The eight-week Art of Poetry massive open online course (MOOC) conducted by former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky is headed into the final phases. The course is terrific. It draws on the Favorite Poem Project, a program Pinsky founded to celebrate, document, and encourage the role of poetry in people's lives.
The course material explores the difficulty, freedom, and form of poetry while considering its relationship to music, courtship, and humour, among other themes. Most of the material is presented via videos, either of Pinsky on his own or leading a discussion group. There are some supplementary readings, and discussion forums in which to continue the exploration of these and related subjects.
(This is first course I participate in that is on the edx platform. The navigation took a little getting used, and I still feel that it's easy to miss certain sections of the course material. The forums are active, but not particularly well-organized or easy to find your way around; Coursera really sets the standard for this.)
But the heart of the course is the personal anthology that each student is required to compile. By the end of the course, I will have annotated twelve poems with reflections and analysis, notes on why they speak to me.
The task was rather daunting — where do I even find poems? But it turns out I've been collecting poetry all along on this very blog.
Now I have a notebook for the poems I find. I write the poems into it by hand. This is an insanely pleasant experience. Like saying a poem out loud and letting it roll around your mouth, writing it out, guiding the pen to make the marks that mean those words, makes it something tangible, something you can feel.
I think it forces a more intense reflection on the poem, the sound and shape of it, how the pieces fit together. I will absolutely be maintaining my poetry journal beyond this course.
To date this is one of the most rewarding MOOCs I've participated in.