Research on Contemporary American Poets You Should Know

Projects from 2011:

Alexandra Mathieu

Gabrielle Melo-Moore
Tenzin Kunsang

Jessica Smith

Amanda Noori
Rachael Solano
Nidale Zouhir

Dorothea Lasky

Hong Chung
Renee Santo
Kisla Rami

Farid Matuk

Xi Gao
Brian Lam
João Nascimento

Jill McDonough

Josh Jerome
Philip Tang
Kristina Katz

Sunnylyn Thibodeaux

Alfonse Femino
Brittany Foley
Francesca Richardson

Projects from 2010:

Suheir Hammad: who taught my students that “institutions [are] not here to serve the needs of poetry." And that poetry calls "for the questioning, if not the erasure of, authority and cannon” (Hammad, Email to Olivia Kahn). Also, to investigate and embrace gender and diversity in literature and in life.

Authors: Jennifer Joseph, Kellie Leonce, Olivia Kahn, Stephanie Apollon

Regie Gibson: who sonically inspired my students and wove them through a world with scat and myth and love and blues & who also produced a manifesto from answering some student questions--a document that says so much about poetry.

Authors: Sandy Joseph, Gaelle Wagnac, Stephany Jean, Jackie Tynes

Micah Ballard: who unlocked the idea of collaboration and community and punk-parish-mysticism as well as the magic and play in the act of writing.

Authors: Hillary Du, Samantha Johnson, Jessica Lucas, Samantha Power

A Quick Note On The Poets:

Over the past two years, nine poets have participated in this project and have been incredibly generous with their time, wisdom, and insight into their craft. I think this speaks worlds of their character--to offer their unconditional energy and effort only because they were asked. I purposely sought out these nine poets, not just because they are some of my favorite writers, but because I knew that my students would connect with them, learn from them, and be inspired. I am so thankful for their participation. I hope, if nothing else, that this site shows evidence of the students’ immense effort and profound respect for these poets. Please read everything through this lens.

Philosophy Behind The Project:

Good Poetry is a study of how the mind works through and with and in and against and around language--it is experiential in nature. I'm just not interested in poetry that does not do this.

When I originally began this project, as I wrote last year, I began it more as a way to teach and integrate experimental poetry into my syllabus. But as the project has grown, I realize that it is much more than this. As difficult as it can be at times, what I value most about the process is the collaborative aspect. Just as studying the arts can immerse us in imagination and foster empathy, working within a group asks us to find each other’s strengths and interests, and, if we are successful, allows us to achieve things that would be impossible in isolation.

To me, all of these poets exude a belief in community-- a willingness to participate in community and push it and challenge it and engage with it. They do this so well because they pay attention to others and the world and history and design. I think what experimental poetry really teaches us is to pay attention to our attention.

The Process:

Poets were contacted around the beginning of December.

Phase One:

The project started the first week of January when we came back from break. The students were given copies of their poets’ books and read them. After reading the books, the students:
  • began a “comprehensive, MLA-style, Annotated Bibliography”
  • emailed their poets biographical or craft-related questions-- (whatever they felt like they needed after their initial gathering of sources and preliminary book discussions)
  • produced 1-3 pages of original poetry imitating their poet-- they also produced a copy of the poem[s] with “10, probing, specific, and insightful comments” about how they were stylistically imitating their poets and the effects of these choices (using the comment function in Microsoft Word or google docs.)
  • and, finally, they compiled a packet of poetry (around ten pages or so) for our Student-Run Discussions
Phase Two:

We had Student-Run Discussions on each of the poets that lasted a little less than an hour. The students read the packets (that were made for them by one of the groups) the night before and marked them up before the discussion. The group that put the packet together did have a chance to give a brief introduction and provide some comments on what they hoped to get out of the discussion, then everyone had a chance to speak about the poetry. The group that put the packet together took notes during the discussion. After class, I collected the marked-up packets, graded them on the notes and their discussion, and then gave the notes to the group that put the packet together.

During this time, the students:
  • finalized the Annotated Bibliography (group)
  • completed the biography of their poet (group)
  • wrote an extended analysis of 1-3 poems (individual)
Since all of this was done on google docs, I was able to paste into this site fairly easily.

I hope to include some examples of their analysis papers if time permits.