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Introduction to Poetry

All you ever wanted to know about poetry—and then some.

Shmoop's Introduction to Poetry course has been granted a-g certification, which means it has met the rigorous iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and will now be honored as part of the requirements for admission into the University of California system.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
This is a poem.

And this is one,

Okay, so maybe we're not the most profound poets on the block, but that doesn't mean we can't teach you a thing or two about the trade. This course will introduce you to everything poetry: from the fancy terms (enjambment! iamb! villanelle!) to the stuff you think you know but really don't (lines! rhymes! rhythm!). And along the way, you may even become a poet yourself. Yeah, we said it.

Technology Requirements

Required Skills

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Poetry: A Scoop

This unit will help you get your feet wet in poetry, giving you a handy dandy guide to How to Read a Poem and bringing you face to face with a few fun poetic forms.

Unit 2. Setting and Poetic Devices

Every poem has a setting, whether or not it's obvious. This unit will help you find the setting and figure out why it matters.

Unit 3. It's All in the Music

What's a course on poetry without talk of poetic devices? This unit will tackle metaphor, simile, imagery, rhyme, and sound. You know, just the basics.

Unit 4. Sonnet? We Hardly Know It

An entire unit on sonnets? You betcha.

Unit 5. Poetic Forms and Traditions

Sonnets aren't the only important poetic form. This unit will help you distinguish between lyric, epic, and narrative poetry, while introducing you to everything from the haiku to the ghazal (gesundheit!). And of course, we'll top things off with some fancy free verse.

Unit 6. Only the Good Notes: Music as Poetry

Bruce Springsteen and Billie Holiday—and a bunch of other goodies—comin' at ya in this unit on music as poetry.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 2: Sound in Action

A sketch of a man digging in the ground
Mining for musical devices is a dangerous game. We recommend hard hats and doughnuts for morale.

In today's lesson, we're going to let you loose on a poem. You're going to use your newly-trained musical ear to take it apart, study its musical anatomy, and draw up a fab report.

Because we don't do lab reports in Poetry Class, but we are fabulous.

We'll hone our close reading skills by identifying musical devices in action, and examining how this poem's music helps make meaning.

The poem in question? Seamus Heaney's "Digging." You may have heard of it, in another English class, at some hi-fi cocktail party. Or, we don't know, a handful of lessons ago when you wrote an extended analysis on the importance of speaker versus setting within it.

What we're saying is this. You got this poem down, but you won't have dug down to its darkest depths until you've studied its music.

  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10
  • Course Type: Elective
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature
    • High School

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