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English 140-143
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Karl J. Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Office Hours: M-Th 4-5:30
Phone: 619-644-7871




About Poetry Writing
English 140: Poetry Writing I
English 141: Poetry Writing II
English 142: Poetry Writing III
English 143: Poetry Writing IV
Other Study Components, Materials, And Resources
Contract Grading
Adding and Dropping
The Required Texts
The Recommended Texts
Acorn Review

Absence And Tardiness During The Semester
Instructor Absence
Writing Demands
Manuscript Style
Duplication And Distribution
Workshop Demands
Keeping It "Real" Versus Helping Honestly
Subject Matter And Content
Accommodations For Students With Disabilities
Changes To Course Outline
Office Hours
Classroom Behavior
Degree Certificate In Creative Writing


3 units, 3 hours lecture. Transfers to CSU, UC. Meets on Thursdays, 7:00 - 9:50 p.m. All four courses, I through IV, are offered concurrently. However, they must be taken in sequence. (For instance, you can’t jump from Poetry Writing I to Poetry Writing III.)

English 140: Poetry Writing I

Prerequisite: A “CR” or “C” grade or higher in ENGL 110 or equivalent or assessment for 120. Recommended preparation: English 126: Creative Writing / A basic understanding of poetic terms and techniques.
The first of a four-course sequence, this class is designed to familiarize students with the study, analysis, and application of the fundamental tools, techniques, and forms of poetry used by established and contemporary poets. By composing and submitting original poems, students learn to use the writers’ workshop to develop their skills as writers and critics. Students have opportunities for recognition and public readings of their own work.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of English 140: Poetry Writing I students will be able to do the following:

  1. Identify and employ fundamental elements of poetry and use specific details from memory,

  2. imagination, knowledge, and research to invent, draft, revise, and reflect upon poems in free verse and traditional forms.

  3. Use the writers’ workshop to evaluate their own poems as well as the poems of others (both orally and in writing) to develop skills as critics and writers of poetry.

  4. Discuss the content and form of poems by emerging, established, and/or contemporary poets.

English 141: Poetry Writing II

Prerequisite: A “CR” or “C” grade or higher in ENGL 140.
The second of a four-course sequence, this intermediate level class is designed to further skill development in the study, analysis, and application of the tools, techniques, and forms of poetry used by established and contemporary poets. By composing and submitting original poems, students use the writers’ workshop to further develop competency as critics and writers of poetry. Students have opportunities for recognition, publication, and public readings of their own work. 

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of English 141: Poetry Writing II, our students will be able to do the following:

  1. At an intermediate level, identify and employ elements of poetry and use specific details from memory, imagination, knowledge, and research to invent, draft, revise, and reflect upon poems in free verse and traditional forms.

  2. Use the writers’ workshop to evaluate their own poems as well as the poems of others (both orally and in writing) to continue growth as poets.

  3. At an intermediate level, discuss and assess the content and form of poems by emerging,

  4. established, and/or contemporary poets.

English 142: Poetry Writing III

Prerequisite: A “CR” or “C” grade or higher in ENGL 141.
The third of a four-course sequence, this advanced level class is designed to expand student proficiency in the study, analysis, and application of the tools, techniques, and forms of poetry used by established and contemporary poets. By composing and submitting original poems, students use the writers’ workshop to deepen their skills as critics and emerging poets. Students have opportunities for publication and public readings of their own work.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of English 142: Poetry Writing III students will be able to do the following:

  1. At an advanced level, identify and employ elements of poetry and use specific details from memory, imagination, knowledge, and research to invent, draft, revise, and reflect upon poems in free verse, traditional, and experimental forms.

  2. Use the writers’ workshop to evaluate their own poems as well as the poems of others (both orally and in writing) to demonstrate proficiency as critics and writers of poetry.

  3. At an advanced level, interpret, assess, and synthesize the content and form of poems by emerging, established, and/or contemporary poets.


English 143: Poetry Writing IV

Prerequisite: A “CR” or “C” grade or higher in ENGL 142.
The final of a four-course sequence, this mastery-level class is designed to strengthen student expertise in the study, analysis, and application of the tools, techniques, and forms of poetry used by established and contemporary poets. By crafting and submitting original poems, students use the writers’ workshop to refine their skills as critics and poets, as well as explore avenues for publication. Students have opportunities for publication, public readings of their own work, and special projects.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of English 143: Poetry Writing IV, our students will be able to do the following:

  1. At a mastery level, identify and employ elements of poetry and use specific details from memory, imagination, knowledge, and research to invent, draft, revise, and reflect upon poems in free verse, traditional, and experimental forms.

  2. Use the writers’ workshop to evaluate their own poems as well as the poems of others (both orally and in writing) and to demonstrate mastery as critics and writers of poetry.

  3. At a mastery level, interpret, assess, and synthesize the content and form of poems by emerging, established, and contemporary poets.


On June 11, 2011 the Board of Governors, the governing body for the California Community Colleges, adopted new regulations that limit the number of times a community college district could receive state funding for a student who has enrolled in the same credit course. The maximum number of times a student may enroll in the same credit course is three times.

