Creative Writing ~ ENGL 3327 (Updated for fall 2013)
Dr. Jonathan Alexander
609-894-9311 or 856-222-9311 (x1123)
Online syllabus

Course Description: This course will allow students to investigate their thoughts through poetry in an informal environment. It requires respect of the critical process and acknowledgement that true learning occurs with substantive comments. It requires appreciation for the uses of language and a (reasonably) serious desire to express yourself through poetry. The majority of the course will include free-writing and focus on the fundamentals. By the end of the course, each student will be exposed to the major components of poetry, such as setting, dialogue, characterization, point of view, rhythm, meter, cadence, line breaks, figures of speech and voice. We will be looking at various kinds of short poetic forms, how to use imagery and avoid using clichés, the structure of poems and how to develop your ideas in a poem.

Course Expectations:

Attendance: If the student is to profit from any course, he or she must attend class on a consistent basis.

Students must attend all classes for the full duration of each session. Should you need to miss a class for observance of religious holidays, jury duty, military duty, bereavement, or illness, you must notify the instructor by telephone or e-mail prior to or within 24 hours after the class. Without such communication, students forfeit the right to make up missed work. If such communication is made, students will be permitted to make up missed work at the beginning of the following class meeting. It is, therefore, the student’s responsibility to read the syllabus and be prepared for current as well as missed assignments.

Entering class late or leaving class early (without prior authorization) is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated.

Academic Etiquette: Students will respect themselves, their peers and their instructors by considering the following:

Cell phones must be kept on silent. No calls are to be made or received during class. If you are expecting an important call during the class meeting time, notify me prior to class and quietly excuse yourself if the call is received. No text-messaging or game-playing will be tolerated.

Students who wish to use the restrooms may do so by quietly leaving and re-entering the room. If a student believes he or she will require an absence of more than a few minutes, it is his responsibility to notify me accordingly.

Communication: Many means of communication are available to the student including telephone, e-mail and mailbox.

If you leave a message on my office voice-mail (x1123), please remember to speak clearly and provide your name, course information, and phone number if you request a return call.

If you contact me via e-mail, please include a “subject line” reference to the work being submitted. Students who send me e-mail and do not receive a reply of any kind within 48 hours should assume it was never received. Such e-mails should be resent. If your message doesn’t present itself as urgent, I may reply quickly and briefly and ask to get back to you before long.

Students who send e-mails containing attachments must save these documents as one of the following types: DOC, DOCX, TXT, or RTF. Please do not send any MAC “Pages” files, ODT, or WPS files. You may also choose to copy and paste the text of your assignment into the e-mail message itself, and always send a copy back to yourself  (or another email account) as a receipt to verify if the transmission fails to reach me.

Class Assignments:

All work written and submitted should utilize standard rules of grammar, sentence organization, paragraph organization, and diction.

All papers are to be typed, titled, double spaced, and carefully proofread. Documents are not to be held together by paperclips, alligator clips, or other creative measures. Papers will not be accepted unless they are stapled prior to arriving to class. Asking me to borrow a stapler is never encouraged.

All assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus (either in person or via email). Assignments which are not submitted by deadline will be penalized. If you happen to be absent for a particular class session and you wait to submit a paper until the next class meeting, it will lose 15% for each day it is late. NOTE: A “day” is a calendar day, not a class meeting. A paper which is received by email within two hours of the end of the assigned class session will be considered submitted on time (without a penalty for lateness). All other papers received after two hours will incur a 15% penalty per day.

If a student presents reasonable justification for an absence, this absence will not be counted against the student’s course grade; however, such an absence does not allow for more time to complete assignments. Since students are provided with all assignments and deadlines on the first day of the semester, excuses such as “crashed computers,” “misplaced data,” “misplaced flash drives,” or “empty printer ink cartridges” will not be accepted. There is no excuse for not saving all documents twice (hard drive and floppy/flash).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the College (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee). Please refer to the FDU Student Handbook for additional information regarding University regulations and the handling of plagiarism.


Explanation of Assignments:
Each day, students will spend 15-20 minutes freewriting about several topics to be announced. This type of writing is meant to be free of structure, criticism, censure or editorial. Homework assignments will generally be derived from these freewriting exercises. Students are expected to write freely for the duration of the exercises. Do not stare too long at a blank page and do not spend too much time constructing the perfect sentence. Students are permitted either to bring a laptop to type their work or paper to write.

HOMEWORK ACTIVITIES (75 pts): Students will submit five poems for homework (selected from the seven options below). Although the five different assignments can be submitted in any order, each must be typed and double-spaced using Courier or Times Roman 12 pt. font. Homework should have a creative title and be clearly marked with the homework topic. Although no specific subjects are provided for homework assignments, students are encouraged to incorporate information from in-class freewrites as part of homework pieces.

HW Topic



Syllable count

Rhyme scheme







Direct address


5 lines


5 7 5 7 7




14 lines

Iambic pentameter

10 / line




5 lines

Anapestic meter

9 9 6 6 9








down left






down middle







Sample poetry:



In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you’re pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl


(Elizabeth Bishop, “Letter to N.Y.”


NOTICE: An epistolary takes the form of a direct address to someone or something, most often appearing as some formal method of communication (like a letter). Traditionally, an epistolary is not defined by rhyme or meter. 



