Poems move in many ways: in journals and anthologies, on broadsides and websites, through zines, Tumblr, and performance. This course considers the relationship between poetry and print culture in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present. We’ll be asking questions such as: How did literary magazines like The Dial influence the development of modernism? How did political periodicals like The Crisis and The Masses use poems to reinforce their radical or revolutionary aims? How has technology—from the printing press to the risograph to the Internet—changed how we compose, circulate, and interpret poetry? We will mine the archives in person and online in order to better understand how writing and publishing practices have been and still are inextricable. In doing so, students will learn to read and interpret poetry in context—to understand how the text of a poem and its environment make meaning together.
We will be paying particular attention to the poetry and publishing communities of Philadelphia. We’ll make good use of Penn’s Special Collections, and class sessions will include visits to the Common Press, the collections at the William Way LGBT Community Center, and independent bookstores, as well as meetings with local publishers, printers, and poets. Students will write one short analytical essay, work collectively to create a class anthology, and finish the course with an independent research or creative project.