The New York School of Poets

(Word document here: Syllabus)

Syllabus and Course Overview

Hauptseminar 154626

Di 14:15 – 15:45

Room 0.406


Instructor: Timothy Robbins



Twitter: @HandonthePlow

Facebook Group:

Skype: trobbins1981

Office: 0.414

Office Hours: D1. 12:00 – 14:00 and by appointment



Student Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

  • Analyze and discuss poetry using correct terminology across a range of media, including written, oral, and digital modes;
  • Display a working knowledge of poetry as a literary genre (i.e. poetic forms, devices and figurative language) through discussion, analytical prose, creative projects, and social media;
  • Illustrate knowledge of some of the major texts and traditions of mid-twentieth century American poetry and their social and cultural contexts through dialogue, formal writing, and digital research;
  • Compose critical analyses of poetry, including short responses and a formal essays, which demonstrate proficiency with MLA citation style;
  • Discover, evaluate, and apply concepts from literary theory and criticism in textual interpretations, and articulate these interpretations in class discussion and written assignments;
  • Cultivate and maintain a collegial atmosphere – in the classroom and on the web—while exchanging critical ideas and opinions with instructors and colleagues;
  • Display effective pedagogical and leadership skills through the design and execution of lesson plans;
  • Appreciate the sonic aspects of poetry, and establish an understanding of complex language and texts through public performance;
  • Craft concise analyses and inquiries about literary and cultural issues, and successfully broadcast them through social media to build scholarly networks;
  • Develop and execute guidelines for a fair and useful self-evaluation, and for the assessment of peers, instructors, and the course in general.



A reader containing poems (R) from O’Hara, Ashbery, Koch, Schuyler and Berrigan is available at The Copy Shop.

All other readings  are linked to here:



8 April:Introductions

Syllabus, Introductions.


15 April:Introductions (continued)

Film: “USA: Poetry – Frank O’Hara” (1966)

Ezra Pound: “CantoLXXXI”

William Carlos Williams: “The Red Wheelbarrow” 

Frank O’ Hara: “Memorial Day, 1950” (R)


22 April: Modernist Origins

Walt Whitman: Section 8 from “Song of Myself”

T.S. Eliot: “The Burial of the Dead” from The Wasteland

Wallace Stevens: “The Snow Man”

Gertrude Stein: “Susie Asado”

Guillaume Apollinaire: “Zone”

O’ Hara: “Having a Coke with You”

John Ashbery: “These Lacustrine Cities”

James Schuyler: “Hudson Ferry” (R)

Presentation topic: Modernism


29 April: Mid-Century Responses

Robert Lowell, “Man and Wife”

Randall Jarrell, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”

 Anne Sexton, Wanting to Die”

Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”

Charles Olson, “The Songs of Maximus: Song 2”

Cleanthes Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, “Introduction” to Understanding Poetry

O’Hara, “Meditations in an Emergency” ; “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed)

Presentation topics: New Criticism, Confessional Poetry.


6 May: The Harvard School?

O’Hara:  “The Three-Penny Opera” ;  “Ann Arbor Variations” ; “1951” ;“Chez Jane” “To the Harbormaster” ; “Mayakovsky” , “Locarno” (R); “Easter”(R); “3 Poems about Kenneth Koch”(R); “A Note to John Ashbery” (R); “Les Etiquettes Jaunes” (R); “To John Ashbery” (R); “Poem (Tempestuous Breaths!)” (R); “Poem (There I could never be a boy)” (R);  “At the Old Place” (R); “A Whitman’s Birthday Broadcast with Static” (R); “Poem [The eyelid has its storms.]” (R); “Sonnet” (R);

Ashbery: from Some Trees: “The Instruction Manual” , “Some Trees,” “The Painter,” “Grand Abacus”,  “Glazunovia”, “And You Know”

Kenneth Koch: “A Note on Sun Out” (R); “Sun Out” (R); “No Biography” (R); “The Dead Body” (R); “Where am I Kenneth?” (R); “In the Ashes of June” (R); “No Job at Sarah Lawrence” (R); “The Man” (R);


13 May: Craft

O’Hara: “Personism” (R); “Poetry” (R); “To the Poem” (R); “To a Poet” (R); “Night Thoughts in Greenwich Village” (R); “Essay on Style” (R); “Ode to Michael Goldberg” (R); “St Paul and All That” (R), “Second Avenue” (R); “Notes on Second Avenue” (R); “Statement for New American Poetry” (R); “A True Account of Talking to the Sun…”

Ashbery: “Soonest Mended” ; “For John Clare” ; “The New Realism” (R); “Idaho” (R); “Thoughts of a Young Girl” (R); “‘How Much Longer Will I Be Able…’” (R); “Leaving the Atocha Station” (R); “A Last World” (R).

