The main text I use in class with the students is Perrine’s
Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense.
It has fourteen chapters on poetry, broken down by the dominant poetic techniques used. While I don’t teach chapter to chapter, I do use some of the poems in the book as well as the definitions for the various poetic devices. For a new teacher who does not know much about poetry, this is a good starting place. I will also be making copies of poems from online and from
The Norton Anthology of Poetry
and information about poetry from
The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
for the students. The latter is also a good source of definitions for poetry terms as well as criticism. This unit will be my introduction to poetry, to be taught within the first two months of school. I will continue to teach poetry throughout the year. Most poems for this unit will be from the Post-War era, but I’m including some poetry from past writers who have influenced current writers. Students need to know writers from each literary period, dating as far back as the anonymous writer of
to modern-day literature, so I will cover a great variety of writers, but not all the writers for the year are in this unit.
I will organize the poems into the following sections (not limited to the poets listed here): Thematically: Confessional Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, W.D. Snodgrass, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath; Socio-Political poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, and Philip Larkin. Formal types: Free Verse by Walt Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Seamus Heaney, and William Carlos Williams; Villanelles by Elizabeth Bishop and Dylan Thomas; Sonnets by Shakespeare, Jonson, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Richard Wilbur; and Dramatic Monologues by Tennyson, Browning, and Hollander. Of course, I will help the students acknowledge that many of the poets and poems overlap within these categories. It is important that they do, since poetry does not exist within a vacuum.