary for students wishing to perform well to attend all lectures and tutorials.



Thu 10:00 11:00 C209


  1. Thu 11:00 13:00 C502c Karina Smith
  2. Thu 11:00 13:00 C502a Paola Bilbrough
  3. Thu 13:00 15:00 C502c Andrew Webster
  4. Thu 15:00 17:00 C502c Andrew Webster
  5. Fri 9:00 11:00 C502cCatherine Harris
  6. Fri 9:00 11:00 C502a Bonny Cassidy
  7. Fri 11:00 13:00 C504 Bonny Cassidy


Class Materials:

Set Texts

  • Seven Centuries of English Verse
  • Unit Reader
  • Lisa Jacobson, The Sunlit Zone

Recommended Texts

Web material

Get your metre running ... The Age, Aug 27 2011,
In a land of sweeping plains, poetry is hardly thriving The Age, Sep 5 2011
Australian Poetry Since 1788 The Age, Jan 29, 2012

Other recommended reading and viewing

  • The New Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics, ed. Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan. New York: MJF Books, 1993. REF 808.103 NEW
  • Terry Eagleton, How to Read a Poem, 2007
  • Michael J. Bugeja, The Art and Craft of Poetry, Cincinnati: Writers' Digest, 1994. STA 808.1 BUG
  • Amittai F Aviram, Telling rhythm: body and meaning in poetry, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. STA 809.1 AVI
  • John Hollander, The work of poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. STA 808.1 HOL
  • Stephen Matterson and Darryl Jones, Studying Poetry. London: Hodder, 2000. STA 808.1 MAT
  • Phil Roberts, How Poetry Works [1986]. Penguin, 2000.
  • Barry Spurr, Studying Poetry. Melbourne: Macmillan, 1997. STA 808.1 SPU
  • (video) What was Modernism? STA 809.041 WHA
  • (video) Distant Voices: Myth, Symbolism and Allusion in Poetry. STA 808.1 DIS
  • (video) Six Centuries of Verse. AV 821 SIX (all 15 episodes!!)

Useful Web Material

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will learn to present literary arguments in a variety of verbal and textual settings and formats. (CGA 3 and 4)

  2. Students will be introduced to the practice of tutorial discussion and debate in which problem solving is an important aspect. (CGA 1 and 4).

  3. The literary texts studied will ensure students negotiate literary representations of diverse cultures. (CGAs 5)

Core Graduate Attributes:

  1. is an effective problem solver in a range of settings, including professional practice

  2. can locate, evaluate, manage and use information effectively (including "critical thinking", ICT and statistical skills)

  3. communicates effectively as a professional and as a citizen

  4. can work both autonomously and collaboratively as a professional

  5. can work effectively in settings of social and cultural diversity


Week 1 (Starts 23 July)

Lecture Outline of unit: What is Poetry?

Focus poems
Five poems?
Tom Leonard, '100 Differences Between Poetry and Prose'

Discussion Poems
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130 + Read by Alan Rickman ('Severus Snape')
Stevie Smith, 'Not Waving But Drowning' + youtube reading + Smith intro comments

Week 2 (Starts 30 July)

Lecture Poetry and Form

Focus Poems
John Donne, 'Death be not proud' Holy Sonnets X + Performed by Julian Glover.
William Shakespeare, Sonnets 18, 30 + Kenneth Branagh reads 30
Andrew Marvell, 'To His Coy Mistress' + Performed by Damien Lewis

Discussion Poems
William Shakespeare, Sonnets 73, 130 + Read by Alan Rickman ('Severus Snape')
W.H. Auden 'Old People's Home'
Wilfred Owen, 'Strange Meeting' + Read by Dylan Thomas
Gwen Harwood, 'Oyster Cove' , 'In the Park'

Week 3 (Starts 6 August)

Lecture Poetry and Communication

Focus Poems
John Keats, 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'
William Blake, 'Tyger' -- image of Blake's illustrated manuscript

Discussion Poems
Adrienne Rich, 'Aunt Jennifer's Tigers'
Ann Sexton, 'Woman with Girdle' + sound files
Roy Campbell, 'Zulu Girl'
Audre Lorde, 'Coal'
J.K. Baxter, 'Tomcat'
TS Eliot, 'The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock'

Week 4 (Starts 13 August)

Lecture Sound (in) Poetry

Focus Poems
Lewis Carroll, 'Jabberwocky'
Hone Tuwhare, 'Rain'
Kenneth Slessor, 'Beach Burial'

Discussion Poems
TS Eliot, 'Ash Wednesday'
Theodore Roethke, 'She'
Tony Harrison, 'Bookends'
Thom Gunn, 'On the Move'
Sylvia Plath, 'Tulips'

Week 5 (Starts 20 August)

Lecture Romanticism: Poetry as Reflection?

Focus Poems
William Blake, 'The New Jerusalem' + Billy Bragg version
John Keats, 'Ode to a Nightingale'
Mathew Arnold, 'Dover Beach'
W.B. Yeats, 'The Second Coming'

Discussion Poems
John Keats, 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' (two versions)
Tennyson, 'The Lady of Shalot'
William Blake, 'London'

Further reading
Maurice Cranston, The romantic movement. Blackwell, 1994 FTS 809.9145 CRA

Week 6 (Starts 27 August)

Lecture Poets and their Poetry: Lisa Jacobson

Focus and discussion Poems The Sunlit Zone

Further Reading


Week 7 (Starts 3 September)

Lecture Politics: Poetry as Activism?

