MODPO TREASUREThere have been a lot of articles lately proclaiming that poetry is dead. So when someone sent me a link to this article, I had to open it. And there were Al Filreis, Ali Casselman and Anna Strong, doing the ModPo close read thing. Since I am a big fan of the course, Modern & Contemporary American Poetry, to give it its full name, I thought I would share the piece here with you.

But it isn’t just about the poems. It is also about the people I’ve met and come to know (online at least) from places around the world. There are personal stories of cancer survival and a breakthrough by one student who is autistic.

And it’s about a professor who really cares about what he teaches and how. He cares about the students, every one of them, even when enrolment moves north of 30,000 per session. And he never sleeps.

Enough from me. Here is the link to the article. Please take a few moments to find out what ModPo is about.  It isn’t too late to enrol, either. I’ve included a link to the course page just below the one for the article.



AND THEN… There was ModPo 2/2013

Course Home Page

Photo from ModPo on Coursera

ModPo. ModPolians. ModPo People. What on earth am I on about??

Well, last year, there was Coursera, and a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC for short!) on Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. And it was free. 10 weeks. This was an area of my education that was a major gap, so I decided to check it out. I wanted to know more, much more, about American and about Contemporary poetry. And what Language poetry, Conceptual poetry and the NY School were about. Dickinson. Whitman. The Beats.

English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palu... (Kerouac! Ginsberg! et al. ) And what of Gertrude Stein? Sure, I knew about a rose being a rose. Other names looked back at me from the prospectus: Frost. That guy who wrote about a Red Wheelbarrow. Ashbery. Armantrout. Silliman. Ok, heard of them. Bök (Hey! a Canadian!)  But Bergvall? O’Hara? Niedecker? Goldsmith? MacLow? Cage?  These and some others I hadn’t met before. Tzara? Dadaism? Mesostics? Really?

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, Metropolitan...

English: Participants at a Kelly Writers House...

English: Participants at a Kelly Writers House event honoring Gertrude Stein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So there I was. Fast forward 10 weeks and I was no longer interested in poetry. No, now I was obsessed! I had spent just about every waking moment on the computer. Talking to fellow students in the UK, Phillippines, Germany, India…all over the world. I posted about it here last November: https://quillfyre.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/no-comfort-zone-modpo-week-10-the-final-week/

Few of us were able to let it go after 10 weeks. Friendships and discussions continued. A number of us signed on for 2013 as Community Teaching Assistants. Our job? Help new students to ease into the course, find their way around, and share our own uncertainties from last year. Make them feel at home.

For those who were lucky enough to be in Philadelphia for the weekly live webcasts, there was the teaching staff and professor Al Filreis, at the Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania, and home of ModPo.

From the photos, it always looks quite warm and welcoming, the student faces always smiling. They’ve made the pilgrimage to ModPo!

Kelly Writers House at the University of Penns...

Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe next year…

ModPo 2 has been as interesting a journey as ModPo 1 was. Hoping to stick around for the next time too.

This won’t surprise those who’ve heard me go on and on!

One thing that ModPo always provides is a series of poem challenges in the study group I hang out with: The Breakfast Club. Or, as it is known this year, the BC, BC 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3!  We post about all manner of things poetic and not so poetic. A recurring theme this year has been bacon, in keeping with the idea of breakfast! So you will see some bacon references in the poems I am posting here as my journey journal for ModPo 2.

Towards a Breakfast of Excess With apologies to Scott Owens– by The Past Head Crone CAS a pastiche based on Towards a Poetics of Excess By Scott Owens, perhaps a gentle parody of the BC!

English: A pile of bacon

English: A pile of bacon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What the BC2 needs is more
bacon, longer
threads, posts that
tower  pitilessly over the merciless,
ideas that swell with babble & blab,
ideas that consider refuse
or politically correct nonsense,
waffles ripe with intentional falls
and ready to burst with maple flavour.

BCers who will watch anything
on the flick of a dial.
Why choose
when you can watch them all?

Suppose a BCer came to a cliff.
Suppose a waffle fell against vegemite.
Suppose the bacon ban pushed me to a pouting.
Suppose there were no ModPo forums.
Suppose I couldn’t discuss any more nonsense with you
and all I had to eat
were the poems I held in my only brain.

