Notes to Section I
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 See 'Hawai'i is a place where two postmodernisms meet,' New American Writing 14 (1996): 141.
 I always took the name/trope 'Tinfish' to be punning upon, in a diasporic and transnational kind of way, the Pacific-local journal named 'Bamboo Ridge' which, since its founding in 1978 by Eric Chock and Darrell Lum, had nurtured 'local literature' in certain ethnic-friendly ways and visually symbolized its own project via the fishing-hole imagery of slide-bait casting at the coastal site of Bamboo Ridge in East Honolulu, O'ahu. I also read the 'Tinfish' image to be a minor, scaled-down 'Moby-Dick' in the American Pacific. (But I never confirmed these semi-crazed intuitions with the founding editor, Susan Schultz.) Others thought of 'Tinfish' as a kind of linguistically playful yet place-disdainful SPAM, however.
 Anthony Mellors and Robert Smith, eds., 'Poets on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,' call for papers for Angelaki, 5 (spring, 2000).
 In her polemical essay, 'Towards a Haole Poetics,' Susan Schultz captures this 'avant-garde' or 'postmodern' attitude of uprooted poetics via the person of Charles Bernstein visiting Hawai'i and speaking from a Buffalo/NYC angle of vision: 'when Charles Bernstein came to Hawai'i in January, 1993, he said much the same [as the Heideggerian philosopher, Gianni Vattimo], referring to his home, his locale, not as a place, but as language,' in A Poetics of Criticism, Juliana Spahr, Mark Wallace, Kristin Prevallet, Pam Rehm, eds. (Buffalo: Leave Books, 1994), p. 21.
 I would like to make it sufficiently clear, at the outset, that the kind of 'postlocal' and postmodern experimental writing I will be talking about and advocating for in Hawai'i/the Pacific, is by on means limited to the work published in Tinfish journal, and cannot be contained by the mongrelized 'postmodern' theory I offer nor by the authors I will later cite and invoke. Many writers would resist 'postcolonial' and/or 'postmodern' as a container for what they do.
 I would also mention here the simultaneous emergence of Pacific Rim journals like Melimelo and Taxi! in Japan and the Pacific Northwest, as well as Salt and Jacket downunder in Australia, which are fusing an interest in Asian/Pacific-based aesthetics with supporting more experimental modes of language-writing in literature and transcultural ethnography. This was something that was happening, in Hawai'i, under the cyborgian editorship of Sean MacBeth, Michelle Viray, and Sam Gonzales et al at Hawai'i Review as well. This journal, sporadically to be sure, was in the process of forging a more 'post-local' view of Hawai'i seen as moving beyond a Bamboo Ridge ethnic-centered aesthetic of 'the local,' that is, before it seemingly became re-absorbed into a de facto MFA program as centered around the journal Manoaat the University of Hawai'i at Manoa).
 The dialectical seam of this essay, deformed into split columns, aims to suggest a binding and/or rift of these 'two postmodernisms' written as an (impossible) communal project of building-up and inter-linking. As slogan or aim, 'postmodern' cannot contain the plenitude of place-based writings/selves.
 We do need more of this kind of polemical writing in critical genres here in Hawai'i, I would urge, where the 'local' custom is often one of 'not making waves' in the liberal multiculture, or just anti-theoretically retreating into a kind of racially ashamed silence or into a 'rear-guard' and entrenched sense of local ethnicity as 'local nation."
 Paul Lyons has shrewdly pointed out to me, in a critique of an earlier draft of this essay, that by juxtaposing poetic works by these 'two postmodernisms' in Tinfish, the 'gap' and incommensurable difference between Pacific-based authors (like, say, Caroline Sinavaiana or Ida Yoshinaga) and more decentered experimental-language authors of post-culture and anti-identity (like Lynn Hejinian, Steve Carl, or Joan Retallack) became all the more painfully clear. (Authors transplanted in Hawai'i like Juliana Spahr, in such a 'local nation' view or position, can be said to be located in the Pacific, whereas their writing [as in the journal Chain], as such, is not of nor distinctly about it. I disagree with this view of Spahr's work: more on this later.)
 The most capacious critical understanding of 'postmodern poetic language' in its inventive refiguring of social forms and cultural media and literary genres remains the work of Marjorie Perloff: see among diverse studies of this 'west-coast' quest, Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) and Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).
 Again, Anthony Mellors and Robert Smith for Angelakiare describing the co-optation of 'marginal' postmodernity in the UK, but they might just as well be describing the Heath Anthology of American Literature with its packaged tours of the local, marginal, and ethnic as representative voices like Garrett Hongo or Gary Soto. (More on this later.)
 Dan Featherston, 26 Islands(Washington, DC: primitive publications, 1999). This chapbook is number seven in a 'primitive chapbook series' edited by Mary Hilton.