  1. A student, through a combination of substandard grades (D or F) and withdrawals on their student record, may only take a class three times.

  2. If a student, through a combination of substandard grades (D or F) and withdrawals, wishes to take a class for the fourth time, they must submit a petition to the Admissions and Records Office. Petitions will only be approved based on extenuating circumstances.

  3. Military Withdrawals do not count in terms of repetition restrictions, nor do withdrawals that occur due to fire, flood (Title 5 Sections 55024 and 58509)

  4. This rule does not contain a grandfather clause. If a student has already reached the maximum allotted number of course repetitions, the district will not be able to claim apportionment for that course.


Plus/Minus [+/-] grading will not be used for the final grades in this course. Furthermore, I do not assign letter grades to the working drafts or final drafts of creative work. Rather, I credit the degree to which each work lives up to the spirit of the assignment and honors the craft and criteria for that particular genre. Your evaluated work is returned with an assessment so that you may can continue to revise, redevelop and, in some cases, re-envision your work in anticipation of its inclusion in a Final Portfolio.

Completion of the process--from workshop draft to revised final draft--earns full credit for that assignment. Students sometimes mistakenly believe, then, that the full weight of their course grade rests on the Final Portfolio because, as a fulfillment of the final examination, it is the only written project to receive a letter grade. This is inaccurate. Course involvement and workshop contribute a sizable portion of your grade, and faithful and earnest commitment to each assignment is critical to your success in the course. Furthermore, my assessment of your Final Portfolio is subjective, but based on my professional expertise and my evaluation of the success and degree of the revisions made to the work as a result of previous assessments and workshop comments. If at any point you have questions about the progress of your work, I would be genuinely thrilled to sit down and discuss it with you, as well as to read and comment on any work you are revising. This would be best achieved
by a visit to my office during regular office hours, or by a special appointment.

The following is an explanation of how the Contract Grading will work in this class.

Requirements for an “A”:

  1. Complete the final project with at least 8 new poems developed over the semester;demonstrate frequent revisions (as needed) throughout the semester.

  2. Complete all reading and writing assignments and actively participate in class discussions.

  3. Provide conscientious and constructive criticism of peers’ work—orally and in writing—in small group and class workshops.

  4. Miss no more than one or two classes and attend class on time.

  5. For Advanced Students: successfully complete advanced projects proposed in Week 2.

Requirements for a “B”:

  1. Complete the final project with at least 8 new poems developed over the semester; demonstrate moderate revisions.

  2. Complete all reading and writing assignments and participate in class discussions.

  3. Provide constructive criticism of peers’ work—orally and in writing—in small group and class workshops.

  4. Miss no more than three classes and come to class on time.

Requirements for a “C” or “Credit”:

  1. Complete the final project.

  2. Complete all reading and writing assignments.

  3. Show growth as a critic by working to provide constructive criticism of peers’ work—orally and in writing—in small group and class workshops.

  4. Miss no more than three classes and come to class on time.

“D” and “F” and “No Credit” students are those who fail to complete the minimum writing requirements (see item 1) and who accumulate excessive absences (more than three). Students who do not turn in the final project will not pass the class.

Please note: the contract grading system is subject to the teacher’s discretion. The final grade is determined according to the student’s overall performance in the class and the teacher’s earnest attempt to be fair and impartial.


This course may added or dropped without incurring a “W” on your record up until the official deadline at the end of the semester’s second week. (Further information, including important holidays, and deadlines for Credit/No Credit application and final Withdrawal, are posted on-line to the Academic Calendar. If you elect not to continue with the class during the first two weeks and you stop showing up for class, your name will be added to an official Census Drop Roster. After the first two weeks, however, it is exclusively the student's responsibility to process an official drop from course, and to do so before the withdrawal deadline (usually the Friday of Week 12 during a sixteen week semester). If you do not, you will be given a final course grade commensurate to your completed work and involvement in the class—which, in most cases, is a "D."


Please do not treat any of these texts as unimportant just because they're not the same kind of textbook required in a History class or Psychology course. These books have been chosen, not only to aid you in your development as a poet this semester, but because some of the authors represented will actually be visiting Grossmont College to do readings and master classes. Coming to our class without these books on days when they are clearly marked as "required" in your course outline will mean you are unprepared, which is treated as a classroom behavioral problem. In short, obtaining these books is a non-negotiable. They're pretty inexpensive, and at least one of them can be gotten cheaply on Kindle. More importantly, they represent a common goal: to be published as a contemporary writer of poetry. If you genuinely wish to write and publish your own poetry, then it behooves you to support other contemporary poets by buying their books.  Get them as inexpensively as you can, but get them. Be told!

