This course will provide a detailed introduction to the reading, the performing, and the describing of poetry—although some claim the last goal is impossible. We’ll start with what poetry has been, but keep an eye on what it continues to be, and also notice what it turns into from time to time.

The approach will be chronological, with contemporary poetry taking up a sizable portion of our time in class. By the end of the semester, you should have a vocabulary for talking about poetry, a sense of its history in the English-speaking world, and a strong conviction that it is still a powerful force in our culture—though sometimes almost unrecognizable as poetry in any conventional way.


Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy, eds. The Norton Anthology of Poetry: Shorter Fifth Edition.

Sammie Choy, Craig Howes, and Phyllis Look, eds. The Best of Aloha Shorts.

Other materials posted on Laulima.

Students will be required to provide frequent postings on the course content. There will be five short critical papers, at least two imitations of earlier and contemporary forms, and two original poem assignments.

Performance: How poetry gets on its feet and into the air will be a central concern of the course–partially because the works studied were and are often meant to be performed, partially because preparation of a work for performance enhances understanding and aids writing. You will have to memorize poems and present them, in conference with the instructor, from time to time.

This course is designated Writing Intensive. For English majors, it also fulfills the Genre requirement for 300 level Courses–Breadth of Field, or a 300- or 400-Level Course requirement. For non-majors, it fulfills an upper-division elective requirement.

Craig Howes is a Professor in the Department of English, the Director of the Center for Biographical Research, and co-editor of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly. A former board member at Kumu Kahua Theatre, he is the President of Monkey Waterfall Dance Theater Company, and was a co-producer of Aloha Shorts, a Hawaii Public Radio weekly series featuring Hawaiʻi’s writers, actors, and musicians.