Center for Latter-day Saint Arts

College and University Courses on Latter-day Saint Arts

Would you like to teach a course on Latter-day Saint arts in a college or university?  Do you need assistance with readings or approach?  We would like to help.

The Center is assembling examples of syllabi as an aid to teachers who are contemplating a course on Latter-day Saint art.

Contemporary Religious and LDS Poetry



Tyler Chadwick, ed., Fire the Pasture: Twenty-First Century Mormon Poets

Louise Gluck, The Wild Iris

Kim Johnson, A Metaphorical God

Michael Lavers, After Earth

Timothy Liu, Vox Angelica

Maurice Manning, Bucolics

Czeslaw Milosz, Selected and Last Poems, 1931-2004

Laura Stott, In the Museum of Coming and Going            

Mary Szybist, Incarnadine            


  1.  Daily preparation and attendance. Reading quizzes, memorization, writeup of English Symposium session, etc.  Please read all assigned poems and any other materials before we discuss them.  If you miss more than four classes (two weeks of class), you will receive no higher than a B for the course (5 classes, B-; 6 classes, C+; etc.).   

  2. Response papers (four one-page response papers; 400 words maximum).  

  3. Twenty-minute oral presentation, usually done in pairs. 

  4. Final exam—expect spot quotes, perhaps short answer, certainly essays.     

  5. Short analysis paper (4-5 pages).

  6. Research proposal and annotated bibliography.            

  7. Conference paper (10 pages, 2500 words). This, the culminating project for the course, should be a focused, highly-polished paper suitable for presentation at a conference.          

GRADE BREAKDOWN (approximate)

100 points            Daily preparation

200                         Response papers (4 x 50 points each)

  50                         Oral presentation

100                        Analysis paper

  50                        Research proposal and annotated bibliography

300                        Conference paper

200                        Final exam

1000 points            



  • To provide an historical overview of postmodern and contemporary poetry.

  •  To sharpen through discussion and writing your analytical and evaluative skills.

  •  To provide a detailed reading of the work of eight contemporary religious poets (four of them LDS)

  • To make you better readers of both fixed form and free verse poetry by concentrating on poetic elements such as rhyme, rhythm, meter, syntax, diction, style, enjambment, irony, imagery, symbol, and persona.

  • To help you apply a variety of critical approaches and reading strategies (formalist, historical, sociological, biographical, psychological, archetypal, feminist, post-structuralist, etc.) to contemporary poetry.

  • To emphasize the ethical responsibilities of reading.

  • To have a walloping good time.

  • “To untie [ourselves], to do penance and disappear / Through the upper right-hand corner of things, to say grace.” (Charles Wright).


A NOTE ON READING                                    

I’ve taken great pains to assign work that is consistent with BYU standards, as outlined in university and college documents.  Should you encounter work that you find problematic, please do the ethically responsible thing and speak to me about it directly. If we cannot resolve the matter, you can then take the next step and address your concern with a department ombudsman.  I like very much the following quote by Spencer Kimball:   “. . .it is proper that every professor and teacher in this institution would keep his subject matter bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel, and have his subject matter perfumed lightly with the spirit of the gospel. Always there would be an essence and the student would feel the presence.” My aim is to create a community, a context, a space, in which our readings will be both bathed and perfumed as described above.    


“Intentional plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft that violates widely recognized principles of academic integrity as well as the Honor Code. Such plagiarism may subject the student to appropriate disciplinary action administered through the university Honor Code Office, in addition to academic sanctions that may be applied by an instructor. Inadvertent plagiarism, whereas not in violation of the Honor Code, is nevertheless a form of intellectual carelessness that is unacceptable in the academic community. Plagiarism of any kind is completely contrary to the established practices of higher education, where all members of the university are expected to acknowledge the original intellectual work of others that is included in one’s own work. In some cases, plagiarism may also involve violations of copyright law.  

Intentional Plagiarism—Intentional plagiarism is the deliberate act of representing the words, ideas, or data of another as one’s own without providing proper attribution to the author through quotation, reference, or footnote.  

