United States Avant-Garde Poetry since 1950

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA Q20E24 Modern and Contemporary Literature

Module description

This survey module explores genealogies and differences in experimental poetry from the U.S.A, across the late 20th and early 21st century. As well as scanning the nation from East to West, this module pays attention to the 20th century as a period of Little Magazines and ambitious anthologies, considering the way that publishing and circulation practices have created "schools" of poetry.

The overall function of the module is to expose students to poetry that is off the beaten track, and may not have been taught at undergraduate level. Within the major schools of avant-garde poetry, emphasis is placed on the more marginal and experimental voices: women, writers of colour and queer writers are reintroduced to what are already alternative canons here, in order to question the way that we categorise poetry.

Module aims

* To create a timeline of the modern period in U.S. poetry, so that students understand who came when, and what their relationship was to the writers who came before and after them.

* To consider how poetry and poetic language develop within regional coteries.

* To expand students' familiarity with poetry, so that the very funny or the very weird is considered alongside the very serious and the very famous.

* To encourage students to engage with contemporary poetry, and to explore the role of poetic language as a social and political tool.

Module learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

1. have developed an awareness of different reading practices, and different conceptions of the function of “the poem”.

2. have become more astute, questioning readers, with a heightened awareness of the function of language.

3. have a good, chronological knowledge of how poetry – and publishing – developed in the USA in the twentieth century.

4. have developed the ability to write clearly about difficult ideas and modes of thought.

Module information

General Reading:

Charles Olson, "Projective Verse"
Zoe Leonard, "I Want a Dyke for President"
Frank O'Hara – Selected Poems (ed. Don Allen, 2005)
John Ashbery – Selected Poems (1998)
Ashbery, O'Hara et al – The New York Poets: An Anthology, 2004
V.R. Lang – Poems and Plays (1975)
Allen Ginsberg – Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems (2009)
Anne Waldman – Fast Speaking Woman (1986)
Diane Di Prima - Pieces of a Song (1990)
Amiri Baraka – S.O.S (2016)
Jack Spicer – My Vocabulary Did This To Me (2010)
Robert Duncan – The Collected Early Poems and Plays (2012)
Charles Olson – Selected Poems (1997)
Robert Creeley – Selected Poems 1945-2005 (2008)
Edward Dorn – Hands Up! (1964)
Charles Bernstein – All the Whiskey in Heaven (2010)
17. Rae Armantrout – Partly (2016)
18. Leslie Scalapino – It's Go in Horizontal (2008)
19. Miguel lgarin (ed.) – Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (1994)
20. Eileen Myles – Snowflake/ Different Streets (2014)
21. Alice Notley – Grave of Light (2008)
22. Bernadette Mayer – Work and Days (2016)

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery for 2020-21: This module will be delivered by weekly synchronous seminar, face-to-face where possible and accessible via Zoom, with online portfolio submissions required weekly.


  • Waldman, Anne. (1996) Fast speaking woman: chants & essays, San Francisco: City Lights Books. vol. Pocket poets series
  • Baraka, Amiri; Vangelisti, Paul; Holiday, Harmony. (2015) S O S: poems 1961-2013, New York, NY: Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic.
  • Algarín, Miguel; Holman, Bob. (c1994) Aloud: voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, New York: Holt.
  • I want a dyke for president,
  • Di Prima, Diane. (©1990) Pieces of a song: selected poems, San Francisco: City Lights Books.
  • Spicer, Jack; Gizzi, Peter; Killian, Kevin. (2010, ©2008) My vocabulary did this to me: the collected poetry of Jack Spicer, Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press. vol. Wesleyan poetry
  • Duncan, Robert; Quartermain, Peter. (©2012) The collected early poems and plays, Berkeley: University of California Press. vol. The collected writings of Robert Duncan
  • Olson, Charles; Creeley, Robert. (1997) Selected poems, California: University of California Press. vol. Centennial Books
  • Notley, Alice. (c2006) Grave of light: new and selected poems, 1970-2005, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. vol. Wesleyan poetry
  • Ginsberg, Allen. (2009) Howl, Kaddish and other poems, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin modern classics
  • O'Hara, Frank; Ashbery, John; Koch, Kenneth; Schuyler, James; Ford, Mark. (2004) The New York poets: Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler : an anthology, Manchester: Carcanet.
  • Dorn, Edward. (c1964) Hands up!, New York: Totem Press.
  • Bernstein, Charles. (2010) All the whiskey in heaven: selected poems, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
  • Lang, V. R.; Lurie, Alison. (1975) Poems & plays, New York: Random House.
  • Projective Verse,
  • Ashbery, John. (2002) Selected poems, Manchester: Carcanet.
  • Myles, Eileen. (©2012) Snowflake: new poems ; Different streets : newer poems, [St. Paul, Minn.]: Wave Books.
  • Creeley, Robert; Friedlander, Benjamin. (©2008) Selected poems, 1945-2005, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Mayer, Bernadette. (2016) Works and days, New York: New Directions Book. vol. New Directions paperbook
  • Armantrout, Rae. (2016) Partly: new and selected poems, 2001-2015, Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. vol. Wesleyan poetry
  • O'Hara, Frank; Allen, Donald. (1991) Selected poems, Manchester: Carcanet. vol. Poetry pléiade
  • Scalapino, Leslie. (©2008) It's go in horizontal: selected poems, 1974-2006, Berkeley: University of California Press. vol. New California poetry

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Final Essay (4-5,000 words) or Project (4-5,000 words including commentary)     
Coursework   Online Portfolio     

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jordan Savage, email:
Dr Jordan Savage
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Duncan James Salkeld
University of Chichester
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Dr Celia Brayfield
Bath Spa University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.