Uncapped Springs

For National Poetry Month 2018, in the Honolulu Community College Library, on Wednesday, April 25, I celebrated with friends and fellow faculty members Brenda Kwon, Derek Otsuji, Ken Quilantang, and Robert Silva. I hope you were and wish you had been there to see this reading. I have never been more impressed with the talent and achievement around me. Everyone did well, and the audience was pleased.

Here is “Uncapped Springs: Poetry Where the Boulevard Meets the Canal,” the introduction I presented that day:

“In an interview for the January 2018 issue of Ka Lā, I was asked this question: “Why is it important to write about Hawai‘i?” I’d been thinking about that for many years, and now, I will share my thoughts.

The place where you are makes you who you are--the people, the landforms, the opportunities. Where you are is who you are, and where you are needs a voice. Every place needs somebody to speak for that place, to tell the stories.

Ever since I arrived, I’ve been learning more about the culture, about the language, about the places so that when I speak of Hawai‘i, my words will be accurate and clear and relevant to my fellow humans on these islands.

As a member of Ka Papa ‘Olani cohort of Ho‘āla Hou, Honolulu Community College’s campus-wide effort to build and support place-based learning on our campus, I’ve been lucky to learn a great deal more about where we are and what our presence here means.

We are on the island of O‘ahu, in the district of Kona, the ahupua‘a of Kapālama, the ‘ili of Niuhelewai, “the place the coconut floats on the stream.” This building is named Kaukahōkū, meaning “the star appears,” but there is never just one star. Those little lights in the night draw us together, encourage and inspire us to tell our stories and speak of our lives--together.

So surrounded by fellow teachers and students, the readers today will share some of the work they have done in and of the place we live.”

So I spoke, and here I stand.

Eric Shaffer