Leigh Hancock


This book is an edited compilation of several open-sourced, online texts.  It has been arranged for use in Columbia Gorge Community College’s online ENG 106, Introduction to Poetry  class. Chapters are aligned with the college’s 11-week format for this course.

An Introduction to Poetry starts where you, our students, start…i.e., from a thousand spots on a movable spectrum.  Some of you arrive in this course with a huge excitement for poetry; maybe you have been writing poetry for years.  Some of you haven’t looked at a poem since cinquains in third grade.  Maybe you remember feeling frustrated because you didn’t find “the correct meaning” of a poem by Emily Dickinson in high school.  Maybe you cringe at the idea of dissecting something as sacred as a poem.  The beauty and power of the community college classroom is that we start at a place of diversity and move toward a common understanding of poetry.  Maybe textbook will help give all of us access and appreciation for the vast world of poetry–a world made even vaster each time someone writes a poem!

The first two chapters of this text explore the attitudes and experiences around poetry that many of you bring to the class.  We’ll  look at our beliefs, as well as our misconceptions, about what poetry is and isn’t.  We’ll  model what is sometimes called “unpacking a poem”–and then take time to practice this skill.

Chapters 3-6 explain and illustrate various elements of poems-elements that once understood help us access deeper levels of meaning.  We learn to focus  on what is actually on the page.  We withhold our own interpretation until we’ve fully examined what the poet has offered.  This is the point where things start to get rich; new meanings emerge.  “Aha” moments occur.

Chapters 7-9 look at the various forms (and non-forms) of poetry in the last 700+ years, while Chapter 10 concludes by looks at 21st century poetry. Chapter 11 is what you bring to the table.

Throughout this course,  we strive to put the skills, knowledge and confidence we’ve been practicing to use.  We tackle less accessible poems, and we entertain the notion that very smart, skilled people may see totally different messages within the same poem.  We look at poetry in the context of social, political and cultural contexts:  is a rose always a rose?  And we reflect on our own personal ethos of poetry:  what it means to us.  How it will (or won’t) become a part of our lives.  We hope, of course, that it will.



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ENG 106 by Leigh Hancock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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