Temple and the University of Pennsylvania have more in common than just basketball coach Fran Dunphy.
Graduate students from both universities take classes through each school’s English department in a program called Temple-Penn Poetics. The program also sponsors poetry readings and discussions from notable poets in an effort to promote and stimulate the poetry community in Philadelphia. These events take place on both Temple’s and Penn’s campuses throughout the semester.
Rachel Blau Duplessis, a poetry professor in Temple’s creative writing program, is involved in Temple-Penn Poetics. She said that these connections benefit the individual student and the community as a whole.
“There is a tremendous exchange between these two universities who have great offerings in poetry and poetics in this region,” Duplessis said. “There are also great intellectual exchanges between graduate students from both schools, who now know each other a bit better.”
Charles Bernstein, a professor of English at Penn, said the partnership gives the events a community-wide context. “We are able to offer more events and cross publicize them to offer a greater range of student and faculty interest,” Bernstein said. “These events, which are free and open to the public, provide arts programming for the Philadelphia community.”
Bob Perelman, another English professor at Penn, and Jena Osman, a poetry professor at Temple, are the other two professors involved in the program. Sarah Dowling, a Penn graduate student who is taking a class in the Temple-Penn Poetics program, said one of the most significant advantages
of the program is the career opportunities it creates.
“You want to prove that you’ve done things more than just going to class and writing papers,” Dowling said. “Working with students and faculty from another school shows that you are able to do readings or set-up conferences. It’s a great opportunity to take that set of skills wherever you are going.”
This fall, Duplessis and Bernstein will co-teach a class for graduate students at both universities.
The class, which Duplessis describes as the “greatest hits of modernism,” will be shared between the two campuses. “This merger of classes is a great experment in collaboration with the graduate students
who are most anxious to learn about the field,” Duplessis said. She added that the transcripts of all students taking classes through Temple-Penn Poetics will now show that they took classes at another school. Previously, all collaboration had been done through independent studies.
Dowling said she sees another advantage to a whole class of collaborations, rather than just one or two students per year.
“The mix of students will be much greater
in a whole class,” Dowling said. “There will be lots of people who don’t have poetics as their primary interest. Having these people mix within the class will really benefit discussion.” Julia Bloch, a Penn graduate student of English literature, said the opportunity to work with Duplessis was the advantage to participating.
“I knew before I came to Penn that [Duplessis] was someone I wanted to work with when I came to Philadelphia,” Bloch said. “I knew her work and I was lucky that the infrastructure was there for me to take her class at Temple.” Bloch added that the unique program has become recognized within the poetry and poetics community. “It’s taken a very short time for it to become a cornerstone of the poetry scene, which is exciting to see. I hope it will inspire other schools to look beyond their own campus borders as well,” Bloch said.
Although the participation in the program
is still relatively limited, Duplessis said the cooperation between the professors involved will allow the program to continue to grow.
“The four professors involved have a lot of intellectual closeness and a large vision for what it could become,” Duplessis said.
Alex Irwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.