Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
ENG 265
Course Title:
International Political Poetry
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Develops students' understanding of how poets address issues of class oppression, economic inequality, racism, sexism, war, and peace. Shows how poets function as prophets, precursors, dissidents, and recorders. Prerequisites: WR 115 and RD 115 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Students will be able to:

1. Read analytically and discuss a broad assortment of political poetry from all continents.
2. Identify and understand themes, metaphors, and symbols pertinent to international political poetry.
3. Critically examine several political forces in the world that have been the primary cause of political poetry (e.g., the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Apartheid, the Tiananmen Massacre).
4. Critically examine some of the primary literary movements that pertain to the history and development of international political poetry, such as Romanticism, Surrealism, Futurism, Imagism.
5. Write interesting, well thought-out essays on political poetry.

Course Activities and Design

Course activities may consist of any of the following: lectures, group discussion, group projects, viewing films, listening to recorded readings, guest lectures, research projects, student presentations, in-class journal writing, student €˜zines, attending poetry slams as a class. Instructors are encouraged to allow their students the opportunity to explore the course topic through a variety of written mediums, from the informal journal to the formal term paper, from the analysis of poetry to the actual creation of poetry.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Final grades are a reflection of the students€™ understanding of the literature, history, political issues/concepts, and the quality of their work in the class. Instructors are encouraged to use a variety of assessment strategies: examinations, in-class writings, student essays, journals, student presentations, research projects, students€™ own poetry, reports on live performances/readings, etc.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  Examples of Themes, Concepts, & Issues.

  • Figures of Speech
  • Diction
  • Tone
  • Imagery
  • Symbol, Allegory
  • Rhythm & Meter
  • Irony
  • Poetic Forms (e.g., sonnet, ode, open form, sestina)
  • Bearing witness
  • Anti-war poetry
  • Slam poetry 
  • Performance poetry
  • Warfare (WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Six Days War)
  • Political ideology (imperialism, colonialism, totalitarianism, despotism, socialism, anarchism)
  • Genocide
  • Revolution
  • Exile


  • Critical reading
  • Comparison
  • Retention of literature and ideas
  • Definition and application of literary terms
  • Writing, both informal and formal
  • Maturity of speech
  • Listening

Text Selection:

Poetry anthologies devoted to political poetry are scarce; however, there is a very good one called Against Forgetting: 20th Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forche, that instructors new to the teaching of this class should consider. Individual volumes of poetry with political emphasis, on the other hand, are abundantly available and instructors are encouraged to add books of this kind onto their reading lists. Here are just a few examples of individual volumes that would work well for this course: Bei Dao€™s The August Sleepwalker, Denis Brutus€™s Remember Soweto, Wole Soyinka€™s Mandella€™s Earth and Other Poems, Mahmoud Darwish€™s The Adam and Two Edens, Rogue Dalton€™s Clandestine Poems, Wislawa Szymborska€™s View With a Grain of Sand, Adrienne Rich€™s An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1996, and Sonia Sanchez€™s Bum Rush the Paper: A Def Poetry Jam. For case studies, biographies with a political emphasis work particularly well, such as Elaine Feinstein€™s Anna of All the Russias, and Ian Gibson€™s The Assassination of Federico Garcia Lorca. Collections of essays on poetics such as Cysar Espinosa€™s Corrosive Signs and Adrienne Rich€™s Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations can also be used to supplement a reading list of primary works,