LITR 1231C: ­Experimental Poets of Color


In this course we’ll read and critically engage with contemporary experimental poets of color writing in English in the US and Canada. Exploring the intersection of poetics, aesthetics, critical race (and mixed race) theory, and social justice activism in the arts, we will question the modernist and post-modernist assumptions that experimentation and innovation are exclusively the domain of whiteness. We will explore how racism, colonialism, and other contemporary systems of oppression condition responses to poets of color, and consider how poets of color respond to and engage with these systems both overtly and through their aesthetic experimentation.

Over 14 weeks, students will spend 3 hours per week in class (42 hours). Required reading for the meetings is expected to take up approximately 7 hours per week (98 hours). In addition, writing weekly responses, and researching and writing the discovery project and final paper are expected to take a total of 40 hours over the course of the term.

Learning goals for this course include a command of critical race theory as it applies to conversations regarding race and racism in US institutions, and a command of experimental poetics in contemporary American English (US and Canadian) poetry.

Grade Breakdown:
Reading Responses (10): 30%
Discovery Project: 20%
Final Paper(s): 40%
Participation: 10%


Reading Responses (30%)
Each week you’ll be asked to read several texts and write reading responses. These should be short (500-1000 words), critical or critical-creative responses to one of the week’s texts. They can be arguments, close readings, poetic responses, or review-style treatments. I encourage you to try many different styles of responses over the semester. Whichever style you choose, all responses should reflect college-level standards of writing (proper grammar, syntax, spelling, etc.). Any departures from academic standards must be intentional and part of the rhetorical strategy. These must be posted to the course website by 2 pm on Wednesday.

Discovery (20%)
Part of being an engaged reader and writer in the poetry world being aware of the current movements of poetry. You will find and prepare a presentation on a recently published book or chapbook by an experimental poet of color who might have been on this syllabus but aren’t. By mid-semester you must have identified a book and solicited my formal approval. Presentations will be a brief (five minute) lecture on or close reading of one poem or short excerpt from the book.

Paper (40%)
This paper will combine elements of close reading and theoretical scholarship of poetry. You will be expected to read a poetic work of your choosing closely and with great attention. Your reading should be informed by a theoretical framework related to our course (post-colonial theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, gender studies, disability theory, etc.). You will be expected to consider formal and linguistic elements as well as poetics and theory. You may chose to write about work by a poet on the syllabus (though not a book we have read for class), or another poet of your selection with my approval. One 10-15 page paper on one book, with bibliography OR 2 6-8 page papers on one book each, with bibliographies. Abstract(s) due midway through the course.

Attendance & Participation (10%)

This is a seminar, so you being here is the most important part of participation. More than two absences will result in NC. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absence. You must participate thoughtfully in class discussions.

Electronic device policy

If I see you texting, browsing the internet, on Facebook, or tweeting not-for-class, I’ll quietly note it, and if it happens frequently I will consider it to be an absence.


Our class will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, ability, sex, gender identity, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. Anyone who does engage in any of these forms of discrimination will be asked to leave the class.

Freedom of Expression

We’re going to be engaged in some difficult conversations in this course. What I expect is that all students will engage in discussion and assignments from a place of respect and kindness. We will provide content warnings when dealing with potentially triggering materials such as violence and especially sexual violence. Hate speech of any kind will not be tolerated, even if the intent is to parody/ satirize/mock those kinds of attitudes.


If you feel you will need accommodations in order to complete course requirements, please write to me, or make plans to meet with me.

Syllabus subject to change by instructor.

Required Books

  • What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America ed. Aldon Nielson
  • Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing ed. Carmen Gimenez-Smith
  • Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2014).
  • The Racial Imaginary ed. Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, Max King Cap
  • Incubation: A Space for Monsters by Bhanu Kapil
  • Dura by Myung Mi Kim
  • Wanting in Arabic by Trish Salah
  • Night by Etel Adnan
  • Skyward by Kazim Ali
  • Corpse Whale by Dg Nanouk Okpik
  • Zong! by M. NourbeSe Phillip

Recommended Books

  • Critical Race Theory: An Introduction