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Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Seminar Leader:
Al Filreis


The seminar was a survey of modern and contempo-rary American poetry – from Dickinson and Whitman to the present. It was designed to enable teachers to realize two goals: to learn about a number of poets that one might not necessarily have read, all of them exciting and teachable; and to learn, through our own modeling of such a method, how to teach a poem, one poem at a time, through collaborative close readings.
The course moved very quickly from the early pre-modernists, to the modernists, through several “chapters” in which poets who had doubts about modernism are featured, to the breakthroughs of the 1950s (beats) and 1960s (New York School poets) and beyond. We ended with three kinds of contemporary poetry, the last of which (conceptualism) has already been shown to be extremely attractive to young students. (A hallmark of conceptualism is internet-age re-use of language, sampling, and cool social documen-tary projects as well as experimental forms of memoir.)
There was a great emphasis in this course on poetic form and on pedagogy. Both are difficult topics and approaches to master. Teaching poetry is difficult but rewarding. And the relative brevity of the poems makes it possible to bring a poem to class and prove, through extended and lively close readings, that language is something to which one can attend with great focus and not be “bored.” There’s always more to discover in a great modern poem.

Unit TitleAuthor


Poets Imagining the City

Sally O’Brien
Keywords: imagination, Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver, poetry, writing prompt


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, But How Many Pictures is a Word Worth?

Femi-Ama K. Johnson
Keywords: English, language arts, literacy, writing

Poetry Out Loud: Reading, Reciting, and Responding to Poetry

Stacia Parker
Keywords: close reading, English, High School, out loud, poetry, spoken word

In the Spanish World Language Classroom: Discovering Form and Content in Bilingual Poems

Mary Anne Stuppy
Keywords: bilingual poems, content, Foreign Language, form, High School, poetry, Spanish

The Color of Beauty in the Darkness – Using Poetry and Art to Create a Visual Picture of Your World

Michelle Todd
Keywords: English, figurative language, Langston Hughes, Middle School, poetry, segregation

“Ode to Common Things” 1

Dale Apple
Keywords: 21st century poetry, American poetry, poetry, point of view

“Make it New”: New and Unique Approaches to Teaching Poetry in the Secondary Classroom

Tara Ann Carter
Keywords: American Literature, figurative language, poetry, significance, symbolism

The Art of the Poem in Poems of Art: Using Visuals and Close Readings to Aid Creative Writing

Sydney Hunt Coffin
Keywords: Art, Creative Writing, modern art, poetry

Enhancing Beginning Reading Skills Through Poetry

Pamela Elters
Keywords: literacy, poetry, reading skills, Shel Silverstein

The Ringing of Bells: Joyful Sounds of Poetry

Lynn Gourinski Fahr
Keywords: American Literature, listeining skills, poetry, writing skills

Poetry in the ESOL Classroom

Meg H. Flisek
Keywords: American poetry, childrens poetry, ESOL, poetry

Close Reading of Modern Poetry: A Study in Form and Content

Julie Mikolajewski
Keywords: close reading, content, form, modern poetry, poetry

Form and Content in Modern Poetry and Drama

Jessica Waber
Keywords: content, Drama, form, modern poetry, poetry

Integrating Poetry into the Common Core Standards

Nicole Flores
Keywords: figurative language, literary skills, Literature, poetry