English, 2013 curriculum - Free topic 8: Contemporary Experimental Poetry

Course content

This course looks at experimental poetry in the wake of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Since their innovations a hundred years ago much poetry has been written to push their experiments further. Such poetry is difficult, not only to understand but even to read. The purpose of this course is to teach students how to look at poetry while also voicing it and hearing it. Experimental poetry is named thus chiefly because of two characteristics: first, that it has little regards for traditional metre, and, second, that its layout is an obstacle to voicing. To appreciate such poetry it is necessary to read with the eyes as well as with the ears, or—otherwise expressed—to see with the eyes, not only to read with them.

Among the topics to be considered and questions asked:

Gender: women have played an important part in this tradition, since Gertrude Stein and H.D.

Genre: at what point does verse cease to be distinct from prose, and what happens to definitions of genres, and their linguistic characteristics, when the borders are made unclear? We will look at terms such as ‘projective’ and ‘conceptual’ verse, ‘concrete poetry’, ‘L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry’ and ‘open field’ composition.

Layout and typography: the importance of layout in verse is not an entirely modern phenomenon, but can be traced back to the Metaphysicals and even earlier. We will look at the links between layout and technology.

Phonetics: what happens to written language that resists being spoken aloud? A question related to layout: how do you voice a space?

Syntax: what happens to words when they are detached from syntax without becoming mere lists? What happens to punctuation when it is no longer in the service of grammar?

Translation: what happens to translation when a text is not in the ‘normal state’ of any one language? This accounts for the international and polyglot character of experimental poetry.

Digital literature: what are the emerging possibilities for verse composed and received on line?

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.


  • An anthology from previous courses, preferably the Penguin Book of English Verse, ed. Paul Keegan.  (This will be used for reference to Eliot, Pound and others.)
  • Poems for the Millennium, Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium, ed. Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris (University of California Press, 1998)
  • One or two other anthologies will be used. A preliminary list of critical essays will be provided.


7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 176,75
  • English
  • 204,75