Inadvertent Plagiarism—Inadvertent plagiarism involves the inappropriate, but nondeliberate, use of another’s words, ideas, or data without proper attribution. Inadvertent plagiarism usually results from an ignorant failure to follow established rules for documenting sources or from simply being insufficiently careful in research and writing. Although not a violation of the Honor Code, inadvertent plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct for which an instructor can impose appropriate academic sanctions. Students who are in doubt as to whether they are providing proper attribution have the responsibility to consult with their instructor and obtain guidance.”  For broader discussion of academic honesty, consult BYU’s webpages:            


“Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature whether verbal, nonverbal, or physical. Conduct is unwelcome if the individual toward whom it is directed did not request or invite it and regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive. A wide variety of sexual conduct may constitute sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Sexually suggestive or offensive joking, flirting, or comments

  • Unwelcome and intentional touching

  • Sexually oriented verbal abuse

  • Sexually oriented comments about an individual's body

  • Displaying objects or pictures that are sexual in nature

  • Sending sexually explicit or offensive text messages or other communications

  • Sexual harassment of any kind is contrary to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Church Educational System Honor Code, and is considered to be Sexual Misconduct prohibited under this policy.

  • Sexual harassment directed at employees or students of the university is also a form of sex discrimination which may be prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting unlawful discrimination, including sex discrimination, in employment) and Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs and activities).” 


Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities.  If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (378-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the S.D. Office.  If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures.  You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895, D-282 ASB.  


Day 1 - Introduction to Course

Day 2 - What is contemporary poetry? 

  •  pdf: Al Poulin’s “Contemporary American Poetry: the Radical Tradition” Academy of American Poets Website: (Type in the following poets and click on the poems in question)

  • CONFESSIONS - Anne Sexton (“Her Kind” and “Wanting to Die”)

  • ORGANICISM AND OPEN FORM -  Robert Creeley (“A Wicker Basket,” “America,” “Water Music”)

  • BEAT POETRY - Allen Ginsberg (“A Supermarket in California”)

  • NEW YORK SCHOOL - John Ashbery (“My Philosophy of Life”)

  • AGAINST CIVILIZATION - James Wright (“Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry Ohio,” “A Blessing”)

  • THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL - Adrienne Rich (“Diving into the Wreck”)

  • MULTICULTURALISM - Gwendolyn Brooks (“The Mother,” “We Real Cool”)

  • SURREALISM - Dean Young (“Thrown as if Fierce & Wild”)       

Day 3 - What is religious poetry? 

Review the definitions of these twenty terms, looking up any that you don’t fully understand.  Next, read the poetry selections below (many of them scriptural), linking each to one or more of the definitions and taking note of forms and conventions. Write out in the margins your best hunches.  Think of this as an elaborate somewhat open-ended matching game.     


Allegory, Anaphora, Apocalyptic prophecy, Children’s verse, Confessional poetry, Dialogue, Dramatic monologue, Ekphrastic poetry, Epistle, Free verse, Fourteeners, Hymn, Hymnal stanza, Metaphysical Conceit, Ode, Parable, Prayer, Proverb,  Religious lyric, Sonnet (Petrarchan, Shakespearean, alternative)


  • Psalm 23

  • Jonah 2

  • Song of Solomon 4: 1-7

  • Luke 1: 46-56

  • Matthew 20:1-16

  • 1 Corinthians 13

  • Revelation 5: 8-10

  • George Herbert’s translation of Psalm 23

  • For the following poems go to the poetry foundation website and type in the titles:

  • John Donne, “Holy Sonnets: Batter My Heart . . .”

  • George Herbert, “The Altar,” “The Pulley,” “Love (III),”

  • Edward Taylor, “Huswifery”

  • Christopher Smart, “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry” (from Jubilate Agno)

  • William Blake, “The Lamb,” “The Tyger”

  • Walt Whitman, “A Noiseless Patient Spider”

  • Emily Dickinson, “Wild Nights! Wild Nights!” (249) “Some Keep the Sabbath” (236), “Because I could not stop for death” (712), “Crumbling is not an instant’s act” (997) 

  • Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market” (don’t read it, just remember it), “Up-Hill”

  • Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur,” “Pied Beauty”

  • T.S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi”

  • Anne Sexton, “With Mercy for the Greedy”

  • Henry Francis Lyte, “Abide with Me”

