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Poetry: What It Is, and How to Understand It

George Washington University via Udemy

This course may be unavailable.


Why read a poem?  Why write one?  People say modern poetry as an art form is imperiled in our time, yet everywhere in the world cultures and individuals memorize, recite, and value various forms of poetry.  This course will attempt to define this genre of poetry writing, to discuss its particular attributes, to distinguish between good and bad poetry, to explain why so much writing poetry is difficult, and to isolate the sorts of truths modern poetry seems best at conveying.  Our focus will be on modern poetry, in English and in translation.


1. Course Introduction

2. Poetry and the Arrest of Life

3. Richard Burton reads 'Adlestrop' by Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

4. Poetry and Difficulty

5. Distinguishing Between Good and Bad Poetry

6. The Poet on Poetry

7. "Sunday Morning," Wallace Stevens

8. "The Graveyard by the Sea," Paul Valéry.

9. "The Moon and the Yew Tree", Sylvia Plath.

10. "At the Fishhouses," Elizabeth Bishop.

11. Philip Larkin and W.H. Auden.

12. What are they trying to tell us?

13. Conclusion, Part One: Poetry: What It Is, And How to Understand It

14. James Merrill's "Santorini: Stopping the Leak." A Poem of Therapeutic Arrestation

15. Love, and the Arrest of Life

16. Charles Wright's Black Zodiac

17. STOPPING THE LEAK: T.S. Eliot's Poem, "Virginia"

18. Poetry and the way it undermines us: Weldon Kees and Donald Justice Part I

19. Poetry and the way it undermines us: Weldon Kees and Donald Justice Part 2

Taught by

Margaret Soltan


3.4 rating, based on 5 Class Central reviews

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  • Ronald Elliot Keeperman

    Ronald Elliot Keeperman completed this course.

    I have watched and listened to the Professor's first six lectures and wish to express my thanks for having had that privilege. I "accede" to (with?) her about everything she's elaborated upon thus far. I have had my own moments where Time and Space…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course is no longer available on udemy. I followed the link straight from class-central and found a notice saying it was no longer available, and if you search udemy for "poetry" it's no longer listed.
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