 It would be misleading for me or anyone to deny to contemporary Hawai'ians the will to technological, political, and cultural innovation. 'Oiwi: A Native Hawai'ian Journal that started up in December of 1998 offers a capacious, multi-genre vision of contemporary Hawai'ian literary-cultural production as tied to past values as well as to such innovative change. As Ku'ualoha Meyer Ho'omanawanui puts the case in an editorial colloquium in the first issue: 'What's so good about this journal and the whole idea of kuleana is that there is no point in Hawai'ian history that I have found where Hawai'ians have denied new technology. At every point-- from finding nails on pieces of wood to the introduction of paper and pen and the printing press-- Hawai'ians took the new [global] technology and 'Hawai'ianized' it,' Oiwi, 1 (1998): 3. Of course, the dictionary, ballad, and newspaper were forms of 'print capitalism' that Hawai'ians used and altered throughout the nineteenth century, and still do to serve Native Hawai'ian purposes.
 The literary apparatus of the white American gaze upon the Pacific subaltern was never quite quieted or lost, but tried to take market dominion in the amplified tourist flow in Hawai'i after statehood , James Michener, and the liberal-US takeover: see Paul Lyons, 'Pacific Scholarship, Literary Criticism, and Touristic Desire: The Specter of A. Grove Day,' boundary 2 24 (1997): 47-78.
 I study these debates, rifts, global/ local/ national tensions, and 'lines of flight' and rooting tactics in Rob Wilson, Reimagining the American Pacific: From 'South Pacific' to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond (forthcoming Duke UP, spring 2000). On the 'white mythology' and time-honored colonial discourse of the Euro-American settler Pacific, also see Rod Edmond, Representing the South Pacific: Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997); also see Vilsoni Hereniko and Rob Wilson, eds., Inside Out: Literature, Cultural Politics, and Identity in the New Pacific (Boulder, CO.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) for a tangle of indigenous, local, national, and transnational views by authors from Albert Wendt to Patricia Grace, Alan Duff, and Haunani-Kay Trask.
 4-evaz Anna (Honolulu: Tinfish Network, 1997), p. 11.
 Bill Luoma, Works & Days (West Stockbridge, MA: Hard Press/The Figures, 1998), pp. 103-109. Also see Bill Luoma, Western Love (Washington DC: Situations, 1996) and Swoon Rocket (Great Barrington, MA: The Figures, 1996).
 See James Clifford, Routes(Harvard UP, 1997) , pp. 241-243. Also ponder Gilles Deleuze on American literature as 'lines of flight' and 'Pacific becoming,' even as F. Scott Fitzgerald's manic-depressive Pacific escape/flight in 'On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature,' Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 36-38. If 'the line of flight is a deterritorialization,' this leap across borders and codes goes on within and against the struggle for nation-bound forms of territorial sovereignty (as in US/ Hawai'i).
 (Honolulu: Hawai'i Dub Music, 199). All selections ASCAP, HDM 0040: contact the label's web site at http://joebalaz.jump.com.
For a polemical and no less persona-ridden take on the Pacific as site of writing, also see the prophetic and primordial imaginings of Richard Hamasaki in red flea, virtual fleality (Honolulu: 'elepaio press, 1996). HDM rf 20001.
 It is true that Joe Balaz is no Charles Bernstein in the range, mixture, or play of voices, but he is closer to this mode of language poetry (it seems to me) than he is, say, to Robert Pinsky or W. S. Merwin in discursive protocols. The latter poet, of course, has lived on Maui for over twenty five years, but his poetry is more directed to New York styles, audience, and modes, even when his work is focused on much-written-about Hawai'ian materials like 'Koolau the leper' in The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative of 19th Century Hawai'i (New York: Knopf, 1998). (It would take another essay to carry this argument, but there is not world enough nor time/interest on my part to discuss what George Oppen once called 'the Merwin' model of the US lyric poem.)
 Over his years as poet, editor, and anthologist of the contemporary and indigenous in Hawai'i, Balaz has written poems which are less exercises in subjective point of view and complicated personal voice (which is the dominant tactic in American mainstream poetry), than they are witty experiments in the humorous and impious voice of local characters and marginal perspectives. The surprise and challenge of the Balaz poem is, I think, less one of deep explication and more one of fantasy projection into linguistic and ethnic otherness.
 See the concrete icons on Hawai'ian identity issues and cultural-political struggles in the mixed-language poems of Joseph Puna Balaz, Ola (Honolulu: Tinfish, 1996).