The Best American Poetry Ali Kazim, The Fortieth Day
Ada Limon, Bright Dead Things Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  • Lehman David and Edward Hirsch, Eds. The Best American Poetry 2016. Scribner, 2016. ISBN: 9781501127564 [Also available for Kindle]

  • Kazim, Ali. The Fortieth Day. BOA Ltd, 2008. ISBN: 9781934414040 [Also available for Kindle]

  • Limón, Ada. Bright Dead Things. Milkweed Press, 2015. ISBN: 9781571314710 [Also available for Kindle]

If any of these texts cannot be made available by the campus bookstore, please order it on-line. Kindle versions are acceptable to use in the classroom. The important thing is that you HAVE THE BOOKS WITH YOU IN CLASS when readings from them are assigned.    



  • Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor, 1995. ISBN: 9780385480017



Acorn ReviewYou are strongly encouraged to submit some of your poems this semester to Acorn Review. Acorn Review is the official Grossmont College creating writing journal containing examples of student writers and artists, and is edited, designed and published by students of English 145-148: Acorn Review, Editing and Production. As a component of this course, this small press literary journal offers an excellent opportunity to practice revising, preparing, and submitting your work for publication. Some students who are members of the Poetry workshop may have already served as editors on Acorn Review, or will become editors in the near future. In fact, a representative from the editorial board of Acorn Review may visit the class to introduce the submission guidelines, deadlines, and other important information about the journal as well as English 145.


The following will also be needed during your time in this course.

    1. student manuscripts and other xeroxed materials to be distributed during the semester;

    2. events attended as a group, followed with discussion;

    3. a dedicated notebook for this course, paper, and writing instruments;

    4. access to a computer/word processor (a flash drive is also recommended);

    5. a good dictionary and thesaurus (I can't stress enough how indispensable this is to your process);

    6. a willing and honest acquaintance with the subject matter of your own life.


Assuming you have dutifully attended all sessions during the first two weeks, you are expected to attend all remaining scheduled sessions of this course, and to be on time. Tardy arrival and premature departure are noted, and two incidences of these are equivalent to one absence. Excessive unexcused absences (three) are sufficient grounds to be dropped from the course, after which time re-admittance will not be considered.

Unexcused Random Absence

Unexcused random absences are those that happen without warning or explanation. They're capricious from the point of view of a teacher. I am by no means suggesting that you won't perhaps one day have a good personal reason to miss class. However, they are still "personal" reasons and as such cannot be considered excused; they should be reasons that, to you, are good enough to accept the consequences of your actions. Some examples: you're too tired or too blue to attend; you have to collect someone at the airport; you forgot to bring your books so you felt too unprepared; that movie you wanted to see in IMAX opens today; you couldn't afford your trolley fare; you scheduled a dental appointment; your cousin is marrying in Toledo and you have to fly out because you're in the wedding party; your sister's in labor; you've got a test or a project for another class scheduled during the same time as this one; you weren't feeling well at school so you left; you just need a personal day so you played hookie.

Unexcused Pattern Absence and Tardiness

Pattern absence and tardiness indicate a fundamental conflict either with the course's schedule meeting time or with your commitment to participating in the class. It's in your best interest to resolve such conflicts if you wish to remain in the course. Examples: your boss keeps scheduling you during the class time; you cannot find childcare during the hours of the class; you schedule routine appointments during class time; your obligations to another class at this or another college interfere; your ride to school is guilty of any of the above; your bus doesn't get you to campus until ten minutes after class has begun; you can't find parking on campus. In these examples either a pattern of behavior is responsible or a conflict of interest interferes; either way, it is completely up to a student to resolve these issues so that a proper commitment to the class can be made. Otherwise, it is recommended that another section of the course, with a different day or time, be considered.

Excused Absence

Excusable absences are determined as unavoidable and serious, and which are chiefly owed to documented emergencies, such as car accidents, hospital visits, court appearances and subpoenas, funerals, jury duty, and religious or federal holidays.

Exam Conflicts

Please note, since Grossmont College instructors aren't permitted to schedule lectures or exams outside the officially scheduled period for their courses, no such conflict should occur with your Poetry Writing course unless you are taking two GC classes at the same time. If you are taking courses at another campus, look ahead to the final examination schedule to check whether there may be a conflict.

Notify me: If you had to be absent, or you expect to be absent or you realize you will be tardy, it is in your best interest to e-mail me or talk with me privately about the matter. Documenting your own absence in this way demonstrates you are trying to be responsible and committed to the course. If you didn't expect to be late to class (because, for instance, a traffic jam occurred), you should always come to class anyway. It's better to come in late
than not attend at all. As a courtesy to me, and any other instructor placed in the same position, please do not e-mail a request to write you with a summary of everything you missed on a day you were absent. I provide all of my resources and a detailed course outline on the course website that describes what you will have missed if you are absent. Please use your syllabus in the spirit with which it is intended. You are always welcome, however, to come see me during my office hours and review this material together.


Whenever possible, if I must cancel class or change the scheduled class content, I try to alert students in advance by e-mail. For that reason, you should make sure that my e-mail address,, is put in your address book and, at the very least, made immune somehow to your spam filters. Important announcements have gone unheeded in the past because students didn't check their bulk mail folders! However, should I not arrive to class within fifteen minutes after its start time and you do not see a sign-in sheet posted on the door, then I would be obliged if someone volunteered to pass around a sign-up sheet, then slip it under my office door: 558A. This scenario would happen only in extreme circumstances. Thank you.


