Fall 2021 - ENGL 472W E100

Seminar in Advanced Creative Writing (4)

Documentary Poetry and Prose

Class Number: 4343

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    WMC 3517, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    ENGL 372 or 374.



An advanced seminar-workshop in the theory and practice of poetry or fiction. Genre varies from term to term. Students with credit for ENGL 472 prior to fall 2015 may not complete this course for further credit. Otherwise, course may be repeated for credit when the genre varies. Writing.


Documentary Poetry and Prose

In the academic world, creative work is now often framed as “research creation.” Essentially, this is a recognition of the fact that creative work involves research, and in turn, that a creative work is one outcome of the sorts of research processes long privileged in the academy. In this course we will read and write poetry and prose through one aspect of research: the document. How do writers work from, with, and through documentation? Our readings will provide examples of writers who do a variety of things with the documents they take up—whether those documents are personal, literary, or even historical. What does imaginative writing uncover, or select for focus, that other methods do not? What is particular to the way imaginative produces and disseminates knowledge? What, ultimately, do we feel about the places, objects, beings and events we encounter in the world, and how is creative writing an appropriate response to these various stimuli? Our exercises will work with a range of provided documents, and students will also have the opportunity to work with documents of their own choice.


  • Participation and on-line readings 20%
  • Short presentation on readings 10%
  • Workshop assignments 30%
  • Final portfolio 40%



I am expecting that everyone will come to class having read the week’s material (whether books from our reading list or the workshop submissions of your fellow students) and with something to say. The basis of the workshop is respectful and constructive peer feedback: think carefully about your fellow students’ work and in class, after a student has presented their submission for workshop, please be ready to offer your comments. 

Seeing literature read live is an important aspect of developing your practice. I’m asking you to attend at least 2 virtual or in-person readings during the semester. I will keep you apprised of readings that I am aware of—and feel free to share events you hear about with the class. When you attend a reading, I’m expecting you to report back to us the next class and offer any feedback you might have on the experience/the work you heard.


Introduce the class to one of the books on the list for this week. Tell the class your reading impressions, what you find interesting or challenging or productive in the work. Be as specific as possible. You may also want to address the ways in which the work conducts a kind of “research,” the uses it makes of “documents,” and/or the kind of “knowledge” (about place, history, etc.) it produces. 10 minutes maximum. Hand in approximately one page of presentation notes (250-500 words).


Three times in the semester you are expected to submit a text of your own for class workshop in response to a specific assignment (the assignments will be given the week before the workshop). On the day of a workshop, everyone should come prepared to offer constructive and sensitive feedback on the texts being workshopped that week (writing down some notes, possibly on a printed version of the text, prior to class is always best). If you have submitted a text, you should also come prepared to be open-minded and receptive (not defensive) to the class feedback. The idea is that what has been submitted is a draft, and the rest of the class will function as your helpful editorial board. NOTE: if it is not your week to submit for the workshop, but you also want to write a response to the week’s assignment, please go ahead and do so—but do not email your assignment to the whole class (it will not be workshopped); if there is time at the end of a workshop to hear a few extra responses, we could share these then. 


Your portfolio should comprise 15-25 pages of poetry or prose, plus a one-page prose introduction describing the work in the portfolio and the process of composition. The portfolio could, but does not have to, include revised texts you workshop during the course; it should not include work written prior to the course. What I am asking you to do is think holistically about the material you include in your portfolio, as it connects to your on-going documentary topic: this topic is wide open, but could relate to any number of “sites” of research or sets of documents around which you might develop your work. This “site” could be a (historical) person, place, or thing (object / event); it could be a historical or contemporary cultural phenomenon; it could be a documents or documents you have chosen to focus on. The point is to explore the creative text as a means of gathering and organizing understanding and/or information about some “site” of investigation or set of documents.



I recommend students order their course texts through a local bookstore, such as Massy Books, Iron Dog Books, or The Paper Hound.


Layli Long Soldier, Whereas

Cecily, Nicholson, From the Poplars

Jena Osman, Motion Studies

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.