Poetry Portfolios

Since this is a poetry writing course, most of your grade is determined by how well you write poetry (surprising, I know). You may think that poetry grading is incredibly subjective and that any grade I assign your poems will be arbitrary. There’s some truth to that. I’ve submitted the same poems to many different poetry editors, trusting that while the first five or ten judge them harshly, one editor will find them worth publishing. And that is just what happens (sometimes. Other times I’ve never found an editor who deems them worthy). If you’re uncomfortable with having much of your grade determined by how well I think your poetry works, you might need to drop this class. Judging a poem’s merit, however, is not entirely subjective. I have now read thousands of poems, and can determine whether one is written well or poorly, whether the language gives form and expression to a story, a vision, an experience, a thought, an emotion. I will read your poems fairly and sympathetically, but I will also read them honestly. This means I will do my best not to tell you a poem works when it doesn’t. If you ever want to know what I think of one of your poems, bring it by my office anytime this semester. I’m always happy to discuss poetry!

For your first portfolio, turn in 4-6 pages of your best poetry. For the final portfolio, submit 6-8 pages of your best poetry. Your final portfolio may include revised versions of poems you submitted in your first portfolio. Each poem should be printed as it would be for submission to a magazine: each poem begins on its own page, and your name and address are on the top left corner above each poem. Accompanying your portfolio, turn in a brief essay that provides an analysis of the poems you are submitting. This essay should discuss each poem, paying special attention to the formal choices you made, and support an argument about why these poems are good ones.

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