ENGL788 - Studies in Poetic Form. Form and Theory in Poetry: Stanzas

Brooks and Warren caution us in Understanding Poetry that "any given type of stanza must be regarded as an instrument at the poet's disposal and not as a thing important in itself.  The same instrument may be used for widely different purposes.” In order to familiarize ourselves with poetic structures that have evolved through formal devices such as rhyme, meter, and line, we will focus on the main stanza forms in English language poetry: couplet, tercet, and quatrain.  These are the building blocks for a wide range of stanzaic conventions including the sonnet, sestina, villanelle, terza rima, ottava rima, octave, rime royal, quintet, septet, and sestet, all of which will be examined in light of their development and influence in relation to various traditions in English language poetry.  The overall purpose of the course is to acquire more tools for the writing of our verse.  To this end we will complete weekly poetry-writing exercises in various stanza forms.  Each of us as well will present a stanza form or convention to the class, outlining its history and development.  At the end of the semester an 8-10 page paper about this form or convention will be required.