Who wouldn’t want a blab of the pave,
one that leaves you almost comatose,
tone-deaf and secreteing decibels,
grasping for straws, for bacon, for anything
to add another layer of nonsense, another layer of brilliance?

CAS Sept. 2013

I Effuse My Images in…Hot Places?! (a found in the forums poem)

I haven’t seen the video discussion yet
this poem as post-coital melancholy
Who killed the pork chops?
a Marxian question
What peaches and what
babies in the

English: A female African Bush Elephant raises...

English: A femaleAfrican Bush Elephant raises her trunk as a warning sign in MikumiNational Park, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

Who are Emily and Walt’s Literary Children?
Hands, the only part of her body she mentioned. Is that meaningful?
Geneticists discover: Whitman was right. We DO contain multitudes
Don’t Think of an Elephant


CAS Sept. 17 2013

A Screed in the Condensary

Distillation: a  condensation,
a process. Cognac from wine,
heated, cooled.
A liquid, never brewed,
now  different from its source.

Art: a similar process,
source and final versions related,
but different: a poem.

Mere screed.
No layoffs in this elaboratory…..

CAS riffing Ellen Dillon, during our Niedecker poems period
Sept. 2013

TOUGH COOKERY (The Steinery Concoctions) Oct. 4, 2013 CAS (Gertrude riffs)

Jiyuken Omelette Rice  A YELLOW OMELETTE.

If eggs are eggshell white if they absorb moisture and heat and even butter, if they sticky will slick a pan that has no heavy greasing, if they manage this and it is not morning it is not at all morning if they manage this they need a menu.


031/365 - Homemade Bacon

031/365 – Homemade Bacon (Photo credit: djwtwo)

All attention to constant spatters to a crackling, all attention to this creates out of it what is red in tasting and perhaps opaque in fat. The purpose of this is certain. Imagine a morning chosen and agreed, imagine it is also consensus, imagine no other meal will happen and no plates appear, imagine everything  else on the menu is burnt in a very large pan and might have turned into dry hard crisps, imagine all those things made a vegemite and imagine it was imagined, imagine the vegetarian way to a breakfast, if you imagine this at midnight and in a hushed tone, if you imagine this in spite of the required  event of an uncertain body of water and a ski slope in the distance, imagine this and an abundant buffet a groaning expanse of buffet is included certainly, it is not real and pleasant and tasting good. This which was so often a constraint was recurring.

Butter and a butter knife


Butter, what is butter, it is only lacking a knife.

The timing in that is that crumbs spoil a plate. The burning has begun. There is that smell. But perhaps we have, we have that scraping and that crust removal and quickly, neatly any is gone, mornings there is coffee and there will be a gooseberry preserve and ginger mostly ginger is that tart and tingling. For sure, toasting is fine-tuning and enticing.

There is no sense in empathy and in chemistry. There can be poached eggs in Mexican salsa. There is no recipe. There is no particular brand to use. It was used last week, that showed tomatoes and perhaps red peppers and onions. It lacked no taste and perhaps if substitutions are not necessary there is some sense in eating.

Bacon Strips Acquainted With The Eggs 

Bacon and eggs plate 4

Bacon and eggs plate 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


(a pastiche based on a Frost poem, I Have Been Acquainted with the Night..a Breakfast Club offering)
By Carol A Chilly (num de ploom)

Two bacon strips reside between the eggs.
Beside fresh toast and jam—and bread and jam.
The cups held tea but only now the dregs.

I cooked the eggs with finest butter first
I set the time for seven on the dial
Then ground the meat to flavour liverwurst.

I set each place at table with blue plate
And white napkins of French chantilly lace
the silver service too; do not come late!

But not because I want you here on time
The breakfast will still be upon your plate
I cannot promise it will taste as fine

If everything is walking on two legs.
Two bacon strips reside between the eggs.

