How to Read a Poem
THREE WEDNESDAYS, FEBRUARY 8, 15 AND 22, 6:30–8:00 P.M.
THE JUNG CENTER, 5200 MONTROSE, 77006.
This course begins with the assertion that great poems are not written in code, nor are they devised as puzzles for students to solve. Rather, great poems exist to communicate, often urgently, about the issues, beliefs, and feelings that are most important to all of us. Learning to read poems well, however, often takes practice and knowledge about how language operates under pressure, about how imagery communicates ideas, and, most of all, about how the music of language can serve as a vessel for thought and meaning. What does it mean to say a poem enacts thought? What exactly is free verse? Why do we say all poetry is a formal art? How has the relationship between the poet and the reader evolved over time? In this course, Kevin Prufer will offer close readings of poems by, among others, Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, and T. S. Eliot, while at the same time offering participants tools for reading other poems well and thinking about poetry.
Kevin Prufer is the author of nine poetry collections and the editor of many books on literary translation, literary publishing, and European and American poetry. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation. Professor Prufer’s recent poetry collections have won the Julie Suk Award, been short-listed for the Rilke Prize and long-listed for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, and earned spots on best-of-the-year lists from the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and BookList. He is a professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.