ENGL 3331: Intro to Poetry | Aris Kian

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ENGL 3331: Intro to Poetry

Here/Hear in Houston


everywhere | always | breathe | ask and ask again


Course Overview


Everyday for a year, I wrote about the light rail. Clutched backpack, stiff-seat side-straddle scribbling into sunrise—the chime, a pealing soundtrack to the cinematic universe of my journaled streams. I do not know when I became a poet, but I know the voice of poem when it whispers in the morning. I am not good at keeping good habits, but one day, I’ll grow into the ones I’ve been too stubborn to claim. I’ve found myself asking what makes me a writer even after asking what’s the meter of rain. I’ve penned my existence into a page before I was able to question if I had the words for it. I’ve never needed a passport for this language, never needed to prove my residency; I’ve only prayed it could find a home in me as well, could curl its way to the center of my chest, light a candle and exhale. 


Course Objectives


here, we turn

            to cobbled streets

for answers—grass

swamped in skyfall,

            our muddied feet 

licking a slick path

we will sing

            the prints we leave

                        on the sidewalk

see our names

            in the lines 

                        of the sanded rock                    


Student Learning Outcomes



we are just as much

an author of

our own breath

as we are

of anything we place

a name to

we shake hands

with chance

knowing nothing

is new—it is 

a small language

the probability of

a word running 

into another

is more likely

than not 

but when last did

they dance

until dawn when

last did they 

inhale into


one line 

into the next

remembering how

many moments

they share

here and still

in this tongue






open hand open heart open fist open eye open mouth open ear open arm open lung open 

Graded Assignments




ready your whisper with me; I will not ask 

you anything I would not ask 

of myself—I am my own risk, willing to grow 

weary in the same spot, gaze-up, 

until the landscape begins to speak. 


Weekly Responses, Posts & Poems: 


the chill in your arm, the choke in your throat, 

that sinking—there, in your stomach

the second the wind hits—the scrunched brow,

your upturned lip, your nostrils flared

in utter disagreement, your stuttered tongue,

your jump-start heart, racing at the words

circuiting in your head.


Workshop poems: 


will you let us? carve into the clay

of your minds-eye, your second chance

at a first impression. we’ll trail

the edges of this sound-swept carnival,

stand in its lines so we can tell you

how it rides.


H-Town Homies Poet Presentation: 


this literary city, a one-stop station to every shape

your words could muster. there is no lack

of source material, shared in one room 

and back into another. this stream. this never-ending

well of ‘well, actually’ warm and running

raw between your fingers. we hold hands anyway.

let it bake between our palms.


Midterm Quiz: 


you may forget the name, the face, but never the way a poem sways to your own bodysong.


Final Portfolio: 


we trick ourselves into believing we could ever know an ending. in truth, we are only ever continuing this lifelong thing of language, taking the poems before us and breathing them back with our heartbeats in them.  

Grade Breakdown:


if you give                                                                    100%

your full attention                                                                    100%

your honest ask                                                            100%

and avid unknown                                                       100%

the page will tell you                                                    100%                                                             

if you have ignited                                                       100%

a practice                                                                     100%               


Total:                                                                           worth repeating


Grading Schema:


A         we dig                 B-       the ditches           D+   of our spines  

A-        and ask them      C+      to hold                 D     the hailstorms

B+       of our grief         C         the runoff            D-    of our good days

B         the language       C-        we dare                F      to claim









Aris Kian’s poems are published with The West Review, Obsidian Lit and elsewhere. She is the 2022 recipient of the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing. @ariskian/@rosewaterframes

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