Crafting Poems

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2LA2124

Semester and Year Offered:Winter, 2018

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Akhil Katyal

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

This course is meant to introduce postgraduate students to the art of writing poetry through extensive workshopping of their poems along with reading selections from important contemporary poetry as guiding examples. Through extensive workshopping of the students' poems, and rigorous feedback, this course hopes to create enthusiastic practitioners of the genre of poetry with unique literary voices of their own. Every student will be preparing a portfolio of twelve poems throughout the semester on which s/he will be examined. Six of these poems will be based on classroom exercises, two will be written in response to the works of the writer-in-focus, and four will be independent poems. They will also write a 1000 word note reflecting on the evolution of their own work and process throughout the semester. There will be a supportive workshop context within the class hours. Classroom exercises will include reading and listening to important contemporary poets and poetry workshops specifically designed for this course. We will explore formal, aesthetic, emotional, linguistic, political and thematic choices in writing poetry through both group and individual writing exercises that are experimental and stimulating. Recommended prose readings will help us ground our discussions and writing in theoretical debates around language, translation, form and politics. See details below.

Course Outcomes:

Disciplinary knowledge: Introduce students to the basics of the craft of poetry, alerting them to the usage of sense, space and sound in poetry

Aesthetic skills and communication skills: Enable students to understand the relationship between form and content within poetry and make them inventively inscribe this in their own creative work

Disciplinary knowledge and Multicultural Competence: Familiarize the students with a wide range of poetry, across regional, gender, racial, cultural, national, linguistic parameters, important for them to explore both thematic and formal concerns; and particularly familiarize the students with the works of an important contemporary practitioner of poetry from their city as the Writer-in-Focus for the course

Reflective thinking and ability to express: Enable students to develop their own creative voice in their poetry portfolio which is informed, self-reflective and socially sensitive

Inculcate an appreciation for and a discipline within the individual writing process

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Week 1: Introduction to the Course: Structure, Aims, Requirements

The structure, aims and requirements of the course will be discussed extensively with the students. Through four contemporary poems and a prose reading on the relationship between the poet and world, students will be familiarized with what it means to learn the craft of poetry.

Week 2: Writing Exercise: On Theme: Lyric Poetry: Love, Workshop

After reading four examples of contemporary lyric verse and understanding the socio-historic location of this form of poetry that explores an ‘interior’ voice, the students shall each write one lyric poem on the theme of love.

Week 3: Writing Exercise: On Form, Language and Translation: Ghazal, Workshop

After reading four contemporary English Ghazals, and understanding the intertwined issues of form, language and translation important in the enduring history of the Ghazal form of poetry, the students shall each write an English Ghazal.

Week 4: Writing Exercise: Between the World and Me, Workshop

After reading four contemporary poems that strike a conscious ‘political’ note, drawing an interventionist relationship between the poet and her world, and understanding two socio-political issues related to caste and geo-political conflict, the students shall each write what they think of as a ‘political’ poem.

Week 5: Writing Exercise: On Theme: City, Workshop

After reading four contemporary poems that rely deeply on the space of the modern city for their content or form, and understanding the historic and cultural complexities of inhabiting the ‘urban’ in contemporary Delhi, the students shall each attempt to write a poem on the theme of the city.

Week 6: Writing Exercise: On Form, Language and Prosody: Villanelle, Workshop

After reading four contemporary villanelles, and understanding the issues generated by the particularity of the form, what its specific history, repetition, metric pattern and prosody allows, the students shall each write a villanelle.

Week 7: Writing Exercise: Between the World and Me, Workshop

After reading four contemporary poems that strike aconscious ‘political’ note, drawing an interventionist relationship between the poet and her world, and understanding two socio-political issues related to gender and political exile, the students shall each write a ‘political’ poem.

