I took a free online poetry course!

Screenshot of a regular ModPo video lecture. On 2nd right is Professor Al Filreis as he leads a poetic discussion

I was STOKED when I heard that online sites were offering Ivy League higher education lessons for free because it is such a rarity in our capitalist-driven world to receive such services at no cost. Without much hesitation, I signed up with coursea.org, one of the many sites offering free courses, and took up the “Modern and Contemporary American Poetry” (ModPo) lesson.

It was certainly one of my best decisions made this year.

For the past 10 weeks, I got acquainted with classical poets such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, while also be in the likes of their contemporary counterparts John Ashbery and Jackson MacLow. It was a rejuvenating experience for a self-declared prose lover, where I found myself emerging out of this course with a deeper sense of appreciation towards poetry.

Offered by University of Pennsylvania English Literature Professor Al Filreis, weekly lessons were conducted through video lectures, one video each for a poem. On top of these lectures, the professor and his team make a tremendous effort to interact and engage with the tens of thousands of students through online discussion forums, live webcasts and even responding to questions on Twitter. (@ModPoPenn)

In this instance, the effect of modern technology on the democratization of education is exciting in an era where higher education prices have skyrocketed through the roof, and news agencies have been quick to coin this as the new education revolution.

New York School poets, which we covered during the course. In picture are Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara and others

Despite being free, the quality of the course, as I would vouch to, is no worse than any regular college courses I have attended. The requirements are rigorous with essay assignments and quizzes to answer, while at the same time having to critique your peers’ essays.

But I have to confess it was an uphill task just trying to keep up to pace with the lectures, particularly when juggling work, personal commitments and simply trying to get through the daily grind. A lot of discipline and determination were needed in devoting time and effort to finish the course, but the payoff in the end was definitely worth it.

A big shout out and huge thank you to Al and his wonderful team who have led us through this wonderful poetic journey and sharing the incredible joy of knowledge. Here is a poem I wrote as a tribute to you guys!

To the Modpo team:

Sliding down the brain within its grooves
where splinters swerve
and floods slit the hills.
The journey has been an open discovery
of boundless interpretations
and endless possibilities
under the everlasting Dickinsonian roof,
seeing apparition of faces in the crowd
eating cold, sweet and delicious plums from the icebox
driving crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision for Eternity.
And at the end of the road,
the vast blue ocean awaits
embracing all into the endless horizon

Here is a video performance of poet Anne Waldman, which we covered during the course, and her haunting performance of “Rogue State”

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