In a previous post about massive open online courses, I wrote that I’d enrolled on Iowa University’s How Writers Write Poetry, set to roll on March 23rd. Here are a few thoughts on my experience and progress so far.
In the event, the start date was delayed by three weeks, so students (all 7327 of us) are currently engaged in Week Three of this seven-week course. The benefits:
- I’m finding the video sessions and master classes by course tutors are (almost without exception) highly informative and insightful. I’ve especially enjoyed considering in depth: the relationship between Form and Content; the elements of prose poetry; use of the line and the white space on the page
- I’ve read lots of poems for the first time and discovered poets I’d likely not have come across otherwise. I’m reminded that the more I read, the more I realise how poorly read I am. And I’m reminded what a marvellous resource the Poetry Foundation website is.
- I’ve found Piazza, the Q & A platform for this course, a bit of a maze and therefore time-consuming to navigate. Early on, I decided to opt out of this side of things altogether. Consequently I’m not contributing to forum discussions and feedback comments on assignments. From comments to the Facebook group, it seems I’m not the only one.
- Students wishing to earn a Certificate of Completion for the course must submit assignments, complete a quiz for all videos, contribute to forum discussions and give feedback comments on assignments by fellow students. And keep a track record of these on Piazza. (And pay $50 at the end of the course). No thanks, I’ll pass.
Apart from copious note-taking, the only course writing I’ve done so far is a few jottings and aborted first drafts in response to assignments. But I’m not being too hard on myself, since these are experiments with new ways of writing and maybe they need to percolate for a while. They’ll keep, and I can come back to them at any point.
I also enrolled on Stanford University’s 10 Pre-modern Poems by Women (aka 10Poems) tutored by Eavan Boland and others. I’m mid-way through this MOOC (which, oddly, feels quite intimate) and am really enjoying spending about two to three hours a week looking at one poem in depth with the help of the video tutorials (there’s a handy transcript at the side, which is also downloadable). I’ve enjoyed writing and uploading a short response to each poem (there’s a choice of 3 questions to choose from) and posting brief feedback on responses by two fellow students.
The online platform is proving very straightforward and I’ve experienced no technical woes, even though I’m using Internet Explorer!
I’m finding the video tutorials invaluable in terms of background information about the poets and the historical context for each poem. And I’ve engaged with poems I wouldn’t normally choose to read. One such is Phillis Wheatley’s To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth, which I then took along to share and discuss with Soundswrite women’s poetry group. I wanted to hear members’ views on how we, with all our 21st century sensibilities and post-abolition views on slavery, should ‘read’ a praise poem for her master written by an African American who was taken from her family and homeland and enslaved as a seven-year-old child. You can read the poem here and more about the poet here. And I’d love to hear what you think via the comments box below.