During the semester, you’ll be given six writing prompts to help stimulate new poems and get you thinking about different concerns in the craft of writing poems. By the end of the semester, you’ll be expected to have completed eight poems total, which will be part of a final portfolio project. (Details about this are forthcoming.) 


Handwritten work is not accepted unless the writing is done during class time.
Not only does handwritten work rarely duplicate properly, it is often difficult to read aloud during workshops. Otherwise, all assignments, whether in working draft form or finished draft, must be typed and conform to a standard manuscript style: 8.5 x 11" white, standard printer paper; black ink; one-inch margins; single-spaced; complete title page information in the upper left corner: name, workshop level (Poetry I, II, III, or IV), and,
most importantly, the date!
(information in the upper left corner: name, workshop level (Poetry I, II, III, or IV), and, most importantly, the dateAlways make a habit of dating your revisions.) Here’s an example of what to include in the
upper left-hand corner, but a more complete “Sample Manuscript” is available for study elsewhere on this website.


Duplicating manuscripts is a straightforward process: unless otherwise instructed, bring four copies of your poem on the night of small-group workshops and personally distribute them to your workshop peers and to me. (Keep a fifth copy for yourself.) Feel free to make copies two-side to conserve paper, if you like. Bring one copy on the due date for whole-class workshops (usually two weeks in advance of the first whole-class workshop.)
Computers and printing facilities are also available in the LRC.

If you’ve had a printer emergency and you can't make four copies in time for class, send me an e-mail with your poem attached and I’ll print out four copies for you. Please ask me to do this only as a last resort. On nights when we arrange a class-wide workshop, you are welcome to bring me a poem in advance of the distribution date, and I’ll duplicate the required number of copies for you.

If, for any reason, you can’t make it to class to pick up poems for the next week’s workshop, make certain you arrange to pick them up from me in my office beforehand. Likewise, if for any reason you have to miss a workshop for legitimate, unavoidable reasons, you’re expected to arrange delivery of your critiques to your workshop peers.

IMPORTANT: You must be present during your own workshop. If you’re absent for your own workshop, you’ll still receive feedback, but your window of opportunity will have passed until the next scheduled workshop date.


The first known use of the word “workshop” in 1562 referred to a small establishment in which the shop’s proprietor made handcrafted objects or products, often as a teaching tool for apprentices. If you’re familiar with the traditional high school “Shop” class, then you get the idea. The intimacy of the environment and the goal of “craftsmanship” that defined a sixteenth century workshop still apply to the contemporary poetry workshop process: groups focused on the “handcraft” of the poem through an appraisal of technique, design, and artistry.

Workshops in this course will consist of round-table and open discussion of a student’s work in a manner that will give everyone equal time and equal opportunity to comment. During an actual workshop session, poets will read aloud their own work (unless they request otherwise), followed immediately by discussion. During discussion, the poet should withdraw far enough from the ensuing discussion to listen in on it and, in a non-participatory manner, record notes and prepare questions for later: responding, correcting, or questioning peers as they talk about your poem is not permitted; this is a non-negotiable, and those of you who may be naturally gregarious will need to make a concerted effort to keep yourself in check. (Workshoppers, you are invited to take up the job more aggressively if your peer will not acquiesce to this demand: each of you will be given the option to administer a mild electric shock to your peer when he or she refuses to obey the gag rule; groups are solely responsible for establishing the maximum voltage allowed. Fetishistic misuse of this privilege may lead to further reprimand.) Note- taking is highly recommended. Your instructor will check in on the groups each week and contribute commentary where appropriate. All of this will be the basis for revising your poem and resubmitting it to the instructor the following week.

There will be two kinds of workshop conducted in the class this semester: small-group workshops, and whole-class workshops. During the first half of the semester, small-group workshops will be the norm: each week you'll bring four copies of your latest poem (written in response to a weekly assignment) and convene with three of your workshop peers. (It is crucial to bring copies of your work; do not neglect this.) During the second half of the semester, we'll conduct several whole-class workshops that will give you the chance to couch yourself with your classmates’ poems and study them for a week before workshopping them. Your instructor will schedule you for one of four workshop days, and your poem will be included in a packet of 6 or more poems to be distributed one week in advance of your workshop. During that week, your peers will be expected to prepare a written critique that is at least one typed double-spaced page in length. This printed critique and the hard copy of your peer’s poem will be returned the next week at the end of the workshop. Additionally, you’ll submit one copy of your critiques to me, your instructor, which will go into your course dossier and become part of your evaluated portfolio of work at the end of the semester. You'll be reminded of these instructions later in the semester.


Each week in which a workshop is scheduled, you're expected to return the drafts of the poems to your peers, which should bear your editing marks, corrections, and impressions, written either in the margins or on the back of the page. However, completion of critiques also contributes to your course grade.*  Here are the critical requirements based on course level sequence:

  • Poetry Writing I, English 140: Critique sheets (blanks to be distributed with each assignment), one per poem, with short answers recommending suggestions and offering commentary. You may confine all of your answers to the critique sheet, or you can use the critique sheet to write your answers directly in the margins or back of the poem--as long as all the relevant topics on the critique sheet have been addressed.

