An Introduction to Poetry

This class has passed
This class has passed

What’s it all about?

Have you ever met a poem and not known what to say? Reading poetry for the first time can be a little like meeting the emissary of a bewildering but intriguing continent: when should I take off my hat? How many kisses, and where do I sit? This course aims to introduce you to some strategies for exploration, presenting you with a series of questions to ask when encountering a poem for the first time.

What will we cover?

This course is for people who would like to read more poetry but are confused by the local customs and have stayed away. It offers a small taste of an approach called ‘Practical Criticism’, which can be summarised, very reductively, as an emphasis on ‘the words on the page’.

Interpretations built in Practical Criticism are based on the details in front of us rather than on external theoretical frameworks or facts about the poem’s period or the author’s life. This isn’t to say that external ideas and theories don’t come into play – they always will, but in Practical Criticism, making your own observations is what matters. How, then, might you start to make these observations? What do you look for? Are some observations more useful than others? If so, why, and who says? These questions form the heart of the session.

Who will be teaching?

Dr Bridget Vincent is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She recently completed a PhD in English Literature at Cambridge University and before coming to Melbourne spent two years teaching Practical Criticism and modern literature in Cambridge. Her research focuses on twentieth-century poetry, with an emphasis on Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Adrienne Rich and Derek Mahon. She is passionate about community engagement and university outreach, and is the founder of the Melbourne Youth Humanities Forum, a free summer program for VCE students in the humanities.