MASSIVE. The class had already started the week before. I had no background on the subjects that were being discussed, and an assignment was due in a couple of hours. But I mindlessly clicked the button and signed up for my first Coursera class. That morning, I had no idea of how massive of a step I was taking. I signed up to be part of an online class with tens of thousands of students. The exact number was something like 35.000 students. What was staggering was not how many people were doing something collectively online. Afterall, Facebook has trained us well on being one user in a billion. What was staggering was what tens of thousands of people, including now me, had chosen to do collectively online for 10 weeks. We had chosen to take a class on Modern & Contemporary American Poetry.
OPEN. The sense of belonging is not natural to me. I am an outsider. I think I will always feel inadequate. What could I possibly write about poetry? Who am I to talk about American Poetry? Could I even understand it? English is not my native tongue. But you can only underestimate the realm of universality that poetry belongs to for so long. By the end of the first week of classes, I got it. We all got it. Poetry is wide open. Wide open like beauty. And it had a world wide open space just for it. And from and through – forums, webcasts, assignments, peer reviews, twitter feeds, blogs, links – poetry was webbing itself. A World wide web.
ONLINE. You would think a Cousera class would be limited to a http:// address. But not this class. This class has an address. 3805 Locust Walk. The Kelly Writers House, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Al Filreis welcomes all. Enrolls all. Teaches all. He circled himself with a select group of Teaching Assistants, wisely picked for their brilliance. And he generously shared the teaching gems he found with his student body. A physical student body that had nothing virtual about it. Because we came in herds from all walks of life, ages, nationalities, backgrounds. And we sat by their feet. And we listened to poetry. Read poetry. Discussed poetry. Proclaimed poetry. And we wrote poetry. Yes, we dared to.
COURSE. You can call it Modern. Or Contemporary. Or American. Or Poetry. We call it MODPO. And we call ourselves MODPOnians. It is spread all over the web. Recorded for times to come. As proof of what is possible. Join us.
I was a proud pupil of Al Filreis during the class Modern & Contemporary American Poetry in the fall semester of 2013. And among my degrees, this certificate is one I will always hold dear to me. For more about this course and upcoming classes go to https://www.coursera.org/course/modernpoetry