Focus Poems
Oodgeroo, 'We Are Going'
Lionel Fogarty, 'Capitalism - The Murderer in Duisguise'
William Wordsworth, 'Daffodils'

Shelley, 'England in 1819'
Excerpts from Brad Evans' Red Lamp*

Discussion Poems
Oodgeroo, 'No More Boomerang'
Poems by Lionel Fogarty
Link to three Fogarty poems in Jacket magazine

Coral Hull, 'Joeys in a Sack'
Henry Lawson, 'Freedom on the Wallaby'*
Geoff Goodfellow, 'Poetry in the Workplace'*
Margaret Atwood, 'She Considers Evading Him'

Week 8 (Starts 10 September )

Lecture Working Class Poetry

Focus Poems
Geoff Goodfellow, 'It All Happened in Copley Street'
Kerry Watson, 'my father wore a blue collar'
Wordsworth, 'The Solitary Reaper'
Les Murray, 'Driving through Sawmill Towns'

Discussion Poems
Tony Harrison 'Divisions'
Selection from Overland 165 in the reader.

Further Reading
Sarah Attfield, 'The Invisible force' in unit reader.
John Lennon, 'Working Class Hero'

Week 9 (Starts 17 September)

Lecture Concrete Poetry and Cyberpoetry

Focus Poems
Material in unit Reader

Discussion Poems
Material in unit Reader

Further reading
Milton Klonsky, ed., Speaking Pictures, New York: Harmony, 1975. 808.81 SPE
Mary Ellen Solt, Concrete Poetry: A World View, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1970. 808.81 CON


Week 10 (Starts 1 October)

Lecture Poetry and Song

Focus Poems Students are required to bring song lyrics (one song or more) to class.

Week 11 (Starts 8 October)

Lecture Concrete Poetry and Cyberpoetry

Focus Poems
Material in unit Reader

Discussion Poems
Material in unit Reader

Further reading
Milton Klonsky, ed., Speaking Pictures, New York: Harmony, 1975. 808.81 SPE
Mary Ellen Solt, Concrete Poetry: A World View, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1970. 808.81 CON

Week 12 (Starts 15 October)

Lecture History and Poetry

Focus Poems
Dylan Thomas, 'Do not go gentle into that Good Night'
Dylan Thomas 'In My Craft or Sullen Art'
WB Yeats, 'The Second Coming'
Chaucer, General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (alongside translation)


All assessment must be submitted and/or performed. FAILURE TO PERFORM/SUBMIT ANY ASSESSMENT TASKS WILL MEAN AUTOMATIC FAILURE OF THE UNIT. The assessment for this unit is as follows:

  1. Poetry journal (including Informal Tutorial Presentation of a poem) 20%
  2. Short essay (600 words) 20%
  3. Long essay (1600 words) 40%
  4. Formal Presentation of a Poem 20%

1. Poetry journal 10%
Students will keep a journal of their poetry reading throughout the semester. Starting from week 2 they will need to respond to five of the poems in each week's reading. Responses can be relatively brief but they should discuss issues of form, content, meaning and other pertinent aspects of the poems as they see fit.

Students can either keep a paper journal (if they possess the main textbook) or print the poems from the supplied web links or from other sources, annotate them and keep them in a chronologically ordered folder.

They will be submitted in the final tutorial in week 11.

Informal Tutorial Presentation of a poem
As suggested, this is an informal presentation. Students are required to read aloud a discussion poem from the relevant week, present the class with some background and be prepared to make some comments on how the meaning and overall mood, tone or 'feel' of the poem, in whole or in part, might best guide the manner of its 'performance'.

Presentations will be allocated at the start of the semester and there will be no more than three per tutorial/workshop group in each week.

2. Short essay (600 words) 20%
It will be put on-line in week two. It will be based on a comparison of set poems. Your comparison will need to show an understanding of the concepts about and aspects of poetry that have been introduced in the unit up until this point.
It will be due in week 6 .

3. Long essay (1600-2000 words) 40%
Topics will be put on-line in week five.

As well as showing that you are able to discuss the formal elements of the poems you will be required to engage with the contextual issues raised in the later weeks of the unit.
Due 22 October.

4. Formal Presentation of a Poem 20%
Students are required to read aloud, in the final tutorial, with appropriate expressiveness, a published poem of from 14 to 60 lines (or its equivalent, established in discussion with the tutor). This is to be followed by a written commentary of approximately 500 words, explaining how their performance reflected their understanding of the poem. Reading 10%, commentary 10%.

Presentations will be given in the final tutorial session of the semester and submission of the commentary is required by the end of the following week - ie. by 5.00pm on Friday 26 October.

Handing in assignments

Hard copy assignments are to be submitted in the tutor's pigeon hole.

Penalties for late assignments

Late assignements (without an extension) will be graded at a reduction of 20 per cent per week late.

Special consideration

If you feel that illness or personal difficulties have impaired your performance you may ask for Special Consideration which can facilitate late submission, and alternative arrangements for assignments. This can cover both emotional and physical difficulties. You need to contact a student counsellor to arrange this.

Guidelines for Assessment Criteria