FALL 2012 GRAD 139G


Mairéad Byrne, PhD Professor Poetry + Poetics RISD Literary Arts + Studies College Building 528 454.6268 mbyrne@risd.edu

F 9.30-12.30, CIT/ Mason 201 Office hours: WTh 2-4.30pm, CB 528 F 2-3pm, CIT 104 http://nonpoetry.wordpress.com

Nonpoetry Workshop

With the rise of the Web, writing has met its photography. --Kenneth Goldsmith

This Course
Although there is a writing genre called Nonfiction, there has been no genre called Nonpoetry, until now. Just as both fiction and nonfiction share elements, e.g., shades of story, so too do poetry and nonpoetry, e.g., shades of form. Nonpoetry implies a continuum—in a way it invites poetry to break out of itself. Our objective is to develop exemplary forms in an invented genre. In workshop we will focus on the production and critique of small scale initiatives which may jumpstart—or explode the potential of—larger projects in literature, studio, or the graduate thesis. Students are welcome to bring specific problems into the workshop for solution. Indeed such problems will take precedence over any other concern, except workshop. This course is for poets and nonpoets who want to slow down and look closely at writing, giving amplified attention to any of its aspects, e.g., how it looks, how it sounds, what it’s made of, what it means, whom it’s for, what it can do. Why nonpoetry? Would poetry itself not serve? Are there new subjects, new voices, new media, which yield new forms? This course will establish whether or not there are gains from asking and answering those questions. Who would not want to participate in the invention of a new genre? Work produced here should have the capacity to be applied--in contemporary performance and publication and/or your studio work at RISD.

This course aims to
• • • • • test the borders of poetry experiment with re-purposing key elements of poetry question genre conventions invent new forms support participation in contemporary poetry culture


your grade will be calculated as follows • collected writings, 200 • selected writings (chapbook), 300 • 5-7 page research paper on subject of choice, 200 • critique & collaboration, 200 • performance, 100

by the end of this course, you will have • established a daily practice of writing • written and distributed a short collection of writings • gained knowledge you desire • thoroughly read 3-4 genre-defying books • developed a writing community • participated in a reading for an audience outside this class • learned the workshop methodology



FALL 2012 GRAD 139G


Course organization
The Nonpoetry Workshop is a primarily a writing course. At least half our class time every week will be devoted to workshop; you will also write for 20-25 minutes in each class. This course requires daily writing (25 minutes a day). You are required to organize and collect this writing for my periodic review. The 5-7 page research paper gives you the opportunity to gain knowledge regarding one very specific issue or question of interest to you. I will bring what I can to the course and have identified pressure points within my own area of expertise and practice for investigation: line, voice, sound, silence, public speech, audience, form, economy, genre, gender, new media, convention, tradition. I have also assigned a full roster of readings, through which we will proceed systematically. I view this as simply preparing the ground. The key issues which you present, and your preoccupations and ambitions as writers will determine the week-to-week focus of the class, which I will organize as we go. I hope the bulk of our work will be accomplished in the first nine weeks of the semester. The final three weeks will be for revision, review, selection, and performance. By the end of the course you should be able to run your own workshop.

The workshop is the basis of our class meeting. Every week you will turn in a printed piece of writing. Every week also, three students will distribute copies of their writings to everyone in class. Before the next class meeting, when the distributed writings will be workshopped, you will carefully read and annotate them. Writing needs time, and a reader. In class, each piece of writing to be workshopped will be read first by a student other than the author, then by its author. We take 20-25 minutes to discuss the writing, the author listening until the end, when we turn to ask for input. There is no need for the author to explain anything during the discussion. Instead, the writing is brought to life by the readings of others, just as writing operates in the world. The workshop teaches many valuable skills related to time, silence, listening, the vivacity of the audience, and the ability of the text to function independently of its author. At the end of each discussion, signed annotated copies are returned to the author, loaded with response. It can be very invigorating to get detailed responses to your writing. The workshop is only as good as the standard of critique. Observant and intelligent critique is the best service you can render to others in this course. In this workshop, we will also address process and context, particularly the relationship between the bulk of your writings and the specific piece you select for critique.

