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Back to Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”)

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”) by University of Pennsylvania

555 ratings

About the Course

ModPo is a FREE (no fee, no charge) fast-paced introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry, with an emphasis on experimental verse, from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to the present. Participants (who need no prior experience with poetry) will learn how to read poems that are supposedly "difficult." We encounter and discuss the poems one at a time. It's much easier than it seems! Join us and try it! ModPo is open all year, so you can enroll now, or any time, and join us. Each year we host a lively, interactive 10-week session, in which we move together through the ten-week syllabus. The next live 10-week session of ModPo will begin on September 1, 2024, and will conclude on November 11, 2024. Al Filreis will be in touch with you by email before the September 1 start of the course with all the information you'll need to participate. If you have questions, you can email the ModPo team any time at Much more information about ModPo can be found at During the 10 weeks of the course, you will be guided through poems, video discussions of each poem, and community discussions of each poem. And (unique among open online courses) we offer weekly, interactive live webcasts. Our famed TAs also offer office hours throughout the week. We help arrange meet-ups and in-site study groups. If you are curious about the ModPo team, type "ModPo YouTube introduction" into Google or your favorite search engine, and watch the 20-minute introductory video. You will get an overview of the course and will meet the brilliant TAs, who will be encountering the poems with you all the way to the end. If you use Facebook, join the always-thriving ModPo group: from inside Facebook, search for "Modern & Contemporary American Poetry" and then request to be added as a member. If you have any questions about ModPo, you can post a question to the FB group and you'll receive an almost instant reply. Much more information about ModPo can be found at . We tweet all year long at @ModPoPenn and you can also find ModPo colleagues using the hashtag #ModPoLive. ModPo is hosted by—and is housed at—the Kelly Writers House at 3805 Locust Walk on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia USA. All ModPo'ers are welcome to visit the Writers House when they are in our area. Our discussions are filmed there. Our live webcasts take place in the famed "Arts Cafe" of the House. To find out what's going on at the Writers House any time, just dial 215-746-POEM....

Top reviews


Nov 14, 2022

This was a wonderful course. I learned more about stylistic devices, close readings of poems, and was introduced to some very fine poet's!


Dec 4, 2022

This is a great course. The course is very interactive with great discussions and unique insights.


John Wang, PhD CRE MBB

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1 - 25 of 211 Reviews for Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”)

By Sini Y

Sep 8, 2018

At first I was a little afraid of starting this course since

1. English isn't my first language

2. I hadn't read much of poetry in any language before this

So I worried if I would be able to complite it and understand the poems and the terms used in describing them. But this was really fun and I learned so much. About poetry, poets and English. Everything was easy to understand (with a little help of a dictionary) and after the course I actually started reading poems from the different poets that we had learned on the course and that I had liked and then I moved on to complitely new poets. This course helped me get a better understanding on how to read poems and it proved that there isn't just one way of interpreting them. Thank you!

By Paul J F

Nov 16, 2016

I could not possibly be any more pleased - This amazing collaborative community -

I could possibly be more pleased - This amazing community -

I could be pleased - This Community -

I could be - This -

be - This -

-This -

By Geraldine S

Nov 23, 2016

I had read praise for this MOOC before doing it and have to say the praise did not do justice to the experience. I have loved feeling that I am really a live student of this MOOC and not just looking at/reading some pre-recorded lectures from which the course leader is much removed. It has been great to get regular updates from Al and feel he really cares. I had a wee grump initially when I realised just how North American the poetry presented was going to be but this was a very short-lived grump when I realised the wealth of material and how much insight it could shed on other art. I did wonder why so many people seemed to redo this MOOC but now realise that doing the symposium session is just the tip of the iceberg. I actually had withdrawal symptoms when I realised I had 'finished' but promised myself a short semester break before moving on and through more of the material. I had never studied poetry before and felt quite anxious about writing essays about poetry and about contributing to forums but found that I really enjoyed both, particularly writing and reviewing essays. This process was helped so much by the course videos where poems were close read and I could see that personal opinion mattered. I participated in the forums but did not create enough time to do them justice and look forward to deeper connections. I found it amazing that nearly every day over the last 10 weeks something major or minor happened in my or the wider world that made me think of a poem I'd read or a discussion I'd watched /read in ModPo. This certainly was clear evidence to me of the absolute relevance of ModPo. I'd love to sign off with something pithy or poetic but all I can say is a huge THANKYOU! and I'll be joining the 1000s worldwide who keep on SloPoing.



By Jason D

Sep 4, 2021

A life-changing course. This massive, world-wide community never stops learning, never stops exploring. I've learned so much about modern poetry, but I've gained so much more.

By Chloë C

Dec 12, 2016

Wonderful course and community! The openness and variety of perspectives and discussions contributes to the richness of each poem and all the possible ways to read poetry.

By Santiago R

May 12, 2020

Repetitive at times but a great way to shape a general panorama of American poetry.