 It had been Susan Schultz's editorial goal, in Tinfish, to envision a kind of trans-Pacific community across this 'two postmodernisms' gap: 'My hope is that,' she wrote in New American Writing, 'these different postmodernisms will discover themselves in community with each other, not because they speak the same languages, but paradoxically because they do not' (141). Her own writing of poetry aimed to discover 'my depth in the history of a place [Hawai'i] that is not my own.' This humility and openness to place can be opposed to the more US lyric-centered attitude of resident poet, Galway Kinnell, who told me back in 1981 that Hawai'i was a hard place to write in because 'it had no traditions to speak of.' I replied, horrified, 'there are traditions here, Galway, they are just not your own [New England] ones.' The writing around 'Bamboo Ridge' is at least a testament to that 'local' richness of diverse Asian/Pacific/American traditions.
 In situating Spahr's poetic as related both to an affiliated break with the New York school of Berrigan et al, as well as to a kind of street-level embodiment of the local, I am drawing here upon her essay/poem, 'Live,' from For More. Also see Juliana Spahr, fuck-you-aloha-I love you (self-publish or perish, 1998): 'Da kine is uneven moments for me' of mongrel mixture, bliss, outrage, displacement in Waikiki (11).
 Writings by Masuda, Chin, R. Zamora Linmark et al, are inventively anthologized by Walter K. Lew, ed., in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry (New York: Kaya Productions, 1995). Also see Justin Chin, Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes, Pranks (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999) for the libidinous embrace of a 'queer diaspora' linking the 'mongrel' Chinese/Malaysian cultures of Hawai'i, Singapore, and San Francisco: an aesthetics of flux and risk.
 (Honolulu: Bamboo Ridge Press, 1996), p. 199 and pp. 142-143.
 For an informed portrait of Saijo's poetic way of life and writing, see Nadine Kam, ''I take great pains with my writing,'' Honolulu Star Bulletin, June 27, 1997.
 Tinfish, No. 6 (March, 1998): p.54.
 A very different and much more conventional view of the writing life at Volcano is offered by Garrett Hongo in Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai'i (New York: Knopf, 1995). Bowing to Yeats and Marquez and Basho even as he puts local ethnic and Hawai'ian indigenous signifiers in italics and wills the ghosts of his immigrant Japanese ancestors to talk story ('kahiko out of my voice' [p. xi]) with this prodigal son becoming native insider, Hongo recounts a 'magical realism' drenched narrative that aims to be a 'sacred book-- a book of origins' (pp. 20-27). Rich in borrowed metaphor and myth and posited as poetic quest, it is surprising to realize that Hongo actually spent only his first three months at Volcano village and grew up in the less charmed urban locales of Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Irvine. Phrases like 'at the car rental agency, we could gaze toward the lower, grove-stubbled slopes of Mauna Kea like van Gogh's French hillsides' (p. 33) reveal Hawai'i less as inhabited place and existence on a small scale of locality (as in Saijo) than as an aestheticized landscape seen via metaphors from a museum and library of world culture, Asian, Euro-American romantic and otherwise (as in Merwin). This is a different genre of cultural work, aimed at another audience and style.
 Big Sur (New York: Bantam, 1963), p. 67. Saijo becomes another link to Zen Buddhism and 'the Orient' for Kerouac, who found the west coast USA closer in expansive sentiment and lyric existence to Asia than to Europe (79).
 OUTSPEAKS, p. 73. Also see Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, Lew Welsh, Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road from SF to NY (Gray Fox Press, 1999).
 Ono Ono Girl's Hula (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), pp. 171-176, wherein the indigenous genealogy claims fall apart but she is accepted by diasporic Hawai'ians in California anyway as 'ono ono girl.' Also see Carolyn Lei-Lani Lau, Keonilani (San Antonio, Texas: Chile Verde Press, 1993).
 John Tranter, Different Hands (South Fremantle, Western Australia: Folio/Fremantle Arts Center Press, 1998).
 John Kinsella, The Hunt & other poems (Newcastle, England: Bloodaxe Books, 1998). Simultaneously published by Fremantle Arts Center Press in Australia. Kinsella now lives and writes in Cambridge, England, but his poetics remains largely tied to the problematics of representing a more multicultural, multilingual vision of Australia and the Asia/Pacific region.
 See for example his special issue of Salt 11 (1999) on 'In the Mix: International Regionalism & Hypermodernism,' for an exploration of this double tie to place, nation, region as well as to language experimentation.
 Verse Interview with John Kinsella conducted by Brian Henry, Vol. 15 (1998): 65.
 See John Kinsella, The Benefaction: vicissitudes of an interior (Cambridge, England: Equipage, 1999), p. 9, where 'interior' is both the landscape and the self, disconnected.
 Kinsella has remarked of the Tinfish project, 'Tinfishis a kind of interactive space for a pluralistic English that doesn't appropriate, but doesn't play the [multicultural] game with excessive politeness,' Verse interview, p. 68.
