Forms of Modern Poetry

Module code: EN3071

This module offers an introduction to the principal forms and metres of poetry in English, and a survey of some of the diverse uses of form in 20th century American, British and Irish poetry. You'll look at inherited forms of poetry (such as sonnets, ballads, sestinas and heroic couplets) as well as the many free and experimental forms the Modernist revolution has spawned.

Form and rhythm are vital features of all poetry, as almost all critics would acknowledge, and yet the formal and metrical conventions and traditions of English verse tend to get neglected in the study of English. Thematic considerations, the issues poetry deals with, can seem that much more real and relevant, whereas formal considerations by contrast seem merely abstract. In addition there is the sheer difficulty of saying precisely how the formal dimension of poetry contributes to its impact. But this is the challenge you'll take on in this module, to try and understand how a poem's form relates to its treatment of its subject, and links to poetic tradition.

The visceral and immediate nature of poetry's impact makes it tempting to dismiss technical terms as irrelevantly cerebral and reductive. But without them it is difficult to talk precisely about a poem's effects and impossible to understand its relation to tradition. The course will also involve developing your critical vocabularies, and in particular becoming familiar with the names and origins of forms and metres.

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