  • Poetry Writing II, English 141: in additional to edits and comments written directly on the draft, you should compose a minimum one typed paragraph (double-spaced), per poem, with critical comments and suggestions for revision; you have the option of completing the critique sheets as well, but this will not be considered a substitution for the prose paragraph.

  • Poetry Writing III-IV, English 142-143: approximately one typed page (double-spaced, 1" margins) per poem, containing suggestions, comments, ideas for revision, and other helpful, well-intentioned input.

*If a peer has not submitted a critique to you, fear not: you won't be penalized for someone else's omission.  Simply indicate this when you submit your revisions in the Manila folder on the designated due dates.

Successfully composing critiques is, quite frankly, just as important to your development as a poet as successfully completing drafts of poems, which is why they will be a factor in your final course grade. The goal of a critique should be to suggest specific ways that a poem can be strengthened and refined. The following is a good, practical checklist of what to include, but critique sheets will be made available for each assignments to aid you:

    1. paraphrase what you believe the poem is about, and what it says or accomplishes;

    2. offer general comment about how well it accomplishes this;

    3. discuss the extent to which the poem affected or engaged you;

    4. make recommendations for revisions and refinements based on

  • imagery
  • diction
  • line breaks
  • voice
  • etc.

(For a more complete list of criteria, please download and review the PDF handout "How We Talk When We Talk About Poems" by Sydney Brown.)

Notice in the list above that psychoanalyzing the writer based on the content of her poem is not on the agenda. Notice, too, that certain elements you might have expected, such as rhyme and form, or spelling and grammar, are altogether missing. You can surmise from this that we will NOT be writing and workshopping traditional formal poetry this semester unless a specific form is assigned. Furthermore, while accurate punctuation, correct spelling, and good grammar are worthy goals, they are editing recommendations, not critical recommendations for revision of content. You should include editing suggestions on the hard copy of the poem, but you are dissuaded from dwelling on these in your written critiques unless a point about punctuation contributes to your discussion about line breaks, imagery, or some other valid criterion for critical examination.

IMPORTANT: You must, must, must include your name on your written critiques and should sign the hard copy to take ownership of your handwritten comments.


I'm always annoyed by nature programs that insist on graphic scenes of predation. I didn't miss the memo about the harsh reality of life in the big, bad wilderness. I know it sucks for the inexperienced, the young, the small, the frail, the damaged, and the guileless.

Similarly, you already know the world of publishing can be cut-throat and unfair. This class is not that world. It doesn't need to be. What it needs to be is a sanctuary of humanity and instruction, not a primitive ego-driven savanna. That observation is meant largely for those who will give workshop criticism. As recipients of others' critiques, we're already well aware of how much our own egos are a liability. It's the ones with the power to talk that I most worry about. I've noticed that when people are too lazy to practice tact, they will readily justify their rudeness as "being real," as though kindness were somehow fake or weak-minded and the only legitimate type of honesty were "brutal" honesty. Do not fool yourself into believing such pap. Being a critic of other people's work gives you a sacred responsibility to help other writers, and if you expect to grow as a poet, you'll need to practice refining your own critical skills in a way that reaches out to a fellow writer with caring, tact, and truthfulness.

Unfortunately, poets in particular carry a certain (ahem) reputation. We're often high-drama, high maintenance people. A good number of us are Emily Dickinsons: our drama happens on an internal landscape, and we brood and tear up when no one's around, putting away our deep feelings into dresser drawers and tying them up in tight, anally retentive bundles. The rest of us are Walt Whitmans: our drama is out in the open, jiggling and naked, exposing our feelings in boisterously grab-ass, reactive outbursts. For either type, it's hard not to feel judged when our art and ideas are put under the spotlight of the workshop. Perhaps this is even truer for the genre of poetry than other genres, because (allegedly) the wellspring of our poems is more psychological and emotional, and our egos and our mental health can get tied up with our poems.

For that reason, it's important that you commit yourself, here and now, to being the most nurturing, caring, sensitive, and supportive workshopper you can be. No matter what strategy for critical analysis you may already be used to, make a firm decision today that you won't let your ego get in the way of your workshop criticism, whether you're giving it or receiving it. This doesn't have to preclude honesty. However, aggressive workshop criticism and strongly defensive reactions to it are unproductive and self-aggrandizing. No one likes self-aggrandizement. Granted, it might be difficult to suppress your ego because of the subject matter of this course, but it's nonetheless required. Even if you have been wounded in the past by harsh workshop criticism, or you've been rebuffed by an editor's rejection of your manuscripts, or some nasty curmudgeon of a teacher has savaged your poem with bloody red ink, resolve to be better than this. Make a concerted effort to break the cycle and, instead, work diligently and compassionately to help your fellow poets write the best versions of their poems they can.

