Studies in Creative Writing

ENG 416 (001) Poetics of Water & Power

Spring 2024 / MWF Online: MW 1:30 – 2:20 synchronous / F asynchronous

*This course satisfies WI focus requirement 


Course Description

Where does your water come from? What stories run in the rivers and pipelines that channel your water? What does it mean to even claim water as yours? What would happen if your access and rights to clean water were taken from you? Why do Indigenous activists across the world, from Maunakea to Oceti Sakowin, choose to present themselves as water protectors? How do poets channel the symbolic power of water into the page and stage? How are poetic tools such as repetition, fragment, white space, and imagery used toward projects committed to investigating and/or honoring water and power?

In this course, we will consider the role of poetry in grappling with different relationships between water and power in the 21st century. Situated as we are in Hawaiʻi nei, we will begin reading and discussing stories of water by ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) writers. We will then place these stories in conversation with the larger Pacific and a global consideration of environmental racism and intergenerational trauma and healing. 

While highlighting poetry, we will also explore life writing, scholarship, and spoken word to explore issues of culture, race, gender, class, access, immigration, and climate justice. Students will develop skills in literary analysis and produce original poetry within a writing community. Students will also learn how to develop their own poetics of water and power alongside works of literature and scholarship.


Course Format

This course will be conducted entirely online. In general, synchronous meetings will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays on Zoom while Fridays will be devoted to asynchronous work. Our writing community will sporadically meet on Fridays, and these dates will be noted in the syllabus.


Required Course Materials

Possible Course Texts

Texts may be added or removed from this list as new works become available and may serve our purposes more effectively.

  • Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [saina]
  • Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler


Internet Access to Laulima & Zoom

Students are responsible for understanding how to navigate their email accounts as well as our Laulima website and Zoom meetings. Check your email and our Laulima website on a regular basis as any changes will be announced in class and via email and announcements on Laulima.


Major Assignments

  • Bimonthly reading responses
  • Poet-Scholar oral presentation
  • Tuahine journal
  • Lyric essay based on Tuahine journal and semester-long research related to Poet-Scholar oral presentation
  • Group podcast
  • Poetry chapbook