Koch: “The Art of Poetry” ; “On Beauty” 

Ron Padgett: “Method”

Schuyler: “Sestina” (R), “A Grave” (R), “Things to Do” (R), “Poem [How about an oak leaf]”,  “Freely Espousing” , “February” , “A White City”  

Barbara Guest: “The Blue Stairs” , “Fan Poems” 

Andre Breton: “Manifesto on Surrealism”

Tristan Tzara, “How to Make a Dadaist Poem”

Vladimir Mayakovsky, “An Extraordinary Adventure”

Presentation topics: Surrealism, Dadaism, collage poetry


20 May: Art World

O’Hara: “John Button Birthday” (R); Ode to Willem De Kooning” (R);  “Ode on Causality” (R); “Digression on Number 1, 1948” , “Why I am not a Painter” , “On Seeing Larry Rivers’ …”

Ashbery: “An Additional Poem” (R); “Faust” (R); “Clepsydra” (R); “French Poems” (R); “The Tennis Court Oath”, “Rivers and Mountains” , “Last Month” ; “Into the Dusk-Charged Air” ; “The Ecclesiast” ; “If  the Birds Knew” ; “A Blessing in Disguise”

Koch: “Collected Poems” (R105-109); “On the Great Atlantic Railway” ; “The Brassiere Factory” ; “To You” ; “In Love With You” ; “The Circus” ; “Pregnancy” ; “Permanently” ; “You Were Wearing” .

Schuyler: “8/12/70” (R), “The Trash Book” (R), “Voyage autour…” (R), “Past is Past” , “A Poem [Tags of songs, like salvaged buttons]” , “Poem [The wind tears up the sun]”

Guest: “Roses” , “Red Lilies”

Presentation topics: Abstract Expressionism; Jackson Pollock


27 May: Music Scene

­O’Hara: “Mozart Chemisier” (R); “The Day Lady Died” ; “Music” ; “The Tomb of Arnold Schoenberg” ; “Romanze, or the Music Students” ; “Ave Maria”

Ashbery: “Europe” (R); “Variations, Calypso and Fugue…” (R), “The Skaters” 

Koch: “The Bricks” (R); “Poem [The thing]” (R); “Hearing” (R); “The Scales” (R); “Taking a Walk…” .

Schuyler: “Rachmaninoff’s Third” (R), “A Man in Blue” (R), “Janis Joplin’s Dead: Long Live Pearl” (R),  “Ilford Rose Book” (R), “Poem [I don’t understand what you say]”

Guest: “Passage” , “Dido to Aeneas” .

Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka): “Legacy”

Jack Kerouac: ‘Tenorman”

Presentation topics: Cool Jazz; John Cage.


3 June: Cold War:

O’Hara: “Returning” (R); “Thinking of James Dean” (R); “Poem [All of a sudden all the world]” (R); “Poem (Khruschev is coming…)” (R), In Memory of My Feelings” (R);  “Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets” (R);  “Poem V(F)W” (R); “American” (R); “Vincent” (R), “Bird Cage Theatre” (R), “Should We Legalize Abortion?” (R); “At the Bottom of the Dump…” (R); “Homosexuality” ; “To the Film Industry in Crisis”.

Ashbery: “‘They Dream Only of America’” (R44); “America” (R); “The Task” (R); “Plainness in Diversity” (R); “Decoy” (R); “Parergon” (R), “It Was Raining in the Capital” 

Koch: “Aus Einer Kinderheit” (R); “West Wind” (R), “We Sailed the Indian Ocean for a Dime” (R); “The Pleasures of Peace” (R); “Thanksgiving” ; “Sleeping with Women”

Schuyler: “Money Musk” (R15), “At the Beach” (R), “Alice Faye at Ruby Foo’s” (R), “Scarlet Tanager” (R), “Industrial Archaeology” (R), “Seeking”, “Now and Then”, “Buried at Springs”,  “The Crystal Lithium”

Guest: “A Reason” , “Barrels”

Ginsberg: “America”

Presentation topics: The Gay Rights Movement; McCarthyism


10 June: Second Generation *Links to all poems, with the exception of Joe Brainard’s excerpts, are on the blog.

Essay draft due before class!