Here, too, is a matter of concern: this course is designed to be a community of poets with different writing experience, diverse skills sets, and varied abilities in workshopping. Beginning poets are in the same environment as those with some expertise. Again, this isn't the African savanna: we shouldn't be wildebeest and hyenas nervously circling each other. Regardless of how familiar or inexperienced you may be with a workshop course like this, please try to remind yourself that the class isn't a competitive arena. Instead, look to your growing poetry expertise and accomplishment as something of a duty to shepherd, mentor and counsel the less experienced. If you recall your own insecurities about sharing your poetry for the first time, this may help to make you more empathetic to your peers.


No topic is forbidden from a poem. However, that doesn't mean I don't have standards. Some topics lend themselves to triteness and sentimentality more than others, and if these turn up in your poems, I'll likely push you to go deeper and try to write about your topic in a less expected manner. Other than that, most anything goes, with the exception of these few non-negotiables:

  1. HATE-SPEECH: If a work seems written expressly for the promotion or glorification of violence, racism, misogyny, or hatred for any group of individuals, it will not be considered for workshop nor permitted to go into your portfolio of written work.

  2. VULGARITY: The word "vulgar" derives from the Latin for "folk" or "common." This, alone, makes for a conflicting attitude about the role of vulgarity in poetry. Although foul language can most definitely be used in a poem with intellectual purpose, most cuss words are cliches, and cliches don't generally make for good poetry. More importantly, though, poems written to be gratuitously vulgar and offensive will most likely also be barred workshop. What is "vulgar" and "intended to offend" will be judged with an open mind on a case-by-case basis.

  3. SONG LYRICS:Song lyrics and poems written in specific forms will not be reviewed, critiqued, or workshopped this semester. I don't carry a bias against these sorts of compositions, but, in the case of lyrics, the concerns of writing songs are too different from the concerns of writing poetry.

  4. RAMPANT FORMALISM: Although there will be options to write form poems this semester, they will be examined for their contemporary style and voice; and workshopped for how their form serves the poet's intent. Your growth as a contemporary poet depends on your willingness to cultivate an appreciation for contemporary style, the large majority of which is not formal, rhymed, or even metered. This doesn't mean that formalism is a thing of the past. If anything, your love for formal poetry writing will be enriched by exploring non-traditional and free-verse poetry writing in this class.


Okay, here is the college's official statements on Academic Integrity:

Cheating and plagiarism (using as one's own ideas writings, materials, or images of someone else without acknowledgement or permission) can result in any one of a variety of sanctions. Such penalties may range from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or assignment (all of which may lead to a failing grade in the course) to, under certain conditions, suspension or expulsion from a class, program or the college. For further clarification and information on these issues, please consult with your instructor or contact the office of the Associate Dean of Student Affairs.

Here's my official statement on plagiarism:

Are you out of your freakin' mind?!

Allowing yourself to be inspired by someone else's writing is one thing, but if you're fixin' to steal someone else's words and ideas, don't ask us to devote our precious energy and time to it. Whatever you submit better be of your own authorship, satisfy one of the course assignments, and/or have been written during this semester. On a related note, please don't resubmit work from past semesters or ask your peers to workshop a poem you wrote when you were in high school. Also, please don't ask for commentary on work written by a friend or loved one, unless they're actually signed up for our class as well. T'anks.


Students with disabilities of any kind, and who may need accommodations in the class are encouraged to notify the instructor and contact the Accessibility Resource Center (ARC)—formerly the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS)—early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be implemented as soon as possible. Students may contact the ARC in person in Room 60-120 or by phone at 619-644-7112 (voice) or 619-644-7119 (TTY for deaf).


Some of you will directly participate this semester as a reader at the New Voices Student Reading. In addition, we will, as a class, attend one or more of the scheduled on-campus literary events, which constitutes part of your attendance and participation in this class. 


Your instructor reserves the right to change writing and reading assignments in the interest of refining your instruction, or to change dates and lesson plans to accommodate otherwise unscheduled literary opportunities such as guest authors, live theatre, readings and workshops. Any such changes will ordinarily be announced in advance and noted on the on-line course outline. Additionally, should your instructor need to cancel a class session, changes to the course outline and calendar will be made to accommodate all of the course objectives.


You are encouraged to make use of my office hours to discuss poems or poem topics, to show me developed drafts, or to talk “creativity.” If more than one student comes for private consultation, I will see you in the order that you arrive or together if that is convenient to you. Although I strive to devote my attention to your needs, in the interest of seeing more than one student I may have to budget my time when necessary. However, that won't mean that I won't dote on your every need.


Poets beware! Violent or aggressive behavior, including harassment, are cause for intervention from campus police. There's a limit to how much "poets behaving badly" can be brooked. Though I encourage a more informal, freely discursive environment in the classroom during the scheduled class time, suffice it to say that I frown upon any activity distracting or inconsiderate to your colleagues and teacher. Your undivided attention and total involvement in the activities related to the course are a must. I trust you to exercise
good judgment in this matter, but the following are fair examples of what not to do and, if they persist after the first friendly warning, will lead to your dismissal from the class for that day, no matter what activity has been scheduled. Consider the following as a general guideline to your expected behavior in the class.

