Texas Tech University (2020–present)
- English 2351: Introduction to Creative Writing (Poetry & Essays; 2 sections)
- English 2305: Introduction to Poetry (3 sections)
- English 1302: Advanced College Rhetoric (3 sections)
- English 1301: Essentials of College Rhetoric (2 sections)
The University of Washington (2017–2019)
- English 283: Beginning Verse Writing (1 section)
- English 131: Composition: Exposition (with various themes, including Self-Portraiture, Personal Narrative, & Language and Identity; 5 sections)
- The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, What the Human Catches On: Reading and Writing Ekphrastic Poems from Snapshots (July 2022)
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Introduction to Poetry
This course is focused on the reading and appreciation of lyric poetry, in all its complexity, diversity, and delight. Our organizing principle will be the idea, shared by many poets, that poetry is not an inert art form, but an endlessly renewable experience dependent on the reader’s attention, care, and time. Though you may have learned previously that poems are like riddles, puzzles, or mazes—all metaphors that imply a single answer, and often a single path to that answer—this course will encourage you to engage with poems much as you would take a walk (a metaphor the poet A. R. Ammons proposed) or even get to know a person. Just as you wouldn’t attempt to sum up another person in one sentence or meaning, we won’t approach poems as problems to “solve” or translate into ordinary prose.
This doesn’t mean, however, that this course or the poems we read together will be inordinately difficult. Poems—written, as they are, in a language shared with our everyday speech—are for everyone, and the main tools you’ll need to understand poetry are a dictionary and your close attention. Together, we will map the many styles and authors within the field, come to understand a few of the ways a poem can work, and build a practice of reading poetry.
Selected readings: Individual poems from over 100 different poets; Leila Chatti, Deluge (Copper Canyon Press, 2020); Tracy K. Smith (ed.), American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time (Graywolf Press, 2018); Matthew Zapruder, Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017).
(ENGL 2305, Texas Tech University, Spring & Fall 2022)
What the Human Catches On: Reading and Writing Ekphrastic Poems from Snapshots
In contrast to the fine art photograph, this generative class considers the “found” or vernacular photograph (the snapshot) as a site of particular energy, compression, and vitality. We begin with an introduction to ekphrasis and the subgenre of ekphrastic poems about snapshots. Together, the class reads and analyzes several of these poems—such as Carmen Giménez Smith’s “Photo of a Girl on a Beach,” Clarence Major’s “Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving,” Jasmine Khaliq’s “QFC in January,” Jana Prikryl’s “Anonymous” series, and more—to understand the various angles and effects of ekphrastic poetry about snapshots. In the second part of the workshop, participants create ekphrastic poems of their own using guided questions and prompts. The workshop concludes with a reading and celebration of the poems participants have drafted.
(The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, 10 July 2022)
Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry & Essays
This course is centered on the reading, writing, and revision of two genres: poetry and essays. The daily work of our class will consist of close readings, discussions, class exercises, and workshopping, all in the service of understanding the ways in which poems and essays (both forms that show not only the result of thought but also the process of thought) can work—their particular magic. As Marianne Boruch writes in The Little Death of Self, essays and poetry—“unlike fiction”—“work beyond a human sense of time. Each welcomes deep meditation, each hopelessly mixes image and idea and runs with scissors, each resists asking for directions at the gas station, each can distrust the notion of premise or formulaic progression.”
One major difference between this class and a literature course is that our work will focus on reading as writers, not only as critics and students of literature. This means that we will use literary texts to help us better understand the practice of our craft, and we will pay special attention to how each poem or essay is able to spark an event or experience for readers.
Selected readings: Poems by Robert Hayden, Li-Young Lee, Paige Lewis, Sylvia Plath, Robert Hass, Ross Gay, Natalie Shapero, Anne Carson, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Sharon Olds, Elizabeth Bishop, Layli Long Soldier, Ruth Stone, Lucie Brock-Broido, Victoria Chang, Walt Whitman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Vievee Francis; essays by Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Patricia Hampl, Jamaica Kincaid, Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Sarah Minor, Leanne Shapton, Jericho Parms, and Lydia Davis.
(ENGL 2351, Texas Tech University, Fall 2021)
Composition: Exposition (Self-Portraiture)
In his 1974 essay “Some Principles of Autobiography,” William L. Howarth writes that a painter’s self-portrait merges artist and art, such that “the artist-model must alternately pose and paint. … He works from memory as well as sight, in two levels of time, while reaching for those other dimensions, depth and the future. … Autobiography is a literary version of this curious artifact.”
In this class, we will examine how others have created, negotiated, and shared personal and communal identities; we will investigate our own self-definitions and how they are mediated and informed by the ways in which we express them. We will also consider how personal writing (that is, written self-portraiture) is a way of translating experience and consider the multiple ways of doing so—and of holding responsibility for our own “translations.”
Selected readings: Essays by James Baldwin, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judith Thurman, Durga Chew-Bose, Leslie Jamison, Esmé Weijun Wang, Ruth Behar, and Marjane Satrapi; poems by Rhina P. Espaillat, Franny Choi, Angel Nafis, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, and Max Ritvo.
(ENGL 131, The University of Washington, Spring 2019)