Sunday, January 11, 2009

Anthologizing TheBus

(Please make the photos larger with your mouse. I still haven't figure out how to put these photos in the places I actually want them . . . )

My former and current students, Ryan Oishi, Aiko Yamashiro, and Gizelle Gajelonia came over this afternoon to talk about Ryan's and Aiko's anthology of writing about TheBus. Ryan pulled out a mock-up of the proposed anthology of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry, organized to resemble a fold-up route map and schedule (with a large map of Oahu on the front, then poems in the place of route schedules as you open the “map”). They are hoping to publish the anthology and place it among route maps in public places for people to pick up and read as they ride TheBus. The poetry map is interactive, as well, as there is also a place to write your own poem, cut it off the map, and send it to the editors.

Their anthology has many layers—historical, ethnic, generic. In literary historical terms, it begins with Eric Chock's locally famous poem, “Tutu on da Curb,” about an old woman at a bus stop who ends up breathing the air (“fut”) of “progress” as it comes out of the bus's exhaust pipe. Also from the era of the 70s are pieces by Rodney Morales, and a photograph by Ed Greevy of bus drivers protesting. And then they move toward the present, where we find poems by Gizelle and Ryan and a student at McKinley High School, as well as journalism by Mike Leidemann (the writers have not yet been asked for permission to print, so the project is still in the planning stages). They present poems about immigrants who have succeeded (like Puakea Nogelmeier) and those who are not so sure they will.

The anthology will also have bus "ads" that are relevant to local issues, if not local products. One (at the top left) features Lilikala Kame`eleihiwa, Hawaiian historian and sovereignty activist.

There is much to praise in such an anthology as a way to link communities: bus riders and poets, writers and schedulers, the idealists and the pragmatists. It cuts across lines of ethnicity and class in wonderful ways. I only hope that the purpose of the project gets better expressed on the map. I can imagine a rider thinking she has acquired a route map and schedule getting angry at getting some poems and no times to be at her stop!

The poet/editors are still considering whether to sell or give away their product, and how to get it into circulation among bus riders. The anthology certainly will provide a good reminder to riders that their rides are not mundane, but full of promise; they need only look around and overhear to get the gist of life as it is lived on this island.

Buddy Bess, of Bess Press, once told me and others that he'd figured out how to get his books into the ABC stores in Waikiki, where they would have a larger clientele than the usual bookstore crowd. He would make "books" that look like guides—guides to fish, or food, or language—and he would laminate them. It seems to me that Ryan, Aiko and Gizelle (who came because her honors thesis will be on TheBus), have found a way to do the guerrilla version of this move into a larger public. They won't just publish something about TheBus for students of writing; they will also provide access to it for bus riders themselves. A really promising act of poetry activism—now they just need the money to proceed.

1 comment:

slarry said...

I like thebus idea. Tres cool!

And what a handsome Leader-
Sir Tor, is such a cool dude.
Nice to see him doing well.