Monday, June 9, 2014


This site contains all the course documentation, materials, and assignments for USSY 289E: Poets of Ohio taught by Joshua Ware, Ph.D. during Spring semesters 2013 and 2014 at Case Western Reserve University.

The course, generally speaking, seeks to familiarize students with the genre of poetry by, first, establishing stylistic, aesthetic, and conceptualize foundations common to contemporary poetry. To do so, we read scholarly books and critical articles by authors such as Robert Archembeau, Elisa Gabbert, Richard Hugo, Philip Larkin, and James Longenbach.

For the next phase of the course, we read full-length collections by six different Ohio poets. Once students read each collection, they write a 2-page response paper that develops connections between the primary text and secondary sources. During our class sessions, we discuss our thoughts and ideas about the text. The following session, the poet visits campus for a reading and a question-and-answer segment. To this end, we attempt to answer the following questions, which the syllabus' course description poses:
Why do poetic texts, both of the present and the past, seem so difficult to read and understand? What writing techniques, strategies, and styles do poets use that make comprehending their work such a challenge? More importantly, why would anyone choose to write in this manner? Through close reading of our primary texts, researching the historical and literary contexts surrounding contemporary poetry, and discussing the art form with each other (as well as with the poets themselves), we will come to a better understanding of how these texts function.
Ultimately, these writing assignments, discussions, readings, and q-&-a sessions offer students several different learning environments in which to engage, think about, and understand contemporary poetry.

This class is also designed to explore and develop the idea of community, specifically local and regional communities that thrive outside of mainstream culture. As the course description in the syllabus also states that:
But more than just acquainting you with this style of writing, our course will highlight the large and dynamic poetry community of Ohio. Luckily for us, many of the poets we will read during the course agreed to visit our class this semester to talk about their work and read their poems. 
To this extent, our course will explore the local and national poetry communities, noting how writers found relationships upon geography, aesthetics, and demographics (just to name a few), using written texts to express emotion, thought, or identity. In order to accomplish these goals, we will read, participate in class discussions, and write extensively about poetry composed by contemporary Ohio poets. Therefore, you will be expected to engage our course texts critically, thinking through the manner in which language operates as a tool for generating and sustaining, as well as undermining, community formation.
It is a goal of this course, then, not just to acquaint students with contemporary poetry, but challenge them to consider about how we can become proactive leaders and supportive members within marginalized communities.

For more information on this course, please explore this blog. You can also check out videos of and commentary by the poets from our first-year readers on Vouched Books by clicking on their names: Mary BiddingerPhil MetresFrank GiampietroDana WardCathy Wagner, and Sarah Gridley; likewise, Vouched Books also hosts excerpts from my introductions and videos of our second-year readers: Catherine Wing, Matt Hart, Heather Christle, Dave Lucas, Tyrone Williams, and Larissa Szporluk.