My first independent reading list is done for the semester. I do six reading assignments throughout the semester (though this time they’ll all read the same book for the third assignment), and students are expected to write about the books they read four times. There were a couple of books I was hoping to assign but no one asked for them or asked for work that might have informed the choice. Students asked for a much wider range of contemporary books this time than in previous classes, which is good; I think they’ll have ample opportunity in literature classes to discover work by poets like Frost, Hopkins, Stevens, Eliot.
Keeping true to my general rule, I assigned one book that I had not yet read, though I have finished reading it since the assignments went out and I think it will be very helpful to the student who requested it.
William Matthews, After All
Weldon Kees, The Fall of the Magicians
Philip Larkin, The Less Deceived
Robert Hass, Time and Materials
2 x Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard
Kay Ryan, Say Uncle
Ellen Bryant Voigt, The Lotus Flowers
2 x Carl Dennis, Practical Gods
Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven
Louise Glück, The Triumph of Achilles
Mark Jarman, Unholy Sonnets
Eavan Boland, Domestic Violence
Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III
Richard Wilbur, Things of This World
Ross Gay, Against Which
So, if one looks at the list above, is it painfully obvious which books were directly requested and which I suggested to students who chose largely traditional books? The first round is the hardest– I have not yet seen student work to inform the decision, so I was forced to go by their early comments in class (if they have made any) and the poem that they brought in as exemplary. Really, the biggest determinant was the five books they requested. Only three students did not get an author they requested; two students ended up with an author they requested but not one of the specific books on their list. The big surprise from the students: no one requested any beat poets. I think that’s the first time that’s happened in the first round.
How many of my old favorites for this assignment didn’t make the cut this time? (For example, when was the last time I did an independent reading assignment without Donald Justice?) Some of them were requested but not available in the library, some weren’t sniffed at. This will change. By the time the second assignment rolls around, they’ll be making spectacular requests. We just need more time together.