1 / 2 ▶ “Woodrat Flat,” by Albert Saijo (TinFish Press, $19)
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"Woodrat Flat," by Albert Saijo (TinFish Press, $19)
"Proposed Additions," by Donovan Kuhio Colleps (TinFish Press, $14)
Reviews by Janine Oshiro Special to the Star-Advertiser
Whitman once sounded his "barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world" —
yes, the whole world — but it's specificity of place that matters in two
new books of experimental poetry by Hawaii writers.
the posthumously published "Woodrat Flat," Albert Saijo barks rhapsodic
over his marijuana plot in Humboldt County. In "Proposed Additions,"
Donovan Kuhio Colleps figuratively straps his grandfather's file cabinet
to his back to take a walk in Ewa as multiple voices flow through him.
You never forget where you are in these books.
all in capital letters, in chunks of prose roughly stitched together
with dashes, Saijo's poems are rooted firmly in the soil of California
and the Big Island. This poet is above all a human animal. "WHEN I
CRUMBLE I WANT MY SHELTER TO CRUMBLE RIGHT AFTER ME — CRUMBLE INTO A
MOUND OF RICH EARTH LIKE FEMALE WOOD RAT HOUSE DOES."
poetry can be read as traditional pastoral or contemporary zuihitsu,
the wandering Japanese form that casually gathers up daily observations
and fragments. The author himself was incarcerated at Heart Mountain
Internment Camp, roamed free as a Beat poet and eventually made his home
in Volcano. His strongest poems wed a naturalist's keen eye to the
fundamental questions of existence: "IS EARTH LIFE SHORT BURST OF QUAIL
FLIGHT." This is visionary work; it contains multitudes.
in other ways, "Proposed Additions" is an astonishing collection of
poems constructed by Colleps from his grandfather's cancer journal and
plans to build an addition to his home, interviews with family members,
song lyrics, historical records and myths. In "Kalapu (A Walking Poem
for ‘Ewa)," individuals and stories seem to swell, overlap and break
over each other as waves: Kane and Kanaloa, Captain Barber, Hi‘iaka,
grandfather. The result is not an unveiling of a single place, but a
convergence of currents remaking and re-mythologizing home.
luminous elegy for a grandfather, "Proposed Additions" also reads as a
guide toward a better future. Proposing an addition can show a desire to
keep family close by building a place expansive enough for all. The
title poem exhorts: "Build! Build! / While the light is here / while the
breeze weaves through the / lo‘i that flourish from his forearms / this
is the good that must be found … brass or chrome? / Family or no other
Both books reward readers with "the good that must be found." Is there any other option for our human animal family?