Joe Brainard: selections from I Remember (R).

Ted Berrigan“The Sonnets: I”; “Sonnets: III” ; “Sonnets: L” ; “Sonnets: XLI” ; “Bean Spasms”; “Things to Do in New York City”; “10 Things I do Every Day” ; “Sunday Morning”; “Wrong Train” ; “Buddha on the Bounty” ; “3 Pages” ; “Something Amazing Just Happened”

Anne Waldman: “Revolution”; “Giant Night” ; “Fast Speaking Woman” ; “Light and Shadow” ; “Cabin” ; “Scallop Song” ; “Makeup on Empty Space”

Alice Notley: “30th Birthday” ; “Poem [St. Mark’s Place caught at night in hot summer]”; “The Goddess Who Created This Passing World”; “Poem [You hear that heroic big land music?]”; “World’s Bliss”; “Poem [Why do I want to tell it]”; “The Ten Best Issues of Comic Books”; “Congratulating Wedge”; “It Would” ; “At Night the States”

Padgett: “Travel”; “Nothing in that Drawer”

Presentation topics: St. Marks Poetry Project.


17 June: New York

O’Hara: “Commercial Variations” (R);  “Poem Read at Joan Mitchell’s” (R); “Ode to Joseph Leseuer” (R); “With Barbara Guest in Paris” (R); “The Lay of the Romance…” (R);  “Adieu to Norman…” (R); “Joe’s Jacket” (R); “Avenue A” (R); “For the Chinese New Year…” (R); “Memoir of Sergei O…” (R) ; “Lines for the Fortune Cookies”“A Step Away from Them” ; “Rhapsody”“Song (Is it dirty?)”“At Joan’s” 

Ashbery: “Rural Objects” (R); “Sunrise in Suburbia” (R);“Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape” ;  “The Bungalows” ; “Fragment”

Koch: “Spring” (R); “Lunch” (R); “A Poem of Forty-Eight States” (R); “The Magic of Numbers” ; “Down at the Docks” ; “Locks” .

Schuyler: “With Frank and George at Lexington” (R), “A New Yorker” (R), “Roof Garden” (R), “Southampton and New York” (R), “Blue” (R), “An East Window on Elizabeth Street” (R), “Wonderful World” (R), “Running Footsteps”

Guest: “A Way of Being” , “Prairie Houses”

Berrigan & Waldman: Memorial Day (R)

Presentation topics: The Cedar Tavern, Lower East Side, The Judson Dance Theater, The Living Theater


24 June: Celebrity

O’Hara: “Personal Poem” ; “In Favor of One’s Time” 

Ashbery: Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (R).

Schuyler: “The Faure Ballade” (R).

Presentation topics: The Beat Generation, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, The New American Poetry 1945–1960 anthology.


1 July:Guest Lecture!*Martina Pfeiler, “Alex Katz and The New York School of Poetry.”

Schuyler: “Beautiful Funerals” (R), “To Frank O’Hara” (R).

Berrigan: “People Who Died” ; “Frank O’Hara”

Waldman: “Phonecall from Frank O’Hara” 

Padgett: “Light as Air”

Robert Creeley: “Edges” (R)

Peter Schjeldahl: “Ars” (R)

Ted Greenwald: “The Pears are the Pears”

Museum of Modern Art: “Frank O’Hara: In Memory of My Feelings” (R)


8 July: Projects

Teaching Notes, Translations, Recitations.


15 July: “…as the great earth rolls on!”

Conclusions. O’Hara: “Animals”



This will be a busy and rewarding semester. The course requires intensive reading of both primary and secondary texts, active class participation, regular group presentations, and the fulfilment of one of five different project options.

The project “tracks” include concentrations in analytical prose, pedagogy, translation, research and digital writing. Yes, in the spirit of “multimodality” (a fancy neologism for “multiple media platforms,” i.e. typical assignments + the web), we are peeking into the brave new world of digital humanities!

The wordpress blog is the hub of all course-related traffic. It contains the syllabus, schedule, readings, and a wealth of secondary source information. All assignments are posted there with detailed descriptions, rubrics, advice, and due dates.


BASIC REQUIREMENTS: (Everyone needs to do these three things.)

Participation: The course is guided by classroom dialogue—not lecturing (I really can’t stand my own voice!). Participation means attending class prepared. To be ready for the seminar you must read the assigned texts, videos, or images completely, carefully, and critically. Take notes, develop questions, and select passages for discussion. Participation will be self-evaluated at the end of the course.

