ModPo 2013 starts today

Al Filreis’ MOOC, Modern & Contemporary American Poetry has started today. This is the second run of this MOOC. It has a ‘big’ reputation as being a very successful MOOC which has managed to create a community of ‘ModPoers’, dedicated to poetry and Al Filreis!

I’m not new to MOOCs, but first impressions are that this will be a challenging course, maybe because I know nothing about poetry, although I do recognize the names of some of the poets who Al Filreis mentions in his introductory video.

But I wasn’t aware of John Yau and have never before heard the poem that Al Filreis read in the introductory video.

“830 Fireplace Road” John Yau  (Variations on a sentence by Jackson Pollock)

“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing”
When aware of what I am in my painting, I’m not aware
When I am my painting, I’m not aware of what I am
When what, what when, what of, when in, I’m not painting my I
When painting, I am in what I’m doing, not doing what I am
When doing what I am, I’m not in my painting
When I am of my painting, I’m not aware of when, of what
Of what I’m doing, I am not aware, I’m painting
Of what, when, my, I, painting, in painting
When of, of what, in when, in what painting
Not aware, not in, not of, not doing, I’m in my I
In my am, not am in my, not of when I am, of what
Painting “what” when I am, of when I am, doing, painting.
When painting, I’m not doing. I am in my doing. I am painting.

Jackson Pollock wrote: “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It’s only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own.”

Source of poem:

Evidently this poetic form is called a Pollock

A Pollock is a sonnet whose first line is a quotation. The remaining lines are comprised solely of words and punctuation found in the first line.

Whilst I haven’t before heard of John Yau, I do know Jackson Pollock’s work, so straight away I have a point of connection with the poem. For me the poem is about identity and immediately brought to mind Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on Flow and Education.


Another thought is that Jackson Pollock for me is an artist who embraces embodied learning. This is something that my colleagues Roy Williams, Simone Gumtau and I have tentatively been exploring – we have a paper in press with the Leonardo Journal

Williams, R., Gumtau, S. & Mackness, J. (2014).  Synesthesia: from cross-modality to modality-free learning and knowledge. (Accepted for publication in Leonardo Journal)

So a question I will be thinking about during ModPo is, to what extent is reading/writing poetry a cross-modal and embodied learning experience.