Week 8: Reading, Writing Exercise: Individuated

Week 9: Final Revisions, Individual Discussion Sessions with Instructor, Submission of Mid-Term Portfolios

Week 10: Reading Works by Writer in Focus

shall read selections from the work of an important contemporary Delhi-based English poet. We shall read her work in detail and locate it in social, historical, political and formal terms. These discussions will enable the students to write their own creative responses to the works of the writer-in-focus. She will visit the campus for two sessions, including a reading and a response session to the students’ works.

Week 11: Responses to Works by Writer in Focus, Workshop

Week 12: Responses to Works by Writer in Focus, Workshop

Week 13:Visit by Writer in Focus, Responses to Students’ Works

Week 14: Individual Discussion Sessions with Instructor

Week 15: Final Revisions, Submission of Portfolios

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Mid Term Portfolio 8 poems: 30%
  • End-Term Portfolio 4 poems: 30%
  • Self-Reflective Piece on One’s Creative Work and Process: 20%
  • Class Participation & Peer Review: 20%

Reading List:

(Module wise)


Primary Readings: To a Young Poet by Mahmoud Darwish, Indian Summer by Dorothy Parker, I’m Explaining a Few Things by Pablo Neruda, Open Letter to Honey Singh by Rene Sharanya Verma,

Prose Reading: Szymborska, Wislawa, The Poet and The World, Nobel Lecture, accessed at NobelPrize.Org, Translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, Dec 1996.


Primary Readings: Dubious by Vikram Seth, Don’t ask me for that love again by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, A ‘Thank You’ Note by WislawaSzymborska, Tonight I can write the saddest lines by Pablo Neruda

Readings: Adorno, Theodor, ‘On Lyric Poetry and Society’, in Notes to Literature, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991; Hazelton, Rebecca, Learning the Poetic Line: How line breaks shape meaning, in ‘Poetry Foundation’, Chicago, Sept 2014.


Primary Readings: Ghazal on Ghazals by John Hollander, Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali, Bring the Flowers to Bloom by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hip-Hop Ghazal by Patricia Smith

Readings: Shahid Ali, Agha, ‘The Rebel's Silhouette: Translating Faiz Ahmed Faiz’, Katha Utsav: 1991,; Shahid Ali, Agha, ‘Introduction’, in Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English, University Press of New England (Hanover NH), 2000, pg. 1-14.


Primary Readings: Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, I speak up bluntly by Sukirtharani, Harlem by Langston Hughes, I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight by Agha Shahid Ali

Prose Readings: Extract from Gidla, Sujatha, Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and The Making of Modern India, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017; Kak, Sanjay, ‘The Apparatus’ in The Caravan: A Journal of Politics and Culture, Delhi: Mar 2013.


Primary Readings: Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy, The Missing by Mangalesh Dabral, LaPreK 1: I have that small town feeling today by Ravish Kumar, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

Prose Readings: Kumar, Sunil, ‘Naming’ in The Present in Delhi’s Pasts, New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2001; Breese, Gerald, ‘Delhi-New Delhi: Capital for conquerors and country’ in Ekistics, Vol. 39, No. 232, Mar 1975, pp. 181-184.


Primary Readings: One Art by Elizabeth Bishop, Do not go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas, If I could tell you by W.H. Auden, Mad Girl’s Love Song by Sylvia Plath

Prose Readings: Orr, Greg, ‘Four Temperaments and The Forms Of Poetry’ in The American Poetry Review, Vol. 17, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1988, pp. 33-36; Shapiro, Karl, ‘Prosody as the Meaning’, in Poetry, Vol. 73 no. 6, Chicago: Poetry Foundation, March 1949.


Primary Readings: Dear Mr. Yadav, I too am an Indian Woman by Aditi Rao, The White Man Killed My Father by David Diop, On The Amtrak From Boston To New York City by Sherman Alexie, We Teach Life, Sir by Rafeef Ziadah

Prose Readings: Kassamali, Sumayya, “‘You Had No Address’: Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Beirut” in The Caravan: A Journal of Politics and Culture, Delhi: Jun 2016; Cixous, Helene, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’, in Signs, Vol. 1, No. 4; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, Summer 1974.


Primary Readings: Selections from Works by Writer in Focus


See above.