Never before has poetry been so inescapable. Hip hop, the soundtrack of our times, has made rhyme, meter, and word-play part of our daily lives. How did this happen? This course begins not on the page, but in the bardic traditions of Homer's Iliad, which encoded many of the values of its time in oral formulas. Poetry was, however, no mere encyclopedia, but also a source of risk, as we will read in Plato's warning against its hypnotic powers, and in the excesses of the Bacchae. We continue through 19th and 20th century attempts to recover these classic traditions (Wordsworth, Longfellow, Pound). Yet Europe was not the only center of poetic production. How does the Homeric tradition relate to living traditions of West African singing poets (griots) and Southern African praise songs? And what traces of these traditions can we hear in the blues? We will listen to early blues recordings and discuss the politics of collecting folklore, and the genius of African American modernists (Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Georgia Douglas Johnson) who bought vernacular speech onto the page. We will read and listen to a number of 20th century poets inspired when page meets stage in jazz poetry, dub poetry, spoken word, and hip hop. Assignments will include 2 papers, 2 small-group performances, memorization exercises, and a creative adaptation of one poem. See the English Department's website at www.english.upenn.edu for a description of current offerings.