Group Presentation:Throughout the term, groups of four to five people will provide brief (10 minute) presentations on pertinent historical events or art/music/literature movements in the twentieth century. The group will offer two discussion questions that relate their topic to the assigned readings. The questions must be submitted to me by the Sunday evening prior to class. Presentations will be peer-reviewed.

Recitation: Due July 8th. At the close of the course, we will read aloud – in groups – the poetry of The New York School. This project not only forces all of us (me included!) to participate in something we’re not always comfortable doing, i.e. speaking, but to make choices about how to speak such formally unsettling verse.


PROJECT TRACKS: (Individual students will select one of the five project “tracks” below to satisfy the requirements of the course: digital, essay, translation, pedagogy or research.)


Blog Spot: Students are required to curate a space for responses on the blog. Students should post at least five times this semester (i.e. once every three weeks). Like the poetry, blog entries can be experimental. Compare poems to film, bring in art work, and/or write your own poetry in response. Nothing (within reason) is out of bounds. Remember to promote your entries on Twitter and Facebook! Due July 15.

Twitter/Facebook:  In addition to passionate dialogue in class, students (and teachers) are encouraged to keep the conversations going on Twitter and Facebook. I’m asking you to Tweet (140 characters) and/or post to the Facebook wall once a week. You can summarize the main themes of the lesson, repost an interesting comment from class, ask questions about the material, elaborate on ideas that we missed, or distribute relevant articles and stories. Course hashtag #iaanewyorkschool. FacebookDue July 15.


Formal Essay: Students are required to compose a five page literary analysis on one or more poems. The final paper is due July 1.

Workshop: A rough draft/outline is due on Google Docs by June 10. It will undergo the work-shop process through me and a group of peers.


Annotated Bibliography: Research-oriented students, especially those who intend to write a research paper at the end of the course, may decide to create an annotated bibliography of ten to fifteen secondary sources. Your list should contain a mix of critical (literary theory or scholarship) and historical (contemporaneous reviews or news) sources. Due July 8th.


Translation Project: Many of the poems that we will read this semester have been converted into German, but some have escaped the sight of translators. This project requires students, in groups of no more than three, to translate a poem from the assigned reading into German. Each group member will compose a one-page reflection that details the work contributed to the group, some of the issues faced in trying to translate the text into German, and how the process informed your understanding of the text.


Lesson Plan: This option may be useful for those entering into the field of teaching. The project allows individuals or pairs to devise strategies for teaching poetry to an audience of potentially resistant novices. In addition to a lesson plan that outlines the daily lecture, activities, and discussion questions, each member will be required to compose a one-page reflection that details the work contributed to the group, why this poem and why this approach, and how the process has influenced your understanding of the text.


“Creative” (Extra Credit): Throughout the semester we will experiment with different poetic forms

Dadaist Poem                due May 13th

Automatic Writing       in-class May 13th

Exquisite Corpse          in-class May 20th

Portrait Poem               in-class May 27th

Dortmund School        due June 24th



Entrance/Exit “Exams”: Anonymous, ungraded tests that measure the skills and knowledge attained throughout the course.

Course Evaluation: I value and require your reflection on the course. I will not sign any form or submit your grade until you have completed the ANONYMOUS course evaluation.




Participation = 300

Presentation = 300

Recitation = 50

Project = 350

Creative (E.C.) = 50


Policies and Procedures

Classroom Conduct: This course is led by passionate and thoughtful discussion. Please refrain from texting (I know it’s difficult), checking Facebook (even harder), talking (talk to me instead!) or sleeping (just stay home).

Plagiarism: It’s quite simple, don’t do it. I am always available (via email or office hours) to discuss the guidelines and requirements of proper citations. I am a master at assessing students’ writing. When you suddenly develop an unbelievable mastery of the essay form just in time for the final paper, I will grow suspicious. And I will catch you. I always win!

Late Work: Why are deadlines important? On the student end, they can feel arbitrary.  After all, I’m not in the business of giving you a return deadline (although I personally pride myself on rapid turnaround times). Instructors set aside time to grade essays, and careful evaluators (like me again!) will offer thoughtful comments and helpful advice. That being said, given enough time, a deal can usually be made. If you have trouble meeting a deadline, please inform me well beforehand (at least a week) and we will try to reschedule something that works for both of us.




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