Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Review of Tinfish Press books by Albert Saijo and Donovan Kūhiō Colleps

Today's Star-Advertiser features a lovely review by Janine Oshiro of two Tinfish books. If you subscribe, you can see the review here:

If not, here, in liberated form, it is:

By Janine Oshiro / Special to the Star-Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 17, 2015

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“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

Walt 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.

In 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.

Written 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."

Saijo's 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.

Multitudinous 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.

A 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 option?"

Both books reward readers with "the good that must be found." Is there any other option for our human animal family?

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