Day 4 - Pdfs: Introductions to anthologies of contemporary Christian poetry

SOME LATE 20thC Masters

  • Richard Wilbur: New and Collected Poems (pdf), “To His Skeleton” (76), “A World Without Objects Is a Sensible Emptiness” (283-84), “October Maples, Portland” (198), “The Proof” (152), “Love Calls Us to The Things of This World” (233-34), “Matthew VIII, 28 ff” (154), “Juggler” (297), “Praise in Summer” (391)

  •  John Berryman: “Eleven Addresses to the Lord”

  • Denise Levertov: from Upholding Mystery (pdf), “On a Theme from Julian’s Chapter XX” (9-10), “Watching Dark Circle” (85), “The Task” (92-93), “Midnight Gladness” (113), “Flickering Mind” (122), “Caedmon” (128-29), “Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis” (321)                                                

Day 5 - Czeslaw Milosz, Selected Poems

Day 6 - Response #1 due  Czeslaw Milosz, Selected Poems

Day 7 - Czeslaw Milosz, Selected Poems

Day 8 - Class Soiree in Springville (bring something tasty to eat and something tasty to read —specifically a religious lyric of your own making that addresses at least one concern or question or tradition we’ve raised thus far in the class).

Day 9 - Guided tour by Mark Magleby of “To Magnify the Lord” in the BYU Museum of Art.  Meet in the main lobby of the museum at 12:05.  Be prepared to take notes and ask questions that will link the literary and visual devotional arts in productive ways.    

Day 10 - Response #2 due   Louise Gluck, Wild Iris 

Day 11 - Louise Gluck, Wild Iris

Day 12 - Memorized poem due, sonnet length or longer  Kimberly Johnson, A Metaphorical God 

Day 13 - Analysis paper due  Kimberly Johnson,  A Metaphorical God 

Day 14 - Mary Szybist, Incarnadine

Day 15 - Mary Szybist, Incarnadine

Day 16 - Response #3 due Timothy Liu, Vox Angelica

Day 17 - Timothy Liu, Vox Angelica

Day 18 - Three potential research topics due  Maurice Manning, Bucolics

Day 19 - Maurice Manning, Bucolics 

Day 20 - Read intros from the following LDS anthologies:

  • Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert, eds. A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day

    Saints, 1974.

  • Pdf:*Eugene England and Dennis Clark,eds. Harvest, 1989. 

  • Pdf: *Susan Howe (foreword).  Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets. Peculiar Pages, 2011. Read these selections from Fire in the Pasture:

  • Origins: Eden, Adam and Eve - “Utopia,” Laura Nielson Baxter (28), “Pangaea Lost,” Marie Brian (67), “On J Kirk Richards’ Stand of Trees,” Tyler Chadwick (102), “The Delivery Room,” Lisa Ottesen Fillerup (174), “Adjusting,” Elizabeth Garcia (181), “Eve’s Tigers,” Marilyn Nielson (308), “I Believe,” Jim Papworth (331), “The Fall,” Laura Stott (393), “Eden,” Javen Tanner (430-31),

  • Redemption, Foregiveness - “Question about a Sinner,” Laura Nielson Baxter (30), “AveVerum Corpus,” Lisa Bickmore (48), “Salt and Blood,” Gideon Burton (74), “I Teach Six-Year-Olds about Jesus in Sunday School,” Deja Earley (157), “Thorns and Thistles and Briars,” Jonathon Penny (351), “Call to Repentance,” Doug Talley (425), “Acrobats,” Sunni Brown Wilkinson (476)

  • End of Days - “When the Mormons of Orange County Become Shintoists,” Joanna Brooks (68),  “We Think We Know the World When We Collide,” Scott Cameron (89), “The Story of Two Raindrops and a Wooden Frame,” William DeFord (137)

  • Death and the Afterlife - “Burials,” Neil Aitkin (3), “Telling My Husband His Death,” Shannon Castleton (95), “Early Harvest,” Melissa Dalton-Bradford (128),  “The User’s Guide to Onomatopoetic Elegies,” Kristen Eliason (169) 

Day 21 - Research proposal and annotated bibliography due  Read these selections from Fire in the Pasture:

  • Prayer, Devotional Life - “Jerusalem Artichoke,” Matt Babcock (17), “Prayer,” S.P. Bailey (25), “Panis Angelicus,” Lisa Bickmore (52), “Invocation / Benediction,” Joanna Brooks (69), “Across the Mojave Desert,” Laura Stott (398-99),

