Poetry in America for Credit

Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop

In Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop, available for professional development, undergraduate credit, or graduate credit, we will consider those American poets whose themes, forms, and voices have given expression to visions of the city since 1850.  Beginning with Walt Whitman, the great poet of nineteenth-century New York, we will explore the diverse and ever-changing environment of the modern city – from Chicago to London, from San Francisco to Detroit – through the eyes of such poets as Carl Sandburg, Emma Lazarus, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hayden, and Robert Pinsky, as well as contemporary hip-hop and spoken word artists.



The City from Whitman to Hip Hop was originally developed as part of our Poetry in America for Teachers collection, which offers courses designed for educators who would like to expand their own reading and teaching practice.  In the summer of 2019, our curriculum team updated the course to expand its reach to a wider audience.  This fall, we are excited to offer The City from Whitman to Hip Hop to a diverse group of learners that includes K-12 teachers, high-school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and lifelong learners.

Course participants will master advanced strategies for close reading complex texts, and, relatedly, for facilitating productive discussion centered on those texts.  Specifically, Poetry of the City is anchored in four approaches to close reading literary texts:

  1. Making Observations, with a focus on such skills as gathering and drawing conclusions from textual evidence; noticing patterns; tracing the development of central ideas and themes; detecting shifts in voice, tone, and point of view; and drawing comparisons across texts.
  2. Understanding Structure and Form, with a focus on analyzing structural features and patterns, such as the relation of structural sub-units (the sentence, the stanza) to one another and the whole; and the impact of formal choice (rhymed couplet or free verse, sonnet or limerick, lyric or narrative) on a given text.
  3. Situating Texts in History, with a focus on analyzing the relation of authors and texts to particular cultural, historical, and geographical contexts.
  4. Enjoying Language, with a focus on cultivating the pleasure and fun of poetry in the classroom, and on analyzing the function of such elements as figurative language, word choice, sound, and imagery within a literary text.


Poetry of the City features a combination of video tutorials and conversations, archival images and texts, expeditions to historic literary sites, sample classroom visits, and practical exercises designed to support skills development.  In this course you will:


No specialized scholarly knowledge of American poetry is required for this course.

Course participants are encouraged to enroll with friends or colleagues.