In this course, we will read books by acclaimed African American poets who have won Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and commendations from the Library of Congress. We will also examine book reviews, articles, and interviews that illuminate popular and critical responses to these authors and their work. The course is designed to teach students how different poems function—through close reading, and careful attention to poems’ formal properties. Hard work is required; love of the genre and confidence in one’s ability to understand it is not (as the former U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, admitted recently in an interview “growing up, I didn't think I could understand poetry, I didn't think that it had any relevance to my life”).