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Sources of Poetic Language

Imagination, Wonder, and the Everyday

The mourning doves are beginning to coo again and yesterday I saw the families of cardinals in the yew, all busy setting up. The past few days were very windy, and we found a fallen nest, the size of a basketball, along the street. It feels as if I am again moving closer to a source – the ground itself is noisier, the air is richer with sound, the sky has changed from the spectral white of winter to the rosier, warm-breathing, almost-spring season. This morning, a large family of white-tailed deer pranced through the backyard and strayed into the middle of the street like a group of teenagers showing off their moves. For all the trauma of the world there are these moments of wonder when the thought stops in its tracks. Gratitude.

I wake up without failing to see the sunrise, and right there, where the horizon changes from indigo to the dark line of red before the flames of the sun hit the clouds, I sense a source of poetry. How does the scientist calculate the exact moment of each morning for what has been happening since time immemorial? How do we describe the fabric of time and space? How are our feelings traveling back and forth along the synapses of our brains? And then, back in the garden, how does the trill of birds thrill our hearts? Wonder.

This ten-week course will explore the various sources of poetic language—from literature to nature, history, science, medicine, philosophy and back to the poetry written through the ages. We will take inspiration from the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens and create our own ways of looking at the world through various lens of language from several disciplines. Language itself is a source and a resource: we use it to communicate, but it communicates our deepest selves too—it gives us away. Do we know which of our words give us away in our poems?

To explore this topic further, join Carman Bugan’s upcoming Summer Term course, Sources of Poetic Languagewhich will run 17 May – 19 July.

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