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The English Program at SOU provides students with a wide variety of classes and assignments. Alma Rosa Alvarez discusses the reasoning behind the podcasting final for her ENG 447 class. Featuring student perspectives from Jewel Blanchard, Katherine Dion, and alumni Jaz Waters.
October 22, 202
By Sophia Lorusso (she/her), Junior English Major.
Pictured above: Katherine Dion, “Poetry as Witness” student.
In spring 2021, the students in Alma Rosa Alvarez’s ENG 447 “Poetry as Witness” class got the opportunity to experience podcasting. A typical final in the English Program at SOU may look like a literary analysis essay, a portfolio, or other writing-intensive assignments. With technology on the rise in our society, podcasts have become a very popular way of receiving and giving information. There are many subgenres of podcasts: comedy, true crime, gaming, educational, and lots more. Dr. Alvarez’s class was able to engage listeners in poetry.
“Podcasts can engage more discourses than traditional presentation formats or even traditional papers.”
— Alma Rosa Alvarez
In the “Poetry as Witness” class, students observe and discuss poems that deal with situations of extremity – war and/or violence. Dr. Alvarez explains, “The podcast assignment asked students to convince their listeners that the poem’s poetic features get us to understand a particular situation of extremity. Students were no longer just convincing me, but a broader audience.” Dr. Alvarez has dabbled in podcasting herself! When she was on a sabbatical, she studied the genre and art of podcasts and thought it would be a “a great medium for students to learn how to convey information in an entertaining way.”
For this assignment, the students had complete creative freedom. They could choose any poem, as long as they could make it fit into the realm of the poetry-as-witness genre. They used Anchor – an app through Spotify that assists in making podcasts. Recent Alumni Jaz Waters graduated last spring with their BA in English. For the most part, they had an easy experience with creating their podcast:
“The hardest part was actually the act of recording! I tried to reduce any outside noise by recording it in my closet, and since I was using my phone to record and upload, I couldn’t edit over any gaps, so I had to say the whole script in one perfect take. But the other processes–uploading it, analyzing the poem–went smoothly.”
Pictured above is: Jewel Blanchard, Student.
Another student from the class, Jewel Blanchard, had a more difficult time with the creation process due to technical factors, but she loved doing this assignment nonetheless. Jewel is pursuing her BA in English with a minor in Shakespeare Studies. For her podcast, she analyzed “Spiral Cliff” by Tamura Ryuichi, a poem that caught her eye in one of the course’s required texts Against Forgetting: 20th Century Poetry of Witness. She appreciated this poem because of its gripping language, and she thought it would be fun to analyze.
“I enjoyed this podcast assignment more than a traditional essay or paper, mostly because it was a breath of fresh air.”
— Jewel Blanchard
Jewel expresses, “As an English major, I usually have so many 6-page essays due at the end of the term, so being able to write and produce a shorter podcast script was a welcome change of pace. The other aspect of this assignment that I appreciated was that the class all listened to each other’s podcasts on the final day of class. It was fun and really meaningful to hear my peers’ work, especially since it’s rare to read an entire class’ final papers.”
This is true – it is rare to read an entire class’ final papers. Podcasting assignments may have the ability to cultivate friendships more than ordinary essays do!
Katherine Dion is working on her BFA in Creative Writing here at SOU. At first, she was anxious about this assignment, but she quickly realized that it was an enjoyable process. Katherine describes that the podcast “…allowed me to talk about the history behind the poem and why the author wrote it. I enjoyed this assignment; it was new and unconventional.”
“In this day and age, it’s important to embrace new means of presenting history for all the lessons still left to learn.”
— Katherine Dion
Some of the students’ podcasts below:
- Jaz Waters: “In a Time of Peace” by Ilya Kaminsky
- Jewel Blanchard: “Spiral Cliff” by Tamura Ryuichi
- Katherine Dion: “It has the unassuming face of a burnt-out candle” by Paul Schmidt
- Levi Coren: “Running Orders” by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
- Kaela Milette: “First They Came” by Martin Niemöller
- Keely Davis: “The Sun as a Spinning Top” by Francis Ponge
Here are some podcasts that these students enjoy:
- Jaz: “You’re Wrong About by Michael Hobbes & Sarah Marshall”,
“Noble Blood by Dana Schwartz”, and “Dear Hank and John by Hank & John Green”.
- Jewel: “Musicalsplaining by Lindsay Ellis & Kaveh Taherian”.
If you’re looking to take ENG 447 “Poetry as Witness”, keep your eye out for it on the Class Schedule on Inside SOU!
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