 John Kinsella, 'The Sandstone Rim, luxuriant,' in The Benefaction, p. 19.
 This would be what I mean by Pacific Experimental writing as a local mode of 'devious' anti-canonical writing.
The opposed meaning of what Susan Schultz had called these 'two postmodernisms' signifies, on the one (more experimental) hand, a concern to activate the play of languages and mixed heritages of representation, as in some intertextual and deconstructive abyss that calls into question any under-theorized, stable, or reified version of 'identity,' 'voice,' or 'sovereignty' of meaning, cultural self, nationhood and so on. The 'deconstruction of nostalgia for transcendental identity is crucial to international poetry working out beyond modernism,' is how the editors of a special issue of Angelaki put this drive to unsettle identity.
This postmodern tactic of language play at times uprooted the writing self from the place/identity of local embodiment, and stressed, instead, the 'depthless' scene of writing as a kind of perpetual displacement and deferral of the self's being housed or contained by any ongoing identity with sign or place.
This avowedly 'avant-garde' sense of language-as-home had come to be considered, at least in the local Pacific, as a mainland US, metropolitan, or 'New-York centric' brand of post-Ashbery poetics playing itself out against other, emerging tactics of voice and identity that, on the other (more 'local') hand, had pushed poetic language towards voicing a more trenchantly situated, affiliated, or localized kind of postmodernism. A kind of 'local"-based poetry that wanted to align itself with forces and forms of imagined identity that were coming to be called, in the late 1980s, 'postcolonial.' This postmodernism, as Susan Schultz saw in Hawai'i and the trans-Pacific regional emergences, 'embodies history and believes in voice.' Such poetry became a means by which local/ethnic/indigenous identity (and these are not the same claims) could protect themselves against homogenizing forces of the global- culture industry and US mainstream.
This stance claiming to express a 'postcolonial' kind of postmodernity would urge, writing in the Pacific, those aggravated concerns to recapture strong claims to cultural, cultural-national, and subaltern ethnic identity; to reclaim some indigenous nation as seen under global/local superpower threat; and to express, more generally, some situated coalition of 'local' writing forces and energies; a kind of place-based imagination of belonging to some specific locality, liminal zone, and counter-nation as entangled in a distinctive, if nervously ambivalent, colonial history.
At times, these 'two postmodernisms' can be said to have split off into extremes of textual word play and ludic prattle, say, letters and words in love with their own materiality and poetic sound play, on the one hand; versus (in another version) a kind of reified, nostalgia-drenched, and reiterative primordiality, on the other hand, wherein indigenous claims to place, myth, symbolic aboriginaity, and nation are invoked to assert a kind of ontological priority against competing versions of cultural mixture, ethnic settlement, or linguistic and biological 'hybridity' discourse as such. Ludic unreadability and white-bread deconstruction, on the one (parodic) hand, versus a kind of grand transparency and sublime genealogy of native metaphor claiming a legacy of balance, blood, earth, and 'truth.'
We could easily round up a few of the more notorious writing suspects here, but 'I prefer not to' at this point, instead choosing, in this exploratory essay/polemic and vision of experimental (cum local) poetics to examine some recent poetic works from in and around the Pacific which have all these strange markings of writerly 'experimentation' and textual play (postmodernism, brand A) as well as the concerns with belonging to and expressing a distinct, particularized, and limited model of identity, affiliated voice, sentiments of nationhood, and (post)colonial heritage (postmodernism B, as it were).
The poetry books, placed in this larger global social framework of the 'postcolonial"/ 'postmodern' Pacific, are Daniel Featherston'sinnovative 26 Islands; Kathy Dee Kaleokealoha Kaloloahilani Banggo's crazed-lyric chapbook from Tinfish Network called 4-evaz, Anna;Bill Luoma's uncanny and playful vision of the global local, in Works and Days; a pidgin-based CD from Hawai'ian local stand-up poet, Joseph Puna Balaz, Electric Laulau; Juliana Spahr's exploratory, bi-textual vision of the contemporary confluence, Spiderwasp Or Literary Criticism; Albert Saijo's OUTSPEAKS: A RHAPSODY, which brings together visionary, local, and experimental trajectories in a singular and uncanny way as a praxis-oriented poetics of Beat life on the Big Island in Hawai'i; Carolyn Lei-LaniLau's troubling poetic autobiography of neo-indigenization, Ono Ono Girl's Hula; John Tranter's computer-generated collaborations of Rim de-centering, Different Hands; and John Kinsella's dusted-down western Australia pastoral, The Hunt & Other Poems and The Benefaction.
