Jared Leising (left) with Paul Nelson and Nadine Maestas of the Seattle Poetry LAB, and poet George Stanley .
This quarter, founding Cascadia faculty member, Jared Leising, forged into the educational frontier known as Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. Initially popularized in 2012 by Ivy League universities with titles such as “Algorithm Design and Analysis” and “Machine Learning”, MOOCs have expanded to include offerings in disciplines from Chinese language to conflict management to corporate finance. Leising’s six-week course investigates the poetry of the Cascadia bioregion.
Perhaps you only know Cascadia as a community college. But the college was named after the Cascadia bioregion -- the land stretching from British Columbia, through Washington and Oregon, and extending to include parts of Alaska, Idaho, and California. To understand a bioregion, one must look beyond state and national boundaries and see instead the shared geographic, economic, and cultural markers of the place. Cascadia poetry, Leising explains, helps us to do just that:
"It's a form of expression,
a way of connecting and understanding a place,
of thinking about where we live and
the issues we're facing."
Cascadia poetry is shaped by the spine of our mountain ranges, the channels and depressions of our waters, our deciduous forests, as well as by the logging, fishing, and other industries that threaten them. It is characterized by the ways of Native Americans and First People, early settlers, and immigrants who have sought to make their lives in this place.
Leising and his co-teachers from Seattle Poetics LAB are introducing “Innovative Cascadia Poetry” to more than 270 students, some logging in from as far away as Pakistan, Norway, and Egypt. Others are logging in from Cascadia College’s English 211. All are getting a taste of experimental, sincere, place-based language and humor that are characteristic of Cascadia poets with readings and discussions from renowned poets. The course culminates with a live-streamed panel of poets on March 3.
The "Innovative Cascadia Poetry" course is offered through the Canvas Network and, like most MOOCs, it is free of charge. Leising plans to teach the MOOC again during fall quarter 2016, and tie it to the Fourth Annual Cascadia Poetry Festival in November.