Last year, I stumbled upon Coursera, an education technology company where you can take free online courses in any topic you’re interested in from literature, science, humanities or business courses. They run in partnerships with about 80+ top Universities in the States.
I was over the moon when I saw that they were doing a Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course ran by the University of Pennsylvania. I love poetry. As a student, I used to write poems and I also read more poetry than prose, that all changed when I became an adult. Anyway, I quickly signed up for it. But then opted out when I realised that the course was already running. I wanted to start it from the very beginning! Thankfully, they do this course yearly. I signed up again as soon as the course re-opened. Then forgot about it, till they sent me an email to remind me that the course was about to start.
It’s been almost a week now and I’m really happy with the course. Admittedly though, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with the whole course. I wasn’t expecting it to be as intensive and time-consuming (in a good way) as it is. We’ve started with Emily Dickinson whom I’ve always been a fan of and Walt Whitman, whom I’m happy to get to know again.
I’m enjoying the course a lot, though I’ll be honest, it also reminded me of how I used to hate dissecting poetry when I was a Literature university student. Young as I was back then, I wanted poetry to be left alone and not be scrutinised and treated as if it were an exact science. I still feel the same, but the only difference is, I don’t have to worry about passing the course and that’s a very liberating and happy feeling. For once, I can enjoy the subject without losing sleep over a grade.
AN OPEN INVITATION
So I invite you all, mums and dads or anyone who may have the free time or the desire to learn or re-acquaint themselves with subjects they’ve always been interested in but for whatever reason failed to follow through with it.
Yes, it will be difficult and sometimes I find myself thinking “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” I listen to lectures while loading up the dishwasher, print out readings and read them while waiting for my daughter to finish her breakfast, before running her down to school.
One thing is certain though, you will re-acquaint yourselves with the person of your youth. The one who dwelled at possibilities, the fearless and even arrogant you who thought you knew everything. Yes, that one.
And it’s not just Coursera in the States who is doing it. In the UK, you have Future Learn. I did their Creative Writing course a few months ago and absolutely loved it. And the best bit about these courses is that they are all free!
Don’t say you have the time or the energy. If you feel the NEED to do it, sign up. Do it for yourself and Celebrate yourself. As the Great Walt Whitman wrote :
There was never any more inception than there is NOW, Nor any more youth or age than there is NOW, And will never be any more perfection than there is NOW.
I also love what Al Filreis, Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and is also the Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the same university. He also happens to be the main moderator of the ModPo course with Coursera. He said in the very inspiring video introduction of the course:
The goal is – learning how to un-do the way we relearn to read. To re-socialise ourselves into shifting our attention with language, so that language doesn’t simply function as narrative … There’s plenty of that out there. Take this course because you’ve spent too much time thinking of language as a utility and not enough time as thinking of language as self-making.
I love those words … “Language as self-making” and if you’re a mum like me, who feels as if she’s lost a little bit of herself after giving birth, giving the career-up those words are like a lifeline being tossed back at you and if you feel the ModPro (Modern Poetry) course isn’t for you, there are lots of different courses, I’m sure you’ll find something that will suit you. Don’t get me wrong though, just because these courses are free, don’t be fooled into thinking that it won’t be as demanding and work-intensive as a paid one. Admittedly, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the syllabus and schedule and worried that with a 4-year-old I won’t be able to keep up. There are quizzes to take and also essays or writing assignments to submit. BUT I’m digging my heels in and will plod on with the course.
It’s been about 20 years now since my University days, and I know this is only a ten-week course, but it certainly feels like I’m back in a classroom again. Only it’s for pure enjoyment and love for poetry – isn’t that great? I certainly feel alive again and that folks is the best feeling! So while little T is off to “big-school” her mum is re-acquainting herself with some old friends – Emily Dickinson, it’s lovely to read you once again and yes, I’m certainly dwelling in the possibilities …
Linking-this post up with #LoudnProud