All of these works could never be called 'modern,' in the sense that they unleash a strange and risky mixture of genres, a wilder play of stylistic codes, and everywhere display an ongoing interest in marginal, urban, virtual, and rural languages, trans-lyrical idiolects, and mongrel tongues and counter-subjective tones that would make TS Eliot, Robert Pinsky, Helen Vendler (or perhaps even Doc Williams writing 'the filthy Passaic' locality) turn over in their specific, semi-Wasp graves. Risking experimentation and marginal forms of minor writing, each of these authors realize, and resist the textual fate that 'the marginal is invited into the mainstream or preserved as marginal value by the mainstream only when it gives up its attachment to difference."
Featherston's 26 Islands is a handsome and intriguing little chapbook organized around the colonial/indigenous play of some writerly alphabet and missionary nomenclature bringing the natives into the English language, natives, in Ashbery's phrase, 'whose speech is their punishment' of learning how to curse and pray for pidgin mastery, like some Pacific Island Caliban. The book's cover situates these discursively encoded '26 islands' within the Hawai'ian Pacific: Kah'anoku Kina'u is pictured in a woodcut print 'returning from church services' as in genteel procession, with 'The Chief's Children's School, also called the Royal School' like a New England panopticon in the Oahu distance. (At such a school for the royal rulers, the Bishop Estate began to link 'the Kamehameha Legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi' to the ways of Christian capitalism and leasehold tactics of Charles Bishop et al, which forever altered land forms and social relationships of Native Hawai'ians, for better and for worse.)
Featherston has amplified his explicit pictorial link with Pacific islands locations and Hawai'i by publishing 'L Is For Lexical' in Tinfish7: 'propinquities: Hawai'i/ not far from Le Havre/ are there Hawfinches/ there// Where?' What might appear to be mere word play or the delight in linguistic prattle and lexical wit, on a first reading of this 'primer' or poetic 'prayer book' of metropolitan denomination, becomes caught up in a larger concern with expressing the 'there/here' of first languages as a displacement of place and conquest of the native language and indigenous people and landscape into a Euro-American centered nomenclature: the primacy of the primer and alphabet of colonial induction.
Featherston's alphabet-based 26 entries grow on you, like some devious little deconstructive Pacific haiku, and can accrue a larger vision of place and people as well; the Pacific islands as consumed and placed in language, as in 'M Is For Moloka'i' (perhaps the Hawai'ian island most represented by outsiders and concerned visitors):
At the Moloka'i leper colony,
disease cured by distance reads:
The water will cleanse you
& you will be unto yourself
a no land a no man
standing between sky & sea.
Leprosy and the arrogant ruses of white representation are here absorbed into a kind of Biblical 'cleansing,' suggesting a Prospero-like experiment in evacuation and redemption via re-signification of the local island. Place and the language of prior possession gets emptied out, rewritten, and recorded to fit the prior terms.
There is a lot to like in Featherston's 26 Islands, even if the framing seems to be a bit slight or obvious at times, in part and in the play of the whole, but I wonder as well about the Homi Bhabha-like unsituated ambivalence of Featherston's skeptical, self-canceling, deconstructive claim in his book's final 'Notes": 'But an island alphabet: whose alphabet? whose 'primer"? the colonizer? the colonized? And what are the relationships between the parts & the whole: the letters & the word, the word & its 'thing,' the island & 'mainland,' / 'self"/ 'whole' writ large as world"?"
At least Featherston's book tries to answer such large and small questions of geo-imaginary place with tact and care, with the integrity of an ongoing and committed interest both to amplify experimentation and situation, language and place, mapping these islands of conflicted landings, diverse settlements, and language belongings, whose names and dictionaries we bring on shore and (almost) lose in the trans-Pacific ocean crossing.
While Featherston's poetry book may never enter into the larger 'local literature' debates in Hawai'i, nor be seen as an uncanny revision of the haole settler literature (which it is) of Jack London, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, it does make a devious and linguistically skeptical contribution to this semi-tormented 'white mythology' of the Pacific islands.
