Spring 2024 - ENGL 474W D100

Seminar in North American Poetry and Poetics (4)

Class Number: 5042

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Fri, 12:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units or two 300-division English courses.



Advanced seminar on selected works of North American poets and/or poetry theorists. May be organized by author, genre, or critical approach. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught. Writing.


What makes a long poem long might be a question which seems to have an obvious answer (umm, the length?). Rachel Blau DuPlessis, in her book on long poems, focuses instead on longing: that is, something in the poet—some feeling, some desire, some aspiration—requires the room a long poem provides in order to explore their longing. For American poet Robert Duncan, what he had to say had, as he wrote, “no beginning and no end.” Thus long poems have something to do with process, and with a resistance to ending or finishing: long poems long to outlast time itself.

In this course we will read examples of contemporary long poems that exemplify the various ways (forms, modes) long poems are made long, as outlined in DuPlessis’s long essay. But at one level, this course is simply an opportunity to read a number of exciting long poems: a contemporary speculative (and fantastical) climate change epic, attempts to redress the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade and the colonization of North America via the re-appropriation of colonial documents, and the collected poems of Canadian poet Phyllis Webb, which both includes long poems and perhaps itself forms one meta-long poem. Several of our poets will visit our class, and class members will be invited to the second annual Phyllis Webb Memorial Reading, at the end of the semester.


  • Participation 10%
  • Presentation (approx. 15 minutes) 15%
  • Presentation paper (based on feedback; 5-7 pages 25%
  • Short critical or creative response (500 words x 2) 10%
  • Final Essay (10-12 pages) 40%



Rachel Blau DuPlessis, A Long Essay on the Long Poem
ISBN: 9780817360689

Phyllis Webb, Peacock Blue: Collected Poems
ISBN: 9780889229143

Renee Sarojini Saklikar, Bramah's Quest
ISBN: 9780889714304

Jordan Abel, The PLace of Scraps
ISBN: 9780889227880

M. NourbeSe Philip, Zong!
ISBN: 9780819571694


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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:


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