Creative Writing: Intermediate Poetry

Section 01
Caylin Capra-Thomas
Course Description

English 2530: Writing Documentary Poetry 

Are you an infomaniac or documentary buff who also writes poetry? Do you fall down late-night Wikipedia rabbit holes, jumping from tab to tab and texting non-responsive friends about all the wild or worrisome events that have transpired on our planet? Do you hold out hope that art can save the world? In English 2530: Writing Documentary Poetry, we’ll read and write in the genre of documentary poetry, sometimes called docupoetry or docupoetics, in which poets draw on primary source material to write poems about current events, historical events, or cultural phenomena. A diverse genre, we’ll investigate how these poets employ, subvert, or play with poetic modes and tools, then try on their moves to write our own poems that engage, in some way, with public events or phenomena. We’ll consider questions like, Where and how do documentation and creation intersect? What ethical questions arise in this practice and how do poets deal with them? and What is the role of the “I” in documentary poems? How do we bring a sense of the personal to the public? Along the way, we will broaden our knowledge of poetry techniques, styles, and history. 

In workshop, you will lead discussions about your writing to grow your work closer to your own artistic vision, and the class will enter into thoughtful, tactful, honest dialogue with you to help imagine the ways you might achieve that vision. This workshop structure is adapted from Felicia Rose Chavez’s The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop with the aim of creating a space that is community-oriented, inclusive, and anti-oppressive. You will also design and complete a literary community project aimed at increasing your engagement with literary culture and networks of solidarity, as well as working to foster such culture and solidarity in class or on campus. The course will culminate in drawing conclusions about our literary community building and a short manuscript of revised work in this genre.