Dr. Carol Ann Johnston, English

Advanced Creative Writing/Poetry:

Course Syllabus: ENGL 318

In this course, we will approach poetry through the idea, broadly construed, of sustainability.  Reading, writing, and teaching poetry always have participated in sustainability. As readers, writers, and teachers, we invest our time, thought, and effort in passing on and refreshing a the genre of poetry, one that we find necessary to sustain us and that we wish, in turn, to sustain. The correlation between poetry and sustainability holds for poetry and the world as well. Many of the most memorable poems address our relationship to the world and how it sustains us. More recently, poets’ meditations upon how we can sustain the world that sustains us have intensified. Our reading and writing will explore these subjects in depth. We will travel widely in Carlisle, interview Carlisle residents about what they would like to preserve in their city, and write poems based upon those interviews. We will observe closely our surroundings and write with precision and empathy about them. We will imitate other poets as one way of sustaining poetry. We will read historical poems about Carlisle in order to get the scope of how poets before us have sustained place through poetry. We will revise these poems and submit revisions, along with an ars poetica, as the final project.

How the Valley and Ridge workshop benefitted the course:

I couldn’t have written the syllabus without the workshop. Beginning the workshop, I knew that I wanted to teach a creative writing workshop that engaged the students in their surroundings. Without material to write about, college students often/mostly “look into their hearts and write.” Oftentimes in such young hearts, the material is inadequate. In addition to familiarizing me with places and resources in Carlisle, the workshop enlarged my conception of what sustainability could entail. My assignment based upon the Heart and Soul project, for example, encourages the students’ understanding that sustaining a place in large part depends upon the stories we record in writing about it. Every assignment every week has a sustainability component. I am curious to see how a creative writing course saturated in sustainability will go.