This class is taught once every couple years, sometimes during summer, other times during the regular semester. Here is a brief course description for one version of the course (it is always changing!) Contact me for the full syllabus.
The course begins with the following musing: the poem itself is mere debris of Poetry. If this is true, what is Poetry itself? Why does it come? What is it for? Why does this matter? Why do we ask why!?
In this course, we will study poetry that expresses an awareness of the human being’s placement within a much grander structure than ourselves. We will also explore reason and language as parodies of Being—and poetry as the closest we can come to ever really ‘explaining’ anything. At the same time, you will be immersed in five distinct units of spiritual poetry: Persian (through the Sufi tradition), Hindu, Buddhist, Western European, and poetry of the Americas. Each unit will be unique, as will the poetry within it. However, in each unit we’ll study poetry that expresses an awareness of the human being’s placement within a much grander structure than ourselves. Perhaps we will discover, in this sense, that human beings are the beautiful debris of the Divine.
In addition to participating in class discussions, you will be required to compose a Term Paper exploring a relevant course topic, or you may choose to compile an ambitious, original compilation of your own poetry. Each project will be accompanied by a 15 minute presentation, which can be in lecture format or creative in nature (i.e. a Rumi & Shams puppet show, a short film/modern-day interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, the possibilities are endless…) Daily readings will also be assigned, along with which you will complete typed responses or artistic journal entries.
On the whole, this course offers you the opportunity to see the world from a variety of perspectives, encouraging you to become more globally aware & more sensitive to the struggles and triumphs of the human spirit—all while participating in an in-depth analysis of some of the world’s most amazing poetry.
Rumi: the Book of Love, 2003/2005, translated by Coleman Barks
The Gift: by Hafiz, 1999, & I Heard God Laughing, 2006, both translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Bhagavad Gita, 2000/2002, translated by Stephen Mitchell
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching,1998, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Arthur Rimbaud, The Illuminations, 2009, translated by Donald Revell
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1989, translated by Stephen Mitchell
Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions, 2001, translated by William O’Daly
You are not required to purchase the following books because I have included excerpts from them in the electronic reserves, however, I am listing the titles here in case you decide to go buck-wild and buy them all!
The Essential Rumi, 1995, translated by Coleman Barks
Doorkeeper of the Heart, versions of Rabi’a,1988, translated by Charles Upton
Rabia, First Among Sufis,1982, by Widad El-Sakkakini
Farid Ud-Din Attar’s The Conference of the Birds, 1984, translated by Dick Davis
Avicenna and the Visionary Recital,1960, by Henry Corbin
Kabir, The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems, 1993, translated by Robert Bly
Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, 1951, translated by Hilda Rosner
The Miracle of Mindfulness,1975, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Mountain Poems of Hsich-Ling-yün, 2001, translated by David Hinton
The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry 3rd Edition, Volume I & II, by Ramazani, Ellmann, and O’Clair
Pablo Neruda’s The Captain’s Verses,1972, translated by Donald Walsh
Student journal entries:
…and a joke gone wrong with the Dalai Lama… ;)