Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Introduction to Poetry
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Assignment 1  Six poems (between 60 and 90 lines in total, including titles), and a critical commentary of 1000 words. Poetry weighted 60% and the commentary weighted 40%) OR 1 x 1500 word essay that compares and contrasts the poetic techniques of two poems studied on the module.  50%
Semester Assessment Assignment 2  Six poems (between 60 and 90 lines in total, including titles, and a critical commentary of 1000 words. Poetry weighted 60% and the commentary weighted 40%). OR 1 x 1500 word essay that compares and contrasts the poetic techniques of two poems studied on the module.  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit Assignment 1  Students who fail the module will be required to make good any missing elements and/or revise or replace any failed assignments.  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit Assignment 2  Resubmit failed or missed assignment  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge of basic poetic form and techniques.

Explain the relationship between form and content in individual poems.

Demonstrate familiarity with contemporary poetic practice and the terminology used to discuss it.

Demonstrate and employ knowledge of the elements of a critical commentary.

Produce critical work that engages with the topics and ideas addressed on the module


This module is designed to give first year students a thorough grounding in the technical knowledge needed to read and write contemporary poetry, providing a skills base for more advanced work undertaken in part two of the degree scheme. Their pre-university study of poetry as readers often doesn’t adequately equip them for analyzing poetry at degree level or beginning to write it. Many students are more anxious about writing about poetry, as well as writing their own poetry than they are fiction. This module aims to deal with these issues.

Brief description

This course is the second of two introductory modules for students beginning their studies in Creative Writing, focusing on poetry. Designed in tandem with Introduction to Fiction, it will give students the equivalent grounding in practical technique for writing poems, building confidence and skills, and introducing them to the work of a wide range of contemporary poets. However, unlike Introduction to Fiction, this module is designed to accommodate both Creative Writing and English Literature students, and incorporates an alternative assessment model. Students will have option of workshopping either their own poems or a paragraph of literary analysis. The module begins with basic shaping techniques before moving on to more technical considerations of metre and rhyme, and the often confusing ‘freedom’ of free verse in relation to these. Later in the module students are introduced to some traditional poetic forms. Having gained confidence and skills in the previous weeks, students will be able to put all that they have learned into practice analysing and/or writing in these forms.


Teaching will be delivered through three components: lectures, seminars, and workshops (exact breakdown given below). The lectures will introduce students to a new technique or consideration each week, which will be demonstrated using example poems. Seminars will give students the opportunity to discuss the lecture material and the wider reflections on writing that it raises, to look at further examples in small groups to extend their reading, and to undertake short, in-class writing exercises to put what they have learnt into practice. Seminar tutors will set weekly writing tasks, based on the topic under consideration that week, which students will undertake independently. Workshops are geared towards assignments. Students will bring work derived from weekly writing tasks which they are considering submitting as part of their assignments. The small group of students, working with the tutor, will discuss the work to gain feedback, with students learning collectively from one another’s experiences.

Outline of lecture and seminar topics:

1. What is a poem?
Lecture: Following on from the first semester module Introduction to Fiction, this session will explore what makes a poem different from prose writing, in terms of theme and form. Discussion of the differences will highlight some basic formal considerations, including line breaks, caesura, and enjambment, building technical knowledge from the outset. The concept of linking subject and form will be introduced. Common preconceptions will be addressed, including that one must use ‘poetic’ language to write a successful poem and that it has to rhyme, as well as recurring anxieties regarding use of punctuation and capitalisation of the first letter of each line. Archaisms and inversions will also be discussed in relation to writing contemporary poetry for a contemporary readership. This lecture will also provide clear guidelines on what is expected from students on this module.
Seminar: With their tutor, students will have an opportunity to ask any questions resulting from the first lecture. They will discuss their experiences of reading and writing poetry to date, and any fears they have. An in-class writing exercise to assess the formal and thematic implications of where one places a line break and use of punctuation will reinforce the ideas of the lecture.

2. Patterns
Lecture: Having established an understanding of basic formal considerations in terms of the poetic line, this lecture focuses on the importance of sound and the role of patterns in developing this. The session will focus on sound patterns (alliteration, assonance), linguistic patterns (syllabics), and repetition, again building technical knowledge.
Seminar: Students will discuss the different effects of each of the patterns introduced in the lecture and consider further examples.