A more deviously localist yet experimental work is Kathy Dee Kaleokealoha Kaloloahilani Banggo's 4-evaz, Anna.This is a work fully written in a hard-core pidgin English, incommensurable with the polite syntax and sublimated diction of standard English lyric poesy; it can even be opposed to the ethnic pieties and 'mango days and mango ways' nostalgia of Bamboo Ridge-mode poetry. Creating a street poor underworld of drugs, sex, and brutalized ecstasy in Wahiawa, Oahu, Anna gives voice to the border of the borderland, as it were, revealing racial antagonisms on the verge of madness, murder, and lyric redemption in poems like 'Fly, Da Mo'o and Me' and 'De Wen Sen Me Girl's Home' which ends with this scene of Fanon-like family rage and stabbing of a brother by a sister:
black ass bebe
bruddah tell me
he jealous I surf Ehu Kai
bruddah dahk, too, ah
but he only fake
In Bill Luoma's estranged yet endearing takes on the Waipahu local and the Ward fish market, in works of wacky cosmopolitical conjunction and global/local fusion like 'KPOI 97.5 The Rock You Live On,' the Pacific local is distanced and estranged as 'identity' or 'place' into some wry calculus of mixture and heteroglossia suggesting co-existence, energy, incongruity, and change. Luoma's manic poem-of-place has all the generic blurring and textual uncanniness of James Clifford's 'Year of the Ram: Honolulu, February 2, 1991,' that tourist-gaze poem/essay from his diasporic study of uprooted belonging, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century: here, global/local Honolulu becomes written over as transnational staging ground for global war, US militarism, island exoticism, on-the-beach trans-gender romance, and the transformation of the paternal agon of the collage-maker poet/ethnographer into something more loving, expressing a 'woman becoming' or 'Pacific becoming into the whale,' as Deleuze might say.
Claiming to speak an embodied relationship between 'the island & 'the mainland,'' there is the Hawai'ian-based yet creolized poetry of Joseph Puna Balaz, for whom as scrappy culture-credo, 'Hawai'i Is Da Mainland to Me":
Wat you mean continent brah?!
Da mainland is da mainland,
dats where you goin, eh?!
Eh, like I told you,
dats da continent--
is da mainland to me.
This deviously situated and place-bound little poem remains a kind of poetic anthem for local and indigenous settlement and pidgin priority in Hawai'i, and the poem is rightfully included as the eleventh and last poem of Electric Laulau by Joe Balaz.
The poetry of Joe Balaz presents a deft and imaginative reclaiming of the local Pacific with wit and joy, using multiple languages and colorful styles, and the expressive humor of the mixed and impious-- tactics of linguistic imagination much needed in a time of decolonizing struggle in the Pacific when claims to self-righteous purity (of blood, ideology, vision) do abound.
The poems embrace Hawai'ian pidgin English as an uncanny language of local mixture and lively adventure, as embodied in poems ranging from voices of skate boarders, lounge lizards, and raunchy fans at Bows games to the freshly pop-contemporary and localized voice of Maui the demigod.
While in oral performance his poetry can swerve close to stand-up comedy in its local staging of racial antagonisms and un-deconstructed beliefs, Balaz writes with flair, self-consciousness, and ingenuity, creating a whole 'Booga Booga"-like comic carnival of characters and voices distinctly his trans-ego own, yet commenting on, reinventing, and enacting the ever-emerging components of 'local literature' in its postmodern mode of Hawai'ian/pidgin English mixture.
Each poem seems to delight in its own fanciful, offbeat language, and impious emergence: still, his work is unified in overall style, languages, and vision which emerge out of a coherent Pacific-based vision of place, community and self. Craft and cultural politics come together in ways that reflect the vision of a poet who has worked over the course of two decades to earn this ongoing power of imagination, place, and language.
In effect, both the 'local' and 'the indigenous' thematics that dominate the airwaves in Hawai'i (as perhaps in other parts of Asia-Pacific) -- as well as the whole idea of what counts as the literary poetic-- are transformed by Balaz's Electric Laulau. For the postmodern surrealism and wit of his subjective 'fantasy' remain rooted in Hawai'ian history and language and grounded in the struggle for expanded Hawai'ian expression of self, place, and a kind of music-and-art driven cultural nation.
Each poem's impurity and irreverence of voice (for example, ponder the strange etymology of 'Da History of Pigeon,' the singular geography lessons of Hawai'i in 'Da Mainland to Me' and Japan in 'Namoku´Ž Eha,' and the mock authoritative pedagogy of 'Pidlit 101') are of a piece with their passion and conviction. Many of Balaz's stand-up poems (like 'Lounge Lizard' and 'Junior Is Wun Rastah') have come to be considered local classics known from publication in journals like Chaminade Literary Review, Ramrod, Tinfish, and Hawai'i Review and are much used in high school and college courses here. Balaz, in his own singular way, is indeed a postmodern Pacific poet of multi-linguistic wit and situated vision, bringing the 'two postmodernisms' into the weave and mix of his oceanic craft.
'Da History of Pigeon' (the third poem in Electric Laulau, wryly backed up by doowop and calypso voices) links the etymology, change, and survival of the pigeon, as dirty and ugly yet scrappy bird (word), to the survival of a colorful, frowned upon, yet scrappy Pidgin English. The poem opens with a process of amalgamating 'different kind words' from different racial and ethnic sources, 'and den came da pigeon.' A mock history listen in etymology is given in which the Anglo Saxon for dove ('or d-u-f-e, as dey used to spell ´Žum') is blended and replaced with the French word pigeon, which also as cuisine brought to England 'recipes for pigeon pie."