Snow-covered pine trees

line the frozen pathway home,

but we turn away.

The world is a lake of ice,

and we have one warm hand each.
(Author Unknown)


NOTICE: Derived from Asian culture, tankas always have five lines with a fixed number of syllables in each line (five in the first, seven in the second, five in the third and seven in the fourth and fifth). There is no specific rhyme pattern or meter in a tanka; however, the addition of rhyme or meter would not change the tanka’s formal legitimacy. The topic or focus is usually (but not limited to) nature. Tankas often appear in series (many linked together to illustrate a larger landscape or story).




Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:


Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:


But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,


So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)


NOTICE: A pure English sonnet has fourteen lines with a fixed rhyme pattern. The following lines have the same end rhyme: 1 and 3, 2 and 4, 5 and 7, 6 and 8, 9 and 11, 10 and 12, 13 and 14. The English sonnet also has a fixed pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables (called meter). In an English sonnet, the even-numbered syllables are stressed as indicated by the following underlining: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate). In general, there is a shift in tone at line 9, and often a concluding moral theme in the final rhymed couplet.





There once was a lady named bright

Whose speed was much faster than light
She set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

(J. Richard Gott)


NOTICE: A limerick is a five-line poem with a fixed rhyme scheme and meter. Lines 1,2, and 5 rhyme as do lines 3 and 4. The metrical structure of a limerick is anapest (which means that a pattern is established to show stress on every third beat). In this example, the first three lines show that the first stressed beat is actually the second syllable, but the pattern of “every third” is maintained for the rest of the line: There once was a lady named bright / Whose speed was much faster than light / She set out one day). In the fourth and fifth lines, the first stressed beat is now the third syllable, but again the pattern of “every third” is maintained for the rest of the line: In a relative way / And returned on the previous night.




Give me your patience, sister, while I frame
Exact in capitals your golden name;
Or sue the fair Apollo and he will
Rouse from his heavy slumber and instill
Great love in me for thee and Poesy.
Imagine not that greatest mastery
And kingdom over all the Realms of verse,
Nears more to heaven in aught, than when we nurse
And surety give to love and Brotherhood.

Anthropophagi in Othello's mood;
Ulysses storm'd and his enchanted belt
Glow with the Muse, but they are never felt
Unbosom'd so and so eternal made,
Such tender incense in their laurel shade
To all the regent sisters of the Nine
As this poor offering to you, sister mine.

Kind sister! aye, this third name says you are;
Enchanted has it been the Lord knows where;
And may it taste to you like good old wine,
Take you to real happiness and give
Sons, daughters and a home like honied hive.
(John Keats, “Georgiana Augusta Keats”)


NOTICE: An acrostic establishes a word (sometimes referred to as the anchor word), down the left edge of the poem (comprising the first letter of all lines of the poem). Traditionally, there is generally no rhyme or meter (though Keats has utilized rhyme and meter in this sample). The focus of the poem is either directly connected to the anchor word or somehow ironically or satirically connected.




      let us maKe

          of thIs



        a room Holding

    tons of lovE

           (&, Naturally, much good food, too)

(Author Unknown)


NOTICE: As with an acrostic, a mesostic establishes an anchor  word, but it does so internally down the word. The letters that comprise the anchor are arbitrary, but the typesetting of the poem must consider that these letters must occur nearly directly vertically in line top to bottom. Consider using Courier font to establish consistent spacing among letters. Traditionally, there is generally no rhyme or meter. The focus of the poem is either directly connected to the anchor word or somehow ironically or satirically connected.






Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.

I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.

Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.

I know well the grass blades you mention,

the furniture you have placed under the sun.


But suicides have a special language.

Like carpenters they want to know which tools.

They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,

have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,

have taken on his craft, his magic.


In this way, heavy and thoughtful,

warmer than oil or water,

I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.

Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.

Suicides have already betrayed the body.


Still-born, they don't always die,

but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet

that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—

that, all by itself, becomes a passion.

Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say,


and yet she waits for me, year after year,

to so delicately undo an old wound,

to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,

raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,

leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,


leaving the page of the book carelessly open,

something unsaid, the phone off the hook

and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

(Anne Sexton, “Wanting to Die”


NOTICE: A confessional takes the form of an autobiographical poem, usually admitting to some very personal or intimate truth. The information in a confessional doesn’t have to be humiliating, embarrassing or shameful, but it often is. Traditionally, an epistolary is not defined by rhyme or meter. 




Schedule of Sessions:

Session 1: Monday, August 26
Introduction to poetic forms

Session 2: Monday, September 9
Freewriting / Workshopping

            Homework #1 due via email by Friday, Sept 13

Session 3: Monday, September 16
Freewriting / Workshopping / Sharing

            Homework #2 due via email by Friday, September 20

Session 4: Monday, September 23
Freewriting / Workshopping / Sharing

            Homework #3 due via email by Friday, September 27

Session 5: Monday, September 30
Freewriting / Workshopping / Sharing

            Homework #4 due via email by Friday, October 4

Session 6: Monday, October 7
Freewriting / Workshopping / Sharing

            Homework #5 due via email by Friday, October 11

Session 7: Monday, October 14