March 21: World Poetry Day
March 21 marks World Poetry Day. Designated in 1999 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Poetry Day acts to celebrate the art, creativity, and linguistic expression that poetry has provided to humanity throughout history.
To celebrate, we’re highlighting ENGL 380: Writing Poetry. This course focuses on expanding poetic technique and teaches the learner to think like a poet. From initial groundwork exercises, including listening and reading activities, students build toward a final portfolio of carefully revised poems that explore various traditional and contemporary forms and approaches.
According to Rebecca Fredrickson, who teaches ENGL 380, three categories of learners take ENGL 380, those who might have done some poetry in the past and are looking to get back into it, singer-songwriters, and those who’ve had a longstanding interest but haven’t taken any formal classes.
The course is broad in scope, from various forms of poetry to a vast reading list. Each of the course units act as small building blocks and help to shape the learner’s knowledge of poetry as well as improving their writing abilities.
For those who might be nervous about taking a poetry course with no experience or even starting to write poetry, Fredrickson recommends beginning with images and then working on the sonic qualities that will make poems sing.
“I think a lot of people start writing with abstractions, but most teachers of poetry would say, begin with images,” says Frederickson. “Take a sensory image; it could be a noun you can touch, like a concrete thing in the world. Or, a sensory perception of smell, or taste. If you begin with images, they’ll do so much work for you in poetry.”
For Fredrickson, poetry is about creating conditions for the reader to be able to experience certain things, and not necessarily about self-expression or putting feelings on a page.
“[When writing poetry] I’m trying to use sonic quality and imagery, and free associations with the world to create the conditions on the page for someone to feel something,” says Fredericksen. “I don’t know for sure what they’ll feel, but I create a zone of potential for them to feel something. Poetry is generative; it generates experience and perceptions for people. For me, that’s what poetry is.”
In honour of World Poetry Day, take some time to read a poem (like the one from AU learner Andrea Scott featured below), discover a new poet, try to write something, or register in ENGL 380.