On the one hand, there's the simple desire to get a syllabus together, order books, and gear up for next year.
On the other, there's the desire to rethink my own sense of modern and contemporary poetry--to figure out what, now, really moves me, as a reader and teacher and scholar.
I've wanted to let the latter determine the former. That is, I've wanted to choose the books and poets for the class so that they'll let me do the reading and research I want, concentrate on poets I love, and so forth.
The trouble is, the categories of "poets I love and want to investigate" and "poets I feel one really ought to teach in a Modern Poetry survey" may overlap in less-than-optimal ways. My inclinations these days draw me to re-read American poets of the '50s and after, but my sense of pedagogical duty leads me to assign an earlier group of poets, and one that spans national boundaries.
As a result, I spin my wheels.
Maybe the thing to do is re-run last year's double-Norton survey, trimming a few poems from it and polishing the lectures, to simplify task #1. And, meanwhile, force myself to read more independently, following my curiosity, until a clearer array of books, authors, texts, comes to mind? Postpone the sexy new Modern Poetry course until I know what to do with it?
Here's the mix I taught a few years back, with a week on each:
T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land and Other PoemsOf these, who would I do again, and who would I cut?
HD: Collected Poems, 1912-1944
William Carlos Williams: Collected Poems, 1909-1939
Muriel Rukeyser: Out of Silence: Selected Poems
W. H. Auden: Collected Poems
Elizabeth Bishop: Complete Poems
Robert Hayden: Collected Poems
Stevie Smith: New Selected Poems
Philip Larkin: Collected Poems
Wendy Cope: Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
Bishop is a cut. Rukeyser's a maybe. Larkin and Cope I'd put on the block. That leaves five: Eliot, H.D., Williams, Hayden, and Smith. Three men, two women. Could add four more and be done. But who?
Every choice seems bad this morning, which suggests a survey would be best.
Faith, Doubt, Myth
Who'd I do last time?
On the Big Survey Syllabus: Dickinson, Hardy, Hopkins, Yeats, Frost, Pound, H.D., Eliot,Graves, Smith, Kavanagh, Auden, Oppen, Bishop, Duncan, Larkin, Merrill, Ali. All as individual lyrics or short excerpts (in H.D.'s case) from longer texts.
Of those, a few get taught in other courses or have been taught, by me, too many times: Hopkins, Frost, Bishop, Larkin. Kavanagh was there for a single poem; I don't know the work all that well.
Not in that list, but right for the topic: Snyder, Ginsberg, Grahn, Howe, Mackey, Ostriker, Johnson, Schwerner. Many of those, I note, in long poems, rather than individual lyrics. Larry Joseph, whom I've now written about at length. Joy Ladin. Norman Finkelstein.
Nine classes, though--that's all I've got.
Hmmm... Who sounds like fun to me, now?