  • Rituals and Ordinances - “Blessing the Baby,” Susan Elizabeth Howe (222), “To Baptize,” Laura Hamblin (201), “Cleave,” Jim Richards (376), “Baptism,” Amber Watson (450), “Self-Portrait as Burnt Offering,” Holly Welker (455-56), “Patriarchal Blessing,” Darlene Young (482-83),

  • A Gospel of the Everyday - “Daughter and Geese,” Matt Babcock (14), “Celibacy at Forty-two (III),” Laura Hamblin (198-99), “Introduction to the Mysteries,” Patricia Karamesines (245-46), “A Few Questions—Involving Pears—for My Newborn,” Jim Richards (377), “Dead Horse Point,” John W. Schouten (383), “The Empty Cistern,” Sally Stratford (404-05), “Parable for the Pulse of the Wrist,” Doug Talley (426), “Angels of Mercy,” Darlene Young (485),

  • History & Hagiography - “Joseph Smith,” Mark Bennion (33), “Joseph’s Soliliquy,” Alan Rex Mitchell (286-87), “An Open Letter to Joseph Smith,” Jonathon Penny (349-50), “Why the Virgin Hangs in My Bedroom,” Joe Plicka (357), “On the Mormon Trail, June 1848,” Elisa Pulido (365), “Emma, Waiting, September 22, 1827" Elisa Pulido (370-71), “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Paul Swenson (407),

  • Reading Between the (Scriptural) Lines - “Return,” James Best (43), “Moses and Aaron,” Will Bishop (55), “Family Tree,” Michael Hicks (218), “Deluge,” Michael Hicks (221), “Genesis 29:20,” Tim Liu (266), “Reflections on Hebrews 10:31,” Casualene Meyer (280), “The Short Books,” Danny Nelson (295), “Two for Samuel Beckett,” Javen Tanner (432-33)

Day 22 - Response #4 due  Michael Lavers, After Earth

Day 23 - Optional: rough draft of conference paper due  Michael Lavers, After Earth

Day 24 - Laura Stott, In the Museum of Coming and Going

Day 25 - Laura Stott, In the Museum of Coming and Going

 Day 26 - Class Presentations on these (or other) collections:

  • Susan Elizabeth Howe, Salt

  • Philip White,The Clearing

  • Laura Hamblin, The Eyes of a Flounder

  • Warren Hatch, Mapping the Bones of the World

 Day 27 - Class presentations on these (or other) collections

  • Neil Aitken, The Lost Country of Sight

  • Tacey M. Atsitty, Rain Scald

  • Kristen Tracy, Half-Hazard

  • Christina Stoddard, Hive

 Day 28 - Turn in conference papers

  • Distribute final exam review sheet

  • Final wrap-up

  • Pot-luck lunch


Study Questions

Louise Gluck

1.  Read “Matins” (25) and “Clover” (30) together and against each other.  Both grow out of a meditation on clover, and more specifically a search for luck, which we might translate as a search for a sign from God.  Is this a worthwhile or doomed enterprise or both?  What does it reveal about the gardener’s relationship towards God and the garden she tends? 

2.  At least one critic has commented on the importance of “Heaven and Earth” (32) being located at dead center of this collection, and symbolically between the binaries implied by the title.  Once again the narrator is gardening with her husband John.  Once again she grows weary of his optimism and naivete.   Now compare to “Vespers” (42).  John seems to work both as a foil and an ill-suited co-conspirator to the narrator.  How do these poems allow the speaker to situate herself towards God?

3.  Re-read “Scilla” (14), which we spent some time on last class period.  Now turn your attention to “Midsummer” (34). Here we have God addressing the gardener on a similar topic of uniqueness vs. collective identity. How do these poems differ? How are they alike?  

4.  Read the pair of “Vespers” poems on pages 36-37, which we might consider stewardship poems. What is the speaker’s responsibility specifically?  How does she fare?  What do her  shortcomings reveal about her relationship to her husband, son, and God?  Try to account for a certain humor, or at least irony, in certain lines.  

5.  “Retreating Light,” an ars poetica of sorts,  represents Gluck’s most thorough exploration of the writing process. At the same time she reveals a number of problematic concerns about our relationship to Deity.  Discuss the relationship between writing and finding and / or losing God.  In what other poems are these issues addressed and to what effect?