October 6, 2013
CAS riffing Frost

Howling at the Sun

(riffing my favourite, Allen Ginsberg)

The ashcans of America rise up and rant out of their dark alleys of broken glass,
beat and battered and brilliant through the stale beer of doom
floating out of the hydrogen afternoon in Brooklyn, lost conversation
on the windowsills threatening to jump screaming
and vomiting eyeballs disgorged from subways
endlessly ridden beneath neon blinking lights fueled by benzedrine
clattering past cemeteries where bodies locked in bone-grinding dance
of ashes wander at midnight in the cosmos of Idaho
amid visionaries in limousines of winter illumined by the streetlights
and washed in rural rain, spattered in jazz riffs, hopeless and incomprehensible in the light of morning
at the bottom of a river bloated with orange crates and gibberish, coughing out the skeletons drifting down towards New Jersey in the animal soup of alchemy in a metered timeless unknown, naked and bleached, the suns of a thousand Augusts.

Carol A. Stephen
October 15, 2013

Always Bees, Birds, Bloodworms, Blunt Hymns bigstock_Yellow_Jacket_8341897

Always bananas and alfalfa allay
bees, never engender bejewelled
biddy bidding, biding big birds
blobs block bloodroot, bloodworms bloom
blunt, blurt bluffs, brusk, but
cry gypsy hymns, myths ply shy wry rhythms spryly

CAS Oct. 30, 2013
a Eunoiac style poem after Christian Bök


dense full so many images assault on senses once twice a third and more so Silliman so Hejinian so Guest so Ruthrig too I need time and space to absorb comprehend and be amazed and bemused or is that beMused one starry sky upon another a galaxy of bright points light in its extreme brilliance and play of colour on colour on odour on taste and I try to fill each line to the margins and it goes so wrong over and over perhaps done by Monday or Tuesday some year

Carol A. Stephen
November 7, 2013

As it was last year, there is sadness that it is over, and now we look forward to going deeper into other poems until the next time!

No-Comfort Zone Week Ending Sept. 23 2012

This week, I have continued with the Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course on Coursera, learning how to participate in a class that is bigger than my small town, at least population-wise. Al Filreisis the professor, and I send my thanks to him and to his great teaching assistants over at Kelly Writers House (and what a nice house that is!)

Kelly Writers House at the University of Penns...

Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve made another small breakthrough I think. Instead of worrying about the first assignment and fretting

that it is not “perfect”, I decided that to keep sane and up-to -date (well, almost!) I would need to let it be, and hand in well before the deadline.Starting tomorrow, we have to review our fellow students’ work.  Each of us has to do at least four. It will be interesting to see the different interpretations of Dickinson’s “I taste a liquor never brewed“.

Emily Dickinson

English: Passport photograph of American poet ...

This week, we’ve tackled Allan Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams, Lorine Niedecker, Cid Corman and Rae Armantrout. Some of the poets I’ve never heard of before, so that is quite fun. For the coming week, looks like we are heavily into WCW, including Red Wheelbarrow

Little Red WheelbarrowChicken Coop

and This Is Just to Say

… I once took a silly Facebook quiz: What Poem Would You Be? and that poem is the one that is apparently me. Or I am it…

Plums in basket

Plums in basket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Carol A. Stephen

This week my challenge was to start a 10-week course through Coursera

on Modern and Contemporary American Poetry given through the University of Pennsylvania. (ModPoPenn). This is a free course offered via a MOOC platform, or Massive Open Online Course.

Why massive? Well, there are more than 20,000 registered students. Yes, that’s right. Twenty thousand.

I had read about this back sometime in the early summer, and it sounded like a good course that would fill in the many gaps I have in my knowledge of American Poetry. I’ve heard of various schools like the Language Poets, the Post-Moderns, the Experimental.

But I wasn’t clear on what those were, or who belonged to which group.A week in now, and it has been wonderful, amazing, somewhat overwhelming. The number of discussions and posts going on make it hard to know where to focus, but I think I have a better idea how things will go from now on. Certainly I can’t read or respond to every post. So I will have to choose among them.

Already I have learned yet another term, proto-modernists, as we study Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and Walt Whitman. They are leading us into

Steel engraving of Walt Whitman. Published in ...

Steel engraving of Walt Whitman. Published in 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modern Poetry. In spite of how well-known these poets are, I have to admit to not reading them before. So it is interesting to read two different poets, both of whom were moving away from what was then the popular approach to writing poetry.

Thanks to Professor Al Filreis and the TA’s who are looking after us and guiding us along through the maze of the MOOC and the labyrinths of these two amazing poets!