Archives For Poetry MOOC



The MOOC (massive open online course) format must be catching on, because there are more courses coming up than I can register for and complete. I will be auditing at least one or two of these. I’ll summarize the three new courses below:

The Art of Poetry (Boston University MOOC through Edx)

“The Art of Poetry” is offered by Boston University featuring Robert Pinsky and a strong group of BU faculty and students/former students. From the course description:

The course is demanding, and based on a certain kind of intense, exigent reading, requiring prolonged— in fact, repeated— attention to specific poems.

The readings will include historical poems, as well as contemporary work. The focus will be on elements of the art such as poetry’s historical relation to courtship; techniques of sound in free verse; poetry’s relation to music; the nature of greatness—with only incidental attention to schools of poetry, categories and trends.

This course looks like it will focus on the experience of reading a poem, including an emphasis on sound. Boston University has a well-respected creative writing program, so there should be some excellent discussions in the lectures and on the forum boards. Class starts September 30th! More information here at Edx.

How Writers Write Fiction (Iowa MOOC through Writing University)

“How Writers Write Fiction” should be really good since it is taught by the same Iowa group who did the Walt Whitman class I took last spring, and the companion class “How Poets Write Poetry” that I also took. The classes usually focus on technique and inspiration, and are generative rather than workshops for pieces in progress. If you are interested in hybrid forms such as flash fiction, this might be an excellent resource. The outline for the course sessions is:

  • Opening Lines, Opening Doors
  • Putting Setting to Work
  • Learning and Building the World
  • Animating the World
  • Structures and Storytelling
  • Constraints and Styles
  • Revision and Rediscovery

More information here. Course starts September 26 (to Nov 21).

Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance (Wellesley MOOC through Edx)

“Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance” covers Shakespeare plays as literature and theories about how to stage the plays. The course is described as “an introduction to Shakespeare that combines literary study with theatrical analysis to understand both Shakespeare’s continuing popularity and his greatness.” Plays read will include Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, King Lear, and The Winter’s Tale. This looks like a very unique and creative class:

Shakespeare wrote for a popular audience and was immensely successful. Shakespeare is also rightly regarded as one of the greatest playwrights the world has known. This course will try to understand both Shakespeare’s popularity and his greatness by starting from a simple premise: that the fullest appreciation of Shakespeare can be achieved only when literary study is combined with analysis of the plays as theatre. Hence, as we delve into the dimensions that make Shakespeare’s plays so extraordinary–from the astonishing power of their language to their uncanny capacity to illuminate so much of human life–we will also explore them in performance from Shakespeare’s own theatre to the modern screen. At the same time, actors will occasionally join our effort and demonstrate ways of bringing the text alive as living theatre.

More information is here. Class begins October 1 and runs twelve weeks with an estimated workload of 4-5 hours per week.


Walt Whitman’s long poem “Song of Myself” and T. S. Eliot’s poetry are both explored in two free online courses taught by university professors.

Walt Whitman

(From the course website:)

The Whitman course, Every Atom: Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself is co-taught by Ed Folsom and Christopher Merrill. Ed Folsom is the editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive and editor of the Whitman Series at The University of Iowa Press. Folsom is the Roy J. Carver Professor of English at The University of Iowa. Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Brilliant Water, and Watch Fire, for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Every Atom: Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself will take a collective approach to a close reading of America’s democratic verse epic, first published without a title in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass and later titled Song of Myself in the 1881 edition.

The class starts February 17th and runs 6 weeks. More information on the class is here and sign up is through

This same organization, has a course listed for June 2014 that looks interesting: How Writers Write. More information here.


T.S. Eliot

The T. S. Eliot course, Classics of American Literature: T. S. Eliot, is free and available through here, taught by Professor Victor Strandberg of Duke University. It is available to take at any time–no start date.

The central purpose of this course is to facilitate a better understanding of poems by T. S. Eliot.  We will focus mainly on classic works such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and The Hollow Men, but we may also take up some less prominent poems as well.  Toward this end we shall also consider some aspects of Eliot’s biography, his literary criticism, and the cultural backdrop of his times.  Our final objective will be to clarify not only Eliot’s poems but the revolution in twentieth century poetry largely attributed to Eliot and his cohort Ezra Pound. – Victor Strandberg


Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (Modpo)

Lastly, the Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (Modpo) free online course taught by University of Pennsylvania is starting in September 2014 but is already open for registration. I can highly recommend this course since I just completed the 2013 session. This course usually runs 10 weeks. Follow Modpo on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with specific class news and general poetry news. You will be in the company of thousands of students who want to learn more about poetry.

In this fast-paced course we will read and encounter and discuss a great range of modern and contemporary U.S. poets working in the “experimental mode,” starting with the 19th-century proto-modernists Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and ending with 21st-century conceptual poetics. Aside from providing a perhaps handy or helpful survey and chronology of 20th- and 21st-century poetry, this course offers a way of understanding general cultural transitions from modernism to postmodernism. Some people may wish to enroll as much to gain an understanding of the modernism/postmodernism problem through a study of poetry as to gain access to the work of these many poets. Participants do not need to have any prior knowledge of poetry or poetics. The instructor, Al Filreis, rarely lectures, and frequently calls for “the end of the lecture as we know it”; instead, the video-recorded lessons will consist of collaborative close readings led by Filreis, seminar-style — offering models or samples of readers’ interpretations of these knotty but powerful poems, aided by the poetry-minded denizens of the Kelly Writers House on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. – Al Filreis

More information on Modpo is available in this great summary article from Elliot Holt posted at the Poetry Foundation:

One Class, 36,000 Students