Language, culture, music, and food, the Balaz poem is showing in a humorous way, are produced and enriched through a historical process of creolization, mixture, incorporation of the foreign culture and codes: 'even back den, da word pigeon wen blend wit pigeon, foa get moa pigeon.' Nowadays, pigeons are everywhere, in the zoo, in the city, in cages, as is (by analogy) Pidgin English ('And no mattah wat anybody do, dey kanot get rid of pigeon'). The poem ends with a plea, via pidgin metaphor, for linguistic openness and tolerance of colorful ethnic strands within Anglo-Saxon English, an acceptance of minority sub-languages like HCE Pidgin: 'I guess wit such a wide blue sky, everyting deserves to fly."
Impious, wry, Balaz mocks motrr piously local Hawai'ians in raunchy poems like 'Lapa Poi Boy' and 'Catch Da Bone,' not to mention the visual and semiotic ironies in concrete poems like 'To´Že To´Že Toe' (published in an earlier Tinfish) which suggests (as verbal icon) a kind of uneasy tic-tac-toe game between Hawai'ian sovereignty players and the state (the game ends in a deadlock on state ground).
A deft poem representing contemporary Hawai'ians and the impure mixtures and creolization of local culture is 'Junior Is Wun Rastah.' Junior has gotten so far into cosmic Rastafarian culture from the West Indies (a big influence on contemporary Hawai'ian music) that he not only wears Ethiopian T-shirts, talks Kingston Creole all day, he puts Bob Marley posters on 'his low ridah truck' and even paints the colors of his Hawai'ian canoe club with Rastafarian red and green to go with Hawai'ian yellow to 'give da canoe/cosmic energy/in da watah.' By the end of the poem, Junior is so 'lolo' with Rastafarian vision that he has turned his pubic hairs Rastafarian style: 'brah, wuz all dreds."
In other words, Balaz's poem is showing, via humorous narrative voice, that the local style and Hawai'ian mores of Junior have been taken over, in part, by Rastafarian island tactics in a strangely mixed-localized way that affects his transnational/ Hawai'ian identity, his mongrel style of poetics, his language, even his private body parts. What I would claim is that, in such a poet, the Postmodern Experimental play of language, identity role, and voice, and the Postmodern Local literature's struggle to express multi-constructed identity, situated history, and embodied poetics of place, can somehow come together, mix, and merge into something anti-lyrical, Asian/Pacific based, interesting, open, and new. For Balaz (like Banggo) writes from a place where the two postmodernisms could mingle and meet in the mongrel-magical waters of the Experimental Pacific.
From a differently situated, but place-affiliated angle of vision that is struggling to come to (belated) anti-lyrical terms with the 'New York-centric' vision of Whitmanic Personalism ('I no longer take offense to NY-centric statements, I pay NY rent'), post-confessional charm, and urban street-smart NYC surrealism, as this 'school of poetics' has come to be posed against the free-play of the material signifier in Language-based (A)poetics, Juliana Spahr tries in her Spiderwasp or Literary Criticism to move beyond the (male) agon of categories and (reigning) styles that have marked the postmodern period of the Allen/Hall (Spider/Wasp) anthologies. Spahr thus aims to break into a newer 'Spiderwasp' vision of convergence, flow, linkage, and in-mixture. At least landed belonging as ground of cultural identity, and some vision of an expansive nexus and community of poetic landlessness, become erotically entangled in Spahr's own works and in editing Chain.
In Spahr's mixed-genre work, these 'two postmodernisms' of the Experimental and the Embodied can be written/read as contributions and contradictions to the site of creating trans-ego identity and multiple linkages. Reading works she loves and feels her own work (as poet/critic or spider/wasp) is affiliated to-- as act of spider/wasp devouring of poems by literary criticism and critical theory-- Spahr goes on imagining S/M cultural production and her own more schizo-text brand of poetics as a kind of (Deleuzian) Over-Woman (as in Lisa Jarnot's works which Spahr admires) flowing across the binaries and opposed period-categories, as these can now be measured, posted, and installed against the Silliman/Watten/Perelman Dialectic of US period war. Robert Grenier's performative slogan for the writerly materiality of language writing at Iowa in This (1971)-- 'I HATE SPEECH' (see Spiderwasp, p. 5)-- seems especially inadequate as aesthetic slogan in a place like the Pacific, as region of cultural-political multiplicity and heteroglossia, wherein various forms of pidgin and mongrel cultural mixture are being affirmed as literary possibility, as practiced in writers as diverse as Barry Masuda, Justin Chin, Kathy Dee Banggo, Milton Murayama, Joe Balaz, Wendy Miyake, and Lee Tonouchi (as in his new pidgin-friendly journal, Hybolics).