(For the record, smoking and chewing of tobacco are prohibited on the Grossmont College campus. Details about disciplinary sanctions are available from the Student Affairs Office and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Student Discipline Procedure Handbook.)

  1. Unpreparedness: Your preparedness is measured not only in having completed the assigned readings, but in attending class with the proper textbooks, a notebook and a writing instrument. You will be expected to take notes. Coming to class without textbooks or completed homework will be “consequenced” with dismissal from the class for that day only because this behavior is disruptive to prepared students and the class agenda, particularly when it forces students to double- or triple-up to examine passages from the textbook. Something to bear in mind: In a college classroom where your peers are paying their own way for their education and every dollar represents life energies expended for it, it's not fair to exploit their diligence. Occasionally, everyone leaves a book behind by mistake, but if a student habitually attends class without the assigned readings, this will be treated as a problem behavior.
  2. Lack of Involvement: Your full attention is requested while sitting in the classroom. I realize that things happen in our daily life that cause our attention to wander and make it difficult to stay in the spirit of our activities. These are not behavioral problems. Rather, behaving intentionally in a way that ignores the demands of the class can be passively disruptive. Sitting in class and doing nothing is a typical example of this problem. You're expected to keep an open notebook and take notes. Additionally, because the failure to obtain the required texts for the course often leads to a lack of involvement, this too could merit your dismissal from the course. Furthermore, please do not bring any other reading materials and activities than those assigned for any given class day. For example, do not engage in homework for other classes or any other activity that doesn't relate to the class topic at hand. (Please review further guidelines under "TEXTS" concerning the purchase and bringing of required texts to the class.)
  3. Unrelated Activities: Campus policies forbid "romantic interludes" in the classroom. We have nothing against simple displays of affection between people, but sexually motivated behavior--especially if it takes the place of proper attention during the class time--is not permitted. Other activities not permitted during class time: sleeping; reading; doing homework; any activity unrelated to the course and its immediate classroom topics. When the computer-assisted instruction is utilized, students should not engage in personal activities, such as internet surfing and e-mail; computers accessed during class time must at all times be used for academic purposes relevant to the course agendas.
  4. Eating: You may bring bottled water to class, but any other beverages, particularly hot beverages in tipsy cups, should be finished before entering the classroom. Food, likewise, should not be brought into the classroom. Throat lozenges and breath mints are fine, but candy and chewing gum--the destination of which is so often the underside of a desk or chair--are definitely a no-go. Be sure to check below your seats before adjourning, to look for any forgotten water bottles (or textbooks and notebooks!).
  5. Immature Behavior: I am more than delighted to hear anything you have to say which is pertinent to the class discussion, and I invite you to ask any and all questions you need answered; however, use of class time for private conversations, especially disruptive ones, cannot be tolerated, whether or not they are openly spoken, involve lip reading or sign language, or are conducted through the exchange of notes or texting. (See also "8. Electronic devices.") I have notable difficulty hearing what students are saying to me from the back of the room if there other ambient voices competing with them (even if they're loud whispers), and I ask as favor and a courtesy that you avoid this behavior. Thanks.
  6. Disruptive Movements: Tardiness and early departure (see "Absence and Tardiness"), and random stepping in and out of the classroom throughout the period is frowned upon. I prefer no tardiness if possible, but I also no that delays sometimes happen outside of our control. If you must enter the classroom a little bit late (five or ten minutes), this is preferred over not coming at all. Simply find a seat nearest the door instead of crossing in front of me; if you plan to exit the classroom during the class time, likewise, seat yourself near the door, and inform me of this at the start of the class so that I do not think you are leaving suddenly due to illness or offense. Sometimes classroom doors bang loudly when students let them slam behind them. It's hard to know when that will happen, but just try to be considerately aware of that possibility. We try to take a break about midway through the class period. Please make every effort to limit your snacks and restroom visits to the break, or wait until before or after the class, but raise your hand or approach me privately if you need to leave the classroom briefly--just so that I understand your intentions. If you excuse yourself from the classroom, please make sure your departure is brief and that you make every reasonable attempt to return to the class immediately afterward. Leaving the classroom to eat, go the bookstore, chat with friends, or to take a stroll is not appropriate, and unduly long absences from the classroom will be treated like any other behavioral problem.
  7. Lurking: Persons not enrolled in this course may not be allowed to visit the class unless they are college employees or receive permission from me to sit in the class.
  8. Holding Court: This describes anyone monopolizing class discussions or assuming a dictatorial stance. Nothing pleases me more than to hear enthusiastic responses and impassioned discussion in the classroom; for the sake of courtesy to other students, however, and to allow everyone an equitable chance to share in that enthusiasm, try not to interrupt or drown out other students while they are speaking. Exercise self-restraint and prudence, or simply raise your hand.
  9. Insensitivity: Since effective writing often is accomplished through an understanding of one's audience, try to acquire some practice at it here. This course contains reading and raises topics that might be of a sensitive nature to some students. However, the classroom environment keeps sacred the discourse community among students-this is paramount to your college experience. Therefore, try to show some degree of comity and sensitivity to other students, and keep an open mind to the free exchange of ideas when sensitive or controversial topics are discussed. Rude, insensitive, or bigoted behavior directed at me or other students will also not be tolerated in the classroom.  Pejorative comments about any individual or any classification of people, whether or not such comments are intended to offend, will not be permitted and may result in ejection of the student(s) from the class. Examples include misogyny (promoting hatred or violence against women), racial and cultural slurs, insults against trans and LGBTQ groups or individuals (remarks, off-handed or deliberate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people), and body shaming (disparaging comments about body shape. weight, or other matters of physical appearance). Also, If you feel you have been treated inconsiderately by another student (or, god forbid, by me!), please talk to me. Your good opinion is important, and any misunderstandings affecting your participation in the class should always be discussed.
  10. Cell Phone Protocols: Unless you are an established medical caregiver, or you have discussed in advance the necessity for an active cellular device during class time, you must turn off your cell phone before entering the class and not make, send or receive calls and transmissions during classroom activities. If you must take a call because of an emergency to which you have alerted me at the beginning of the class, please step outside to take the call in privacy and return within two minutes. TEXTING OF ANY KIND IS EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN. (No, seriously. It's REALLY, REALLY forbidden!) If you are caught texting and you persist after I have asked you to stop, you will likely be dismissed from the class and lose attendance credit for that day. If you need to use your phone to access the internet for purposes relating to this class (accessing the course website or assignments; looking up a definition; researching a topic relevant to the classroom discussion; etc.), please raise your hand and request this privilege first. Under no circumstances will cell phones or other electronic devices be permitted during examinations and quizzes.
  11. Other Electronic Devices: Laptop computers and other portable electronic devices, such as iPads, iPods, and Blackberries, have an ambivalent place in today's classroom setting. These devices serve, both, an instructional purpose and an entertainment purpose. Guess which one is acceptable in the classroom? If you are using an electronic device to take notes, record class lectures, or otherwise augment your learning experience, I will do no less than encourage you to continue. However, if you are trying to distract me, yourself, or classmates from the instructional activities--watching videos, listening to music, playing games, surfing the internet, logging into Facebook, Twitter, etc,--you will be given one warning; if your behavior persists after I have asked you to stop, you will likely be dismissed from the class and lose attendance credit for that day. As with cell phones, it would be a simple and easy matter of raising your hand and politely requesting to use your electronic device for a purpose relevant to our classroom activities and instructions. Anything else will be treated with the same sanctions as other behavioral problems in the classroom.


