HUMS 245, Poets and their Papers

Meeting Time: 
Th 12pm-3pm

Course Description

This Beinecke-intensive course considers the published works of living poets alongside the processes they used to create them: drafts, letters, journals, fragments, objects and other artworks that were directly or indirectly part of their artistic development. The course includes the participation of some of the poets themselves, a generation of writers who grew up with an acute awareness that their papers would someday be in a library. That long-term recognition of a public future for often seemingly private thoughts and ideas gives these papers particularly vital value and interest. The kinds of casual phrases and inclusions that were a crucial part of postwar American poetry one sees being worked out in poets’ attitudes of curiosity and attention toward works-in-progress, collaborative experiments and correspondence. Like the poets themselves, this course takes the Beinecke archives as primary not secondary to the production of late 20th and early 21st century poetry. An aspect of the course is the opportunity to talk with multiple generations of poets about their processes of creation, collection and organization and to capture their vision of archives as distinct from (and not merely preparatory to) publication. 

Led by:

Karin Roffman has published essays on John Ashbery and twentieth- and twenty-first century writers and artists in RaritanModern Fiction StudiesArtforumRain TaxiYale Review and others.  Her first book, From the Modernist Annex: American Women Writers in Museums and Libraries (2010) won the University of Alabama Press’s American Literature Elizabeth Agee Manuscript Prize and subsequent publication. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Humanities, English and American Studies at Yale University, where she is creating, “John Ashbery’s Nest,” a website and virtual tour of Ashbery’s Hudson house in collaboration with Monica Ong Reed and the Yale Digital Humanities Lab. She has previously taught at West Point and Bard College.