For Albert Saijo, in his singular memoir of experimental language, OUTSPEAKS: A RHAPSODY, this work of sprawling capital letters, Emersonian rant and discontinuity, and Kerouac-like dashes, language riffs, and sermonizing jeremiads on his Zen monk-poet life as a 'LUDDITE MANQUE,' is dedicated to the poetics of 'LIVING ON THE EDGE." The plover bird, hopping between Volcano forest and Alaska steppes, becomes an admirable Pacific figure of 'ANIMAL CIVILITY,' living on edges and borders, embodying nomadic movement, improvisation and risk, jazzy flights between solitary foraging and communal roosting: anarchic and poetic existence on a small budget.
In Juliana Spahr's laudatory review of Saijo's book for Tinfish, that 'journal of experimental poetry with an emphasis on work from the Pacific region,' Saijo's plover thus figures for her reading, as 'a utopic model for dealing with contradictions' and living on the edges of urban language and wilderness space: an experimental model, as it were, of the Pacific local.
Saijo offers a very globalized view of the local Pacific as place has come to be tied into the larger ecology system of the planet and the political economy of the US war machine, which the author tries his ranting and informed best to critique, if not in a postmodern than in a 'postnuclear' mode of horror, outrage, flight, and outspoken (OUTSPOKEN) contempt.
I mention Saijo here, to make a smaller regional point as well: to show that Bamboo Ridge Press has at times quested to publish a more experimental take upon local writing. Its turn to the risk-taking Saijo-- that exemplary Zen figure of Lew- Welch-like dedication, 'glad freedom.' and boundary-crossing risk figured as George Basho in Jack Kerouac's drunken novel, Big Sur-- has called up an uncanny and venerable figure from the Beat Generation to generate an Experimental, yet organic Local, vision of living a poetic existence in the small-is-beautiful Pacific: 'LIKE THEY SAY IF YER NOT LIVIN ON THE EDGE YER TAKIN UP TOO MUCH SPACE.' As Saijo opines in his pidgin credo, 'EARTH SLANGUAGE WITH ENGLISH ON IT,' he aims as writer to wreck and warp standard English discourse into his own singular and rooted pidgin: 'PULL ENGLISH BACK TOWARD ROOT LANGUAGE OF HOMINID BEFORE CIVILIZATION-- I WANT TO CREOLIZE IT-- VANDALIZE IT-- BEND IT TOWARD CHINESE-- A VITAL COMPACT WAY OF SPEAKING AND WRITING."
Carolyn Lei-Lanilau's Ono Ono Girl's Hula is a work of localist, experimental, and neo-indigenous claims and tactics that raises many doubts about such works and tactics of postmodern localism as the way to go. Here, crafts of self-posturing and semiotic simulation loosen the ties to place and turn phoney, glib, and de-realized. Tracking the morphing of the Chinese American poet, Carolyn Lau into her reincarnation (via the blood of her Hawai'ian grandmother) as Carolyn Lei-Lani Lau (in Keonilani)into the aboriginal voice of a Native Hawai'ian, Ono Ono Girls' Hula is a 'loco moco' brew of mongrel identity politics emanating from the grounds of cultural-political struggle in Hawai'i as much as from the flux of the diasporic Pacific Rim and the ethnic opportunism of California. It is a schizoid text of herstory, and the moments in the texts when she aspires towards primordial ideological bullying are way off the mark. But when she lets the language flow and mix, she becomes a voice of mongrel postcoloniality questing for a blissy, blessed self-mythology as goddess of the California hula.
Ono Ono Girl's Hula falls apart in its self-fashioned claims to establish authorial and authoritative Hawai'ianess, however: (1) the blood claims prove to be murky, as Lau cannot find the genealogical records of her grandmother in the state archives; (2) the language claims are shallow and meandering, bits of Hawai'ian thrown in from a tourist brochure or Hawai'ian 101; (3) the cultural-practice claims are highly impure and inauthentic (like the act of self-naming, or the sexualizing of the 'aumakua place-spirits; (4) the political affiliation claims to nationhood rest on an Office of Hawai'ian Affairs vote that most Hawai'ians protested as a state fraud; and (5) the land-based claims are superficial, as she remains tied to her 'Kaleponi 'Ohana' and only comes back to Hawai'i to visit her family and taste the local by shopping at Long's Drugs and eating in bad Chinese restaurants.
Finally, in this textual analysis section, I want to turn to discuss in more detail some poems by John Tranter and John Kinsella, postmodern poets of post-white Australia who are pulling variously in experimental and place-based directions; and thus helping writers and cultural critics to forge a more postmodern, theoretically informed, and transcultural vision of writing place/ identity/ community in the decolonizing Pacific.