Grossmont College is one of the few community colleges in California to offer an Associate Degree with an English major that fulfills lower division requirements at most four-year colleges and universities and thus provides a broad-based foundation for transfer. Any student who receives a grade of “C” or higher while completes 24 units in the courses for this major, and in 6 additional units from our Creative Writing Program's upper-level workshop courses (30 units total), qualifies for a Certificate of Achievement in English–Creative Writing.


SIX (6) successfully completed units selected from the following: 

English 120

College Composition and Reading

English 122

Introduction to Literature

English 124

Advanced Comp: Critical Reasoning and Writing


English 126

Creative Writing



Total 12 Units

SIX (6) successfully completed units selected from the following: 

English 221

British Literature I

English 222

British Literature II

English 231

American Literature I

English 232

American Literature II

English 241

Literature of the Western World I3 


English 242

Literature of the Western World II 




Total 6 Units

THREE (3) successfully completed units selected from the following: 

English 215



English 236

Chicano Literature or Cross-Cultural Studies 236 Chicano Literature (3)

English 237

American Indian Literature or Cross-Cultural Studies 237 American Indian Literature (3)


English 238

Black Literature or Cross-Cultural Studies 238 Black Literature (3)




Total 3 Units


THREE (3) successfully completed units selected from the following: 

History 100

Early World History

History 101

Modern World History

History 105

Early Western Civilization

History 106

Modern Western Civilization

Humanities 120

European Humanities

Humanities 170

World Humanities

Philosophy 112

The Classical Mind

Philosophy 114

The Medieval Mind

Philosophy 116

The Modern Mind

Philosophy 118

The Contemporary Mind


Total 3 Units 

Total Required (Plus General Education and Elective Requirements)

24 Units 



Students planning to transfer to four-year institutions to complete a bachelor’s degree in English are STRONGLY urged to take the following courses, depending on the requirements at those schools: TWO (2) sequential semesters of a single foreign language [Spanish 120A and 120B are equivalent to one semester of Spanish 120]

Total 10 Units

SIX (6) additional successfully completed units selected from the following: 

English 130-131-132-133

Fiction Writing

English 134-135-136-137

Creative Nonfiction Writing


English 140-141-142-143

Poetry Writing

English 145-146-147-148

Acorn Review: Editing & Production


English 160-161-162-163

Drama Writing

English 175-176-177-278

Novel Writing



Total 12 Units

Total Required

Plus General Education and Elective Requirements

 30 Units 

Last Updated: 08/19/2017


Karl J. Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Office Hours: M-Th 4-5:30
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District