Additional methodologies
In addition to workshop, we will employ a range of methodologies including • weekly in-class writing • weekly discussions of assigned and/or self-selected readings • regular close readings of anomalous texts, selected and presented by me, or you • course blog to which you can post poems, information about events, links to work you recommend, etc • attendance at public readings • visiting critic (Clement Valla)



FALL 2012 GRAD 139G


Texts & Materials
Please buy the following books (limited number available at Symposium Books, 240 Westminster Street) 1. Daniil Kharms, Today I Wrote Nothing. Edited & translated by Matvei Yankelevich. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2007. 2. Jonathan Stalling, Yingelishi: Sinophonic English Poetry and Poetics. Denver, CO: Counterpath Press, 2011. 3. Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths. Edited by Donald A. Yates & James E. Irby. New York, NY: New Directions, (1962) 2007. 4. A genre-bending book of your choice from Symposium Books or Small Press Distribution http://www.spdbooks.org I will distribute a range of readings from the following: Anne Carson. “The Gender of Sound,” Glass, Irony and God. New York, NY: New Directions, 1994. Craig Dworkin & Kenneth Goldsmith , Eds. Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011 Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing. New York Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2011. N. Katherine Hayles. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Charles Reznikoff, Testimony, Vol 11. The United States (1885-1915) Recitative. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1979. Brian Kim Stefans, Ed. The LA Telephone Book, Vol 1, 2011-12. Los Angeles, CA, 2012. Louisa Marie Summer & Mairéad Byrne. Jennifer’s Family. Amsterdam: Schilt Publishing 2012. Clement Valla, Original Copies. Rhode Island School of Design MFA (D + M) Thesis, 2009. http://www.lulu.com/shop/ clement-valla/original-copies/ebook/product-17404815.html Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Color. Trans. Linda L. McAlister and Margaret Schattle. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, c1977. You will need a systematic way to collect and present your daily writings. You will also need to provide 12 copies of your writing to the workshop at least twice during the semester.

In accordance with the values expressed in the objectives and grading specifics of this syllabus, what I will most value in this course is your completion of an inventive and provocative collection of short writings for which you find an audience. I will regularly review weekly writings and provide provide substantial written feedback on workshop writings, and a written evaluation before Thanksgiving. I would like to meet you all one-on-one in the course of the semester. When assessing your final grade, I will also consider your self-evaluation.

The Writing Center, CB 240, is a tremendous resource for one-on-one assistance. If you are a student with a disability requiring accommodations for success in this class, I encourage you to discuss your learning needs with me during the first week of the term. Once you submit an approval letter from the Office of Disability Support Services, addressed to me, accommodations will be provided as needed.

You are required to attend all classes punctually and to turn in work when due. You are also required to build a collection of writing, for a specific purpose or range of purposes, and to publish or perform your writing. I expect you to be good citizens of the class, and attentive and engaged critics of each other’s work. Unexcused absence and recurrent lateness, for class or with assignments, will negatively affect your final grade. RISD’s policy on unexcused absences will be observed.



FALL 2012 GRAD 139G


sample schedule


Ian Hamilton Finlay, Little Sparta

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, 1914


sept 14 introductions--the line--Jennifer’s Family--workshop homework read The LA Telephone Book; write bio; 7 texts in 7 days; print one for class--groups 1+2 bring copies

sept 21 economy: poems, “texts,” or “flow-bios--Today I Wrote Nothing--workshop homework daily writing--one finished (printed) piece--workshop group 3: bring copies

sept 28 line + sentence--Today I Wrote Nothing--workshop homework daily writing-one printed / finished piece--Workshop Group 4: bring copies--read Yingelishi

couscous@as220, tues 9/25, 9.30-11pm free!

from Elisabeth S. Clark, Between Words, 2007


William Carlos Williams, 1962

Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

This is just to say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold

Poetry I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it, after all, a place for the genuine.

oct 5 Yingelishi--schedule one-on-one meetings-workshop homework daily writing--one finished/printed piece--workshop group 1: bring copies--Yingelishi--research paper topics

oct 12 research paper topics--workshop homework daily writing--one finished/printed piece--workshop group 2 bring copies--Valla, “Original Copies”

oct 19 “Original Copies”--workshop homework daily writing--one finished/printed poem--workshop group 3: bring copies--research paper due 10/26 time to update syllabus