Modern Poetry and Alternative Narratives

The Modern American Poetry Course (ModPo) presented by Prof. Al Filreis of Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania is a mind-altering experience. The benefits of such an excellent online course to people who function “normally” in the world, but who can’t afford high quality education is self-evident, but what is more meaningful is that Coursera has made it possible for people “paused” in life to flourish in a rich learning environment. For many people, those with chronic illnesses, with complex mental and physical difficulties, or those who are looking after seriously ill family members, leaving the house to go to university is just not an option, even if they can afford it. But the reality is that if an illness or disability makes it hard to function “normally,” then it is hard to earn a normal salary to pay for university.

What I’ve noticed now that we’re 9 weeks into a 10-week course is that so many of us who live alternative lives are flourishing in a demanding learning environment, often against all odds, and this while many “normal” people have abandoned the class. The ModPo class is life-changing and beyond value for those of us who live beside the main stream of life, but who are eager to apply ourselves in new ways.

This highlights the need for access to quality, but affordable online education for all. The ModPo course is free, as are all Coursera courses at the moment, but even if they charge a minimal amount in the future it would benefit the world at large. Like the 35 000 students enrolled in the ModPo course, the number of people worldwide who are interested in further education must be enormous, so it should be possible to adequately fund the continuation of the classes.

I must add that it would be a mistake to think that a poetry course could not benefit anyone looking to enhance their education. I only started writing in 2008, which makes me a newbie at poetry, so I’m in it for the poetry, and I still can’t get over the good fortune that made me stumble upon the ModPo course. The benefits of learning poetry from an extraordinary professor is obvious. What is not plain to see is how the course opens the mind and shifts entrenched beliefs not just about poetry but also about people and life in general. Prof. Al Filreis and his Teacher Assistants have created an online campus atmosphere where the normal things happen in the forums: people become friends, form groups, argue and exchange knowledge, and the support from the teachers and fellow students continues into the social networks like Facebook and Twitter. And YouTube is also roped in for live webcasts.

I am beyond grateful, and proud, to be part of this first ModPo group. Knowing Prof. Filreis, there are going to be many. The struggling world needs access to this kind of enrichment.

Here is the link for Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo): https://www.coursera.org/course/modernpoetry

Here is the link for Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/

Sara P. Dias (Nov 2012)

11 thoughts on “Modern Poetry and Alternative Narratives

  1. Hi Sara, I just got this on my email and wanted to let you know that I thought this was such a beautifully written blog/post and that I agree with you fully. What a wonderful tribute to Professor Al Filreis and his diligent group of Teaching Assistants! Janet

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Sara! I have a chronic disease, have limited means, and energy that would make attending a class like this–and all of the “discussion sessions” and “parties” and webcasts impossible. But my mind and will are strong, and desire a challenge that respects what each person can contribute, in any way they can contribute. This course has been that respectful but challenging outlet for me, and I’m so grateful I also stumbled upon it! Good luck with your writing, and hope to see you in the forums and the Facebook page after the course ends.

  3. “… so many of us who live alternative lives are flourishing in a demanding learning environment, often against all odds, and this while many “normal” people have abandoned the class…”

    How true.

  4. That’s all true, Sara. How beautiful this is to read that our paused lives are finally playing and moving.

    It takes a Poet’s soul to write this.

    You have expressed us all, with your expression.

  5. “I must add that it would be a mistake to think that a poetry course could not benefit anyone looking to enhance their education.” Reminds me of the Russian IT student who participated in Modpo to see how MOOCs are done from an IT perspective and ended up embracing the course and seeing poetry’s possibilities. Thank you for your post here, Sara.

  6. Sara, I also thrived in this course because it was so accessible in a way regular college courses are not for me at this stage of my life. I’m so glad you too found your way to ModPo, and appreciate how you’ve become such a contributing member of this amazing community.

  7. Wonderful post, Sara! ‘I am beyond grateful, and proud, to be part of this first ModPo group.’ I couldn’t agree more.

  8. Sara: It’s been such a pleasure to get to know you. Your thoughtful intelligence and humane spirit shine through everything you write. What you write here is a sterling example. You’ve caught the ethos of this course exactly. As you so rightly note: “What is not plain to see is how the course opens the mind and shifts entrenched beliefs not just about poetry but also about people and life in general.”

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