3. Basic structures
Lecture: This lecture considers the over-arching structure of a poem, introducing students to some common approaches that will help shape a work: lists, repetition of the first line, letters, sets of instructions.
Seminar: As the structures presented in the lecture will be recognisable from everyday life, discussion will focus on the place poetry can occupy in the students’ own lives rather than being ‘parcelled off’ as a separate, elevated art form. This may well encourage a reconsideration of the question posed in the first lecture: rephrasing ‘what is a poem?’ to ask ‘what can a poem be?’ Further example texts, including ‘found’ poems and texts not labelled poems but sharing the structural attributes discussed in the lecture, will aid this.

4. Imagery
Lecture: This lecture deals with the role of imagery (and, in a wider sense, defamiliarisation) in poetry. By focusing on using the senses, this lecture encourages students to see imagery as a skill grounded in close observation and perception, with the power to transform a reader’s view.
Seminar: Students will put into practice the ideas outlined in the lecture by taking everyday items (e.g. kitchen implements) and describing them afresh using imagery.

5. Metre
Lecture: Having built student confidence by introducing them to a range of basic formal approaches, the module moves into a more advanced mode at this point but retains an emphasis on technical skills. This lecture outlines the stress-accentuated nature of the English language, in individual words, then phrases, then poetic form through use of metre. The lecture seeks to introduce students to the role stress plays in musicality and determining emphasis.
Seminar: As students find the concept of stress challenging, the seminar will give them the opportunity to ask questions and to practice writing lines of iambic pentameter with help from the tutor.

6. Rhyme
Lecture: Returning to the first lecture’s examination of whether or not a poem has to rhyme, this lecture seeks to expand students’ understanding of the diverse and subtle ways to use rhyme, covering full and half rhymes, as well as where one can place rhyme in a poem (internal and end-stop), and rhyme schemes. This will be framed within a wider understanding of the purpose of rhyme and why it appeals to the human ear, looking at the role of advertising jingles and nursery rhymes. A crucial part of the lecture will be considering the fine line between effective uses of rhyme in contemporary poetry and sounding like the poet William McGonagall, whose infamous ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ is a useful warning against the perils of poor rhyme.
Seminar: Students will consider further examples, reading aloud to hear the subtle echoes of half rhymes and the impact of where they are placed in a poem.

7. Free verse
Lecture: This will outline the history of the form and its role in contemporary poetry, as well as exploring its seemingly paradoxical name: is free verse really ‘free’ from formal considerations? Again, experience has shown that students find this important and popular contemporary form difficult to define, often regarding it as an ‘open’ option which doesn’t require consideration of sound and pacing. Its flexibility will be considered, but so will the important roles metre and rhyme play in writing good free verse.
Seminar: Students will consider the advantages and disadvantages of free verse, in terms of determining appropriate themes and making an impact. For the Creative Writing students, all the skills so far covered by the module will be useful in approaching this seemingly ‘free’ form.

8. Lyric and dramatic monologue
Lecture: The first of three weeks on basic shaping forms, in this lecture the role of implied an addressee will be discussed, as will creating an intimate relationship with the reader. Students will be asked to consider the role of the poet in the creation of a thrown voice: who is speaking here? Notions of autobiography (often attached to a lyric I) and the use of fiction in poetry will be raised.
Seminars: Through in-class writing exercises students will be encouraged to have a go at writing a dramatic monologue from the point of view of a famous person, the identity of which must be guessed by the other members of the group.

9. Odes and elegies
Lecture: This lecture continues the exploration of shaping forms by looking at two forms which have roots in classical tradition but which remain popular with contemporary poets. As with the lecture on praise and invective, there will be a discussion of their differences but also, in this case, their similarities. The wide thematic reach of the elegy will be covered, demonstrating to students that they don’t always have to mourn an individual.
Seminar: Students will consider further examples, and consider the tone required for each of these forms.

10. Assessment advice
Lecture: In preparation for the final assessment, this lecture will highlight key points covered throughout the course of the module, and, informed by feedback from the first assignment, will offer advice on how to best approach the final portfolio/essay.
Seminar: Examples of good practice will be discussed.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Not applicable.
Communication Oral - through effective and accurate use of language, grammar and syntax to express ideas. Written - through wokshop presentations and discussions (not assessed)
Improving own Learning and Performance Through independent research and reading, and critical and creative writing.
Information Technology By using word processing packages and making use of Blackboard and other e-resources to research and access course documents and other materials.
Personal Development and Career planning Through increased critical self-reflection, and the development of transferable, ICT, communication and research skills.
Problem solving By evaluating analysis and critical skills.
Research skills By developing an independent programme of reading to support course materials, using indicative bibliography.
Subject Specific Skills Practical proficiency in literary criticism.
Team work Not applicable.


This module is at CQFW Level 4