In “Poetry Now,” students read and write about books by contemporary North American poets, to appraise the varied ways in which poetry engages with the world. Students also engage creatively with these books, to explore authors’ thematic, linguistic, aesthetic, and formal intentions.

To complement our reading of his book, The Constitution (Black Ocean, 2014), poet Brian Foley asked students to write two short poems: the first using declarative language to make an assertion about the self; the second (amendment) poem, qualifying, negating, or refracting the emotional logic of the source poem.

In this wonderfully ambitious and ethically complex poem, Jimmy Sbordone demonstrates his understanding of Foley’s use of line and stanza breaks to create and destabilize meaning, to defamiliarize language so that we see and hear it anew. The title carries quietly across sections, both enacting and bridging the seeming distance between a violent history and humanity. Additionally, Jimmy displayed persistent curiosity as he grappled with similar concerns across genres. He wrote about astronomy in “Is Violence—,” as well as in his final critical engagement with Foley’s book and Cathy Linh Che’s Split.


WR 100: Poetry Now