By Leigh J

Nov 23, 2016

I have an MA in English literature this is possibly the best course I have ever taken whether online or at a university. It is a course that empowers the reader to read and interpret without reference to "scholarly sources." We read collaboratively, learning from each other and valuing the process over the "answers."

The open poems we read are beautifully suited to this approach as there is never a single, definitive interpretation that one is supposed to uncover. The course is well organized around two main strands in modern American poetry and offers an incredible array of supplemental material. Al and the TAs are brilliant and engaging. Meet ups, webcasts and recorded discussions with poets all add up to a rich, challenging, high-level intellectual experience with plenty of passion and heart. This class is a community I cherish.

By Dilip D B

Sep 25, 2016

Great Course. Great Experience. Everyone Should at least One Course from Coursera. I highly recommend it to all my students, friends, colleagues living anywhere on this earth.

By Mohammad A

Nov 25, 2019

Really , very important course for writers.

By Georgi S S

Sep 26, 2019

This course is a gem, one of the most comprehensive, educational and entertaining courses one can find online. It's comprehensive, covering the early rise of modernism, cubism, Dadaism, post-modernism, formalism, New American formalism, etc.

The team or the "gang", as I like to call them , led by Al Filreis, are extremely insightful and intelligent. Somehow they create an amicable atmosphere that lures you in even if you know squat about English and American poetry.

The best part is that you don't need any background knowledge to pass this course with flying colours. I will admit though that while weeks 1 & 2 are relatively easy, the course becomes progressively more difficult as you move further and further into it. So, you may not need background knowledge at the start of the course, but I seriously advise anyone who's really into the course, and wants to make the best of it to do lots of research online.

I'm still amazed that I came upon it. It's perfect.

By Nella E

Nov 23, 2016

ModPo, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, is an oasis of sense, feeling, creative and analytical experience and free exchange of ideas. Can we live without ModPo? Probably yes, but this life would be much more boring, plain, unchallenging. ModPo means inspiration and creation, it gives the unique opportunity to realise a magic journey, to live fascinating adventures in company of interesting people guided by Professor Al Filreis, heart and soul of the project, and his wonderful team.

If you are just interested in something new, if you are tired of everyday routine, this course is for you. If you teach languages, literature, cinema, history, cultural studies, visual arts, philosophy, psychology, and any other discipline, this course is for you. If you are an artist, this course, is for you. If you love poetry, if you live poetry, this course is for you.

By Dilip B

Feb 5, 2019

This is one of the most powerful courses on the learning planet if anyone on this planet is eager to learn about the Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. I would love to strongly recommend all the Teachers and Students through the globe to do it at least once in the lifetime. I have found it always inspiring, exhilarating and rewarding experience as far as Poetry Understanding and Appreciation is concerned. This Course will never be outdated as long as Poetry is living. Of all literature genres, poetry was the first to be born (since the Vedas Times), and it will outlast humans on this Earth. From the deepest cores of my heart, I wish the "ModPo" Team, the stalwarts at the "UPenn" and the Coursera App"ALL THE BEST"! LONG LIVE THE COURSE!

By Wind C

Mar 20, 2017

best coursera class of them all. The instructor and teaching assistants are closely in the class + there is a lot more interaction with them and the rest of the students than any other MOOC.

By mary f

Dec 30, 2016

Enriching, wide reaching in scope. The Prof. Al Filreis lets ideas, not necessarily his own, in for debate and comment. The TAs are simply brilliant both in form and content. Bravo!

By Cristofer C L

Nov 19, 2016

This is the best community in the world and deserving of all praise. More people should get involved and we could make this world a better place.

By Deleted A

Dec 13, 2016

This is a terrific course, stimulating in content & analysis. The prof. is very dynamic & engaged, as are the TAs, the mentors & the students. The video-based readings of the poems, led by the prof., give the poems the completion they need in terms of understanding and appreciation (a poem is meant to be talked about; that is what brings it to life, I believe). Students get support from the mentors, the TAs & Al (the prof.) in the forums and give their own ideas, which are also enriching. To explore ideas concerning the U.S. in the 20th century and today, in connection to poetry and the uses of language was a worthwhile experience for me! There is lots of supplementary material, so you can delve into this as much as you want! The assignments are fair and appropriate. Highly recommended by me.

By mary o

Nov 28, 2016

If you are interested in contemporary poetry, this course is like finding a treasure chest. The prepared materials are absolutely excellent, but the real draw of this course is the vibrant discussion forum with fellow classmates, teaching assistants, and the professor (!). Discussion threads are created for each poem in the course, as well as for general topics such as help for people "hopelessly lost," local study groups, teachers bringing Modern & Contemporary American poetry into their classrooms, and a range of other topics. The forums are a fun and busy buzzing hive of activity. Live webcasts each week from the Kelly Writers House also add to the feeling of immediacy and community. You won't regret taking this course. It put other MOOCs to shame.

