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ENG 222/322/422


Home is the place we know best. It may or may not be the place we feel most comfortable, but it’s an important part of who we are. This introductory poetry workshop takes home as its theme and will help students begin to construct a “home” for themselves within the world of poetry. We will familiarize ourselves with the basic forms and functions of poetry and through practice will develop a level of comfort working in poetic modes. 

Our course readings demonstrate how poets in many times and places have found rich poetic inspiration in the domestic sphere. We’ll encounter poems about the things and people that populate our day-to-day home lives—family members, food, chores, pets, games, and also sometimes explosive emotion and even violence. We’ll devote extra attention to Mississippi poets, two in particular who engage deeply with issues of home and domestic labor, and we’ll read some poets currently working at USM, to see how the material nearest and most familiar to us can function as a powerful artistic inspiration. 

Because this is a poetry workshop, your own writing will be perhaps the most important course text. As we try our hand at various poetic forms and modes, I encourage you to explore the theme of home, but it’s not required that you adhere to that subject. Through reading and discussing one another’s writing we will seek to transform the things we know best—the daily, private, and sometimes hum drum—into poetic expressions that offer beauty and significance to readers.



  • The Poet’s Companion, A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio & Dorianne Laux

  • Domestic Work by Natasha Trethewey

  • Tender Hooks by Beth Ann Fennelly

Other course readings will be made available on Canvas, The Poetry Foundation website, and the Academy of American Poets website. 



Original Poems (25% of final grade) - Students will submit 8 poems over the course of the semester, 5 of which will be workshopped in class. 


Workshop Responses (25% of final grade) - Each week students must print their classmates poems and be prepared at the time of workshop to give thoughtful verbal and written comments to their peers.


Critical Essay (15% of final grade) - Students will write a 1,500-word critical response to either Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work or Beth Ann Fennelly’s Tender Hooks.


Final Portfolio (35% of final grade) - Students will submit 5 revised poems from the semester accompanied by a brief (500-word) reflection essay. Revisions and reflection essay should demonstrate serious engagement with peer and instructor feedback.



PC=The Poet’s Companion by Addonizio and Laux

Week One - Why Write Poetry?, Syllabus, Course Policies


Week Two - Household Objects

PC “Writing and Knowing,” “The Family, Inspiration and Obstacle”

selections from Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein

Group 1 In-Class Workshop 


Week Three -Chores and Labor

PC “Witnessing,” “Poetry of Place”

Trethewey I

Group 2 In-Class Workshop


Week Four - Mothers

PC “The Shadow”

Trethewey II

Group 1 In-Class Workshop


Week Five - Birth and Children 

PC “Images”

Fennelly I

Group 2 In-Class Workshop


Week Six - Rooms in the House

PC “The Music of the Line,” “Voice and Style"

Fennelly II

Group 1 In-Class Workshop


Week Seven - Critical Essay Due


Week Eight - Fathers

PC “Stop Making Sense: Dreams and Experiments,” “Meter, Rhyme, and Form”

"Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden; “Youth” by James Wright; “In Dreams” by Kim Addonizio; “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke

Group 2 In-Class Workshop


Week Nine - When Home Hurts: Conflict and Violence 

PC “Repetition, Rhythm, and Blues,” “More Repetition: Villanelle, Pantoum, Sestina”

“To Speak of Woe that is in Marriage” by Robert Lowell; “Heartless Humor Blues” by Raymond Antrobus; “Halcyon Kitchen” by Kiandra Jimenez

Group 1 In-Class Workshop


Week Nine - Siblings

PC “Grammatical Excusion”

from When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz

Group 2 In-Class Workshop


Week Ten - Animals

PC “Simile and Metaphor”

from “Jubilate Agno” by Christopher Smart; “A Little Language” by Robert Duncan; “After an Illness, Walking the Dog” by Jane Kenyon

Group 1 In-Class Workshop


Week Eleven - Food

PC “Writing the Erotic”

“Everything Good Between Men and Women” by C.D. Wright; “Divorced Fathers and Pizza Crusts” by Mark Halliday; “Going Home: New Orleans” by Sheryl Saint Germain; “Butter” by Elizabeth Alexander

Group 2 In-Class Workshop


Week Twelve - Games

PC “Writer’s Block,” “Writing in the Electronic Age”

“Sidewalk Games” by Colleen McElroy; “Monopoly” by Connie Wanek

Group 1 In-Class Workshop


Week Thirteen - Sanctuary and Memory

PC “The Energy of Revision”

“Morning News” Marilyn Hacker, Additional Readings TBA

Group 2 In-Class Workshop


Week Fourteen - Portfolio Conferences


Week Fifteen - Portfolios Due

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