Documentary Poetry: Engaging Reality

LIT4604 Documentary Poetry: Engaging Reality
4 Advanced Liberal Arts Credits
How do contemporary poets engage their work with what's real in the world? How can poetry describe, define, explain, and/or challenge the information, the facts, the multitude of voices that surround and at times overwhelm us? Documentary poetry, an increasingly popular poetic form, engages as its subject matter real events from history, and may apply data from a range of realms: science, economics, literature, politics, psychology, current events, personal life. While documentary poets use this form as a way to think, research, explore, and satisfy curiosity, they are also potentially engaged in modes of inquiry, even skepticism. Thus documentary poems may result in the discovery of alternative approaches to meaning, new ways of understanding and telling stories, even sites of social change and activism. In addition, documentary poets tend to go beyond the traditionally poetic by applying to their poems mixed genres and media, including direct quotations, letters, diaries, court transcripts, medical records, images, testimonials, even embedded graphics. In this course, we will examine the origins of this form and study pivotal poems and poets in its development using work from a recent anthology of documentary poems as well as from several single-author poetry collections by poets Patricia Smith, Claudia Rankine, Tarfia Faizullah, Maggie Nelson, C.D. Wright, and Martha Collins. Students will write short analytical responses and an essay, but they will also craft and share their own original documentary poems as a way of understanding the form and its potential in their own lives for inquiry and discovery.

Prerequisites: Any combination of 2 ILA (HSS, LTA, CSP, LVA, CVA)

  • Program: Undergraduate
  • Division: Arts and Humanities
  • Level: Advanced Liberal Arts 4600 Requirement (UGrad),Advanced Elective (UGrad),Advanced Liberal Arts (UGrad)
  • Course Number: LIT4604
  • Number of Credits: 4