By Daniela G

Nov 29, 2016

This course amazingly uses all modern communication facilities to create intellectual and other ties between tens of thousands of people all over the globe, succeeding at making it a very personal course in which every single person is invited to take part. All is made possible by the never ending work and creation done by Prof Al Filreis and the loving intelligent ever giving people in his team.

Each course participant may get deeply involved in the discussions, and threads, and write essays, and read peer essays, and call in, and write mails, or, as I chose to do, stand by and watch and read and listen without getting personally involved.

This course has surely changed many people's lives!!!

By Hong L

May 4, 2023

Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (“ModPo”) is so fanscinating a course that I followed it for years. I love to see the familiar faces, to hear the familiar voices , to relate to the knowledge and wit inside the reading materials and the videos. I've gained a lot from it . Very often in the morning, I read the material, or listen to the recordings , or watch the videos, or read the posts in the forum, or drop on a few lines, or submit the quiz ..... I enjoy every process when associating with all, absorbing knowledge and acquire skills in promoting my teaching skills....... Especially, I love the Mirror Function. I love the course from head to foot! Thums up!

By May X Z

Nov 22, 2016

ModPo is an enlightening and mind expanding experience. Besides being about modern American poetry, it is a lesson in civility and possibility, in democracy, inclusiveness and individuality. I have learned so much in ten weeks and am staying on the course and learning more every day. I have endless gratitude to Prof Al Filreis for being a great teacher whose kind email reminders and encouraging responses to learners' comments in the discussion forums help keep us all on track. Thank you Prof Filreis, all the TAs, mentors and the whole ModPo community for providing such a wonderful platform and opportunity for the world. And free, too!

By Hilary T

Nov 15, 2016

Well there definitely should have been confetti flying and a band playing when I got the notification that I completed this course! Come on, Coursera, you need some flash add ons to do ModPo justice. This course is densely packed, is intellectually and creatively a marathon to actually complete, but 100% compelling and enjoyable. The act of doing this mooc draws a line in the sand. Life on the other side of having discovered ModPo will never be the same again. It will be infinitely richer and more creative. Thank you, Al and all the team, for this wonderful experience, for your exuberance and generosity in giving your time.

By Emma K

Nov 10, 2022

Everyone in this course, the participants, TAs, Al, everyone was absolutely amazing. I really learned a lot and loved it.

By Anthony U W

Nov 22, 2016

ModPo is not only one of the greatest courses with regards to opening up the mystery of modern poetry, but due mostly to the methods employed by professor Al Filreis, it is both a community and an experience that can open up new paths of thinking in all areas of your life, including areas not even tangentially touching on poetry. First, he empowers EVERY student to be both a teacher and a learner. he gives everyone of the nearly 30,000 students an equal voice, while he gently leads through his brilliance, he is patient without being patronizing.

If you watch a couple of the videos, and if you spend an hour on the discussion forums, you will see a joint learning experience, with a fully engaged professor, a well informed team of grad student Teaching Assistants and a crazy dedicated team of what ModPo calls Community Teaching Assistants, or as Coursera calls them, "mentors".

By the time you understand that Emily Dickinson, was not writing nonsensical poems, but instead explaining the universe and humans role in it, and especially by the time you begin to grasp what Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, John Cage, Sid Corman, or Frank O'Hara are really saying, you will have a hard time not only of ever looking at a poem the same way, but even of contemplating the universe the same way. this class can truly be a path to enlightenment!

By Lillian A

Nov 22, 2016

I have enrolled in ModPo for a few years now. I was new to American poetry and the range of poets and styles of poetry. The enthusiastic (!) approach of all ModPo staff was as enjoyable as has been the depth of learning. My favourites have been Walt Whitman along with Williams and a whole range of others like the Beat poets and later modern styles which I have been introduced to and what has sustained me all the way through has been the dedication of all those at Kelly Writers' House over the years I have been enrolled. One other aspect I have enjoyed is the participation of people from so many countries around the world, proving once again to me that people worldwide have more in common than we do differences. Our slogan should be "MAKE POETRY NOT WAR!". Although my reading and thinking participation has been kept up I have not been able to contribute online as much as I would have liked, nor joined in the good-hearted contesting of opinion which may occasionally happen; at 80 years of age my physical health is waning BUT my psychological health is constantly sustained , as I have mentioned, by ModPo and the constant voice of Al Filries through the computer which echoes across the ocean to Australia. I enjoin everyone who can to enrol in this most worthwhile course.

By Missie E C

Nov 14, 2017

A friend recommended this course and I rather reluctantly agreed. I'm not often eager to commit to anything, much less a 10-week course. I stuck my little toe in and then fell into the course whole-heartedly. This course is so much more than a study of poetry, although it is certainly that in its comprehensive manner of presenting a variety of poets and poems. But, through the resources available, like the incredible forums and videos or audio taped presentations, I fell deeper into a realm of understanding the vast possibilities of the written or spoken word. I saw for the first time a connection between art and poetry. Between philosophy of the poets and their concept of poetry. This course has been a springboard to learning and I have been elated to have been a participant for 10 weeks. I'm eager for more.