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Modern and Contemporary U.S. Poetry

Seminar Leader:
Al Filreis


This course was an introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry with a special emphasis on poems and extensive poetry resources teachers could use in the classroom. We learned together how most productively and most excitingly to do a collaborative close reading of a poem—many poems but one poem at a time—that seems at first to be “difficult.” The method of our own seminar was cooperative, collaborative, and entirely interactive, and that method served as a model for ideas about teaching poetry to our students. The poems we studied—by Emily Dickinson, Lorine Niedecker, Amiri Baraka, John Ashbery, Tracie Morris and others—were open-ended rather than closed off in the way they present meaning, and thus required us to learn how to participate ourselves in understanding the way they mean what they mean. So the poems themselves were connected to a certain teaching method or pedagogy. In a way, this was a seminar about the pleasure and even the thrill of encountering poetry as an opportunity to become, ourselves, co-creators of significance in the arts. The seminar met in the Kelly Writers House at Penn, which is itself a collaborative arts community. Participants had complete access to all the resources of the Writers House, including the KWH kitchen for our snacks during breaks!

Unit TitleAuthor


The Art of Literature: Visual Stimuli that Constructs Communication

Silvino J. Alexander Jr.
Keywords: "Third Space" Paradigm, Art, comic books, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP), History, literacy, poetry, THAL (Technology

PoetryTeaches Too!

Nicole Flores
Keywords: close reading, comprehension, comprehension skills, poetry

Identity and Ideology: Using Poetry to Explore Who You Are and What You Believe

Ellen Powell Fracassini
Keywords: Identity, ideology, poetry

Teaching African-American History Through Contemporary Modern Poetry

Chanelle Harley
Keywords: African American culture, African American History, modern poetry, poetry

Examining the Human Condition Through Paired Poems: The Universal & The Particular

Kristin R. Luebbert
Keywords: Aracelis Girmay, Claude McKay, Eve Ewing, Langston Highes, poetry, Ross GAy, vocabulary, vocabulary development

Come for It! An Introduction to Poetry and Poetics

Robert McClung
Keywords: anthology, close reading, collaborative learning, independent learning, modern poetry, poetry

Erasing History: Engaging with Primary Sources Through Erasure Poetry

Matthew Menschner
Keywords: Bill of Rights, blackout poetry, constitution, Declaration of Independence, historical documents, History, poetry

Poetry is my Jam!: Teaching Text Analysis through Poetry and Music

Keeler Park
Keywords: analysis, creative texts, critical vocabulary, Music, poetry

Autobiographical Art

Vanetta Wood
Keywords: Art, art history, autobiography, drawing, intrapersonal skills, Visual Art

Poets Imagining the City

Sally O’Brien
Keywords: imagination, Literature, O'hara, poetry, Whitman, writing prompts

Borders and Doorways: Using Poetry of Constraint to Explore Boundaries and Possibilities

Sophia Renda
Keywords: English, History, poetry, us history

I Am UnBroken: Deconstructing Modern American Poetry to Promote Self-Actualization For English Language Learners

Lisa (Yuk Kuen) Yau
Keywords: American poetry, Emily Dickinson, poetry, Walt Whitman