Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

20th Century Poetry not from the U.S.

ENGL 062.401

This "reading workshop" is an introduction to the unprecedented range of language exploration in the poetry that emerged in the 20th century from Europe, Latin America and others parts of the world. The basic course text will be Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris. The anthology features poets such as Mallarmé, Rilke, Tzara, Mayakovsky,Vallejo, Artaud, and Césaire, along with a sampling of some of the most significant movements in poetry and the other arts: Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, "Objectivism," Negritude. We will also look at sound and visual poetry and also the new digital poetry that is emerging on the Intenet. In addition, there will be a poet visiting the class -- reading and discussing his work with the seminar.

Note that we will concentrate on poems from Europe (including the UK) and Latin America in the first half of the century, though a good deal of postwar poetry will be included. Due to time constraints, we not be considering the wealth of 20th century poetry from Asia, or from Australia and New Zealand, or the poetry of analphabetic (tribal/oral) cultures as it emerged in the 20th century.

The "reading workshop" is less concerned with analysis or explanation of individual poems than with finding ways to intensify the experience of poetry, of the poetic, through a consideration of how the different styles and structures and forms of contemporary poetry can affect the way we see and understand the world. No previous experience with poetry is necessary. More important is a willingness to consider the implausible, to try out alternative ways of thinking, to listen to the way language sounds before trying to figure out what it means, to lose yourself in a flurry of syllables and regain your bearings in dimensions otherwise imagined as out-of-reach.

The basic requirement for the class is a weekly response to the assigned readings - usually a notebook entry, imitation, or experiment. These responses are open-ended and can be in whatever form you choose - they are meant to encourage interaction with the poems and also serve as a record of your reading. The experiments are based on list of exercises (something like laboratory work!) aimed at getting inside the styles of the various poets studied. The responses and experiments will form the basis of workshop discussions.

Of special importance for this class: Translation/imitation. Imitation and translation are part of the wreading exercises, but in the cases of the non-English language poetry, my preference is for you to attempt an translation of any of the poems if you know the original language or to try a homophonic translation if you have the text of the original poem.

Syllabus is on-line at see links there for "Introduction" and "Requirements." By permit only. Since the class has an unusual format, please review syllabus and requirements and then send an email expressing your specific interest in the approach of this class to Charles.Bernstein@English.Upenn.Edu

fulfills requirements
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major