15 - “Invitation.”  Discuss the role of apostrophe here.  Who is the speaker, Mary or Mary or someone else?  Why this encyclopedic listing of angels?  Is there a pattern to the angels conjured? 

31 - “Another True Story.”  How is this an annunciation?  What role does the title play?  Is this merely prose or a prose poem?  What do you make of the blessing in the penultimate paragraph?  What’s going on with anaphora in the closing paragraph? 

34 - “On a Spring Day in Baltimore.”  What do you make of the sections in this poem, the mix of poetry and prose?  How does the narrator become a kind of go-between between the  art teacher and the student?  How does this make all three round?

48 - “The Cathers Etc.”  What do you make of how she uses history in this poem? Be sure to read her note at the back of the book.  How and why does the narrator bring in her beloved?  Try to account as best you can for the closing two stanzas.

56 - “Happy Ideas.”  Comment on the narrator’s use of anaphora.  Discuss the tonal shifts in this poem and the radical jump-cuts made possible by its central organizational principle.  What role does annunciation play here?  

62 - “Knocking or Nothing.”  Who is speaking and who is the “you” being addressed? Help us make sense of the full vs. empty imagery?  What are other crucial binaries in this poem and what do they suggest?


Final Exam

Answer ONE of the two questions below.  

Consider any material from class readings, presentations, and discussions.  Additional research is also welcome, though not required. Whenever possible, you should acknowledge secondary sources (For example, “Janet McCann points out . . .” or “Al Poulin  argues that. . .”).   Each essay should consist of four parts: an introduction, followed by a discussion of the work of three poets (25 points each section, 100 points total). For each question, discuss the work of three of the following eight poets: Milosz, Gluck, Johnson, Manning, Liu, Szybist, Lavers, Stott. In your discussion, be sure to emphasize the poetics of a given poem, that is demonstrate through what formal techniques these poets address their concerns.  You might consider such poetic elements as voice, tone, juxtaposition, imagery, metaphor, diction, rhyme, meter, juxtaposition, allusion, enjambment.  Feel free to contextualize your discussion of each poet, but the majority of your body paragraphs should focus on specific works.  It is usually best to analyze one or two poems rather than to summarize three or four. I favor responses that are specific and well-organized, ones that have a clear line of development and that use passages from the text or close paraphrases as support.  Think analysis rather than summary.

1. On Form.  In “Postmodern Poetic Form: a Theory,” Jonathan Holden argues that though most contemporary poets (and writers) have turned their backs on meter, rhyme, and fixed form, they have not given up on form entirely.   Instead they’ve increasingly turned to non-literary forms or analogues, such as conversation, letters, dreams, lists, prayers, social media, etc.  Consider the role of form, both traditional and innovative, in the work of three writers.  Find an interesting and intelligent way to focus this question and address how these writers attempt to follow Ezra Pound’s injunction to “make it new.” How does form create a familiar order and pattern, while subverting expectations?  What is the link between form and content?    

2. On Ekphrastic Writing.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are a few hundred words (about a work of art) worth?  After discussing the uses and abuses, limits and advantages of ekphrasis—writing that meditates on (non-verbal) works of art such as photographs, tapestries, musical compositions, paintings, architecture, sculpture—analyze three ekphrastic pieces.  You might consider such issues as time, history, point of view, revision of the past, community, context, etc.

Class Presentation Sign-up #1(in groups of 2-3)

Day 5 - Czeslaw Milosz, Selected and Last Poems, 1931-2004

Day 10 - Louise Gluck, The Wild Iris

Day 12 - Kimberly Johnson, A Metaphorical God

Day 14 - Mary Szybist, Incarnadine

Day 16 - Timothy Liu, Vox Angelica

Day 18 - Maurice Manning, Bucolics

Day 22 - Michael Lavers, After Earth

Day 24 - Laura Stott, In the Museum of Coming and Going            

Class Presentation Sign-up #2 (in groups of 2-3)

Day 26 - Susan Elizabeth Howe, Salt; Philip White, The Clearing;  Laura Hamblin, The Eyes of a Flounder; Warren Hatch, Mapping the Bones of the World

Day 27 - Neil Aitken, The Lost Country of Sight; Tacey M. Atsitty, Rain Scald; Kristen Tracy, Half-Hazard; Christina Stoddard, Hive