Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Words for and about Marie Hara


Marie Hara was co-organizer of the Talk Story conference; she was vice president of the Hawai`i Literary Arts Council; she was not a founding editor of Bamboo Ridge (that was Darrell and Eric); she was simply someone who worked on the press for 40 years. Marie was not BR's break-out star; that was Lois-Ann Yamanaka. The novel she long toiled on never came out, though her wonderful book of short stories, _Bananaheart_, did. While Marie read widely, traveled far, taught powerfully (the first course in Asian American literature at UHM, in fact) she approached everyone with her grace and kindness, not her high-powered intellect. She was an easy target when Bamboo Ridge was attacked in the mid-90s for being a coterie, local Asian, press. She was easy to dismiss as the "mother figure" of the Bamboo Ridge study group, a little too insistent at times, her ideas sometimes a bit "wacky." But Marie was the real thing, sweet like steel, her bright smile a knowing and compassionate one. She taught me so much. As a young whippersnapper white female poet new to Hawai`i, she drew me in, welcomed me and my work, collaborated on the HLAC when I was so suddenly named its president two years in. She found me a lovely apartment a few doors down from hers, where I lived until I moved off with Bryant to the windward side. She spent 20 minutes once explaining the meaning of "da kine" to me. She told me what it's like to be an older woman. She talked a blue streak about her husband and her daughters, and later on about her grandchildren. She talked about the Writer's House at UPenn, where her husband and daughters went to college and dreamed of starting one here. She talked about understanding the way adoptees search for family as a way to seek connection (she had a missing father). She loved my children. She talked about being half-Irish and half-Japanese, and co-edited an anthology of hapa work with Nora Okja Keller. Everything for her was co-. She talked about literature all the time, and read Roddy Doyle's work, everyone's really. She called me a "word poet," which I found funny. She nominated me for the Cades Award for years until I asked her please not to. And then I got it and asked her to introduce me, which she did. I have no memory of what she--or I--said, I just remember she was there, as she always was, a beautiful welcoming presence. I love you, Marie Hara.

No comments: