Catullus in Hawaii

Published : Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | Label:

Seems like a long time ago now, but it must have been 2004 or 2005, I travelled to Hawaii to be part of a tour of international writers, hosted by Takiora Ingram and there Pacific Writers Connection. Larissa Behrendt was on that tour and Kim Stafford and Debra Magpie Earling. I met the wonderful Frank Stewart. We walked and swam and met local writers and elders, and we read poems and ran workshops and learned about Hawaii, its long and rich and terrible and multiple history. We flew to Hana and back. I had a terrible cold most of the time, as I recall, and I hope no one caught it, and I hope I have been forgiven if they did.

It’s now ten years since Takiora and the others got the Pacific Writers Connection up, and Brian Doyle has edited for them an anthology of work by overseas and local writers who have taken part in PWC events over the years. The anthology is called Ho’oloule’a . I have two small poems in it: “Catullus, At Dusk, Lustful and Heartbroken, Tries his Hand at Haiku”, a haiku with a haiku for a title, a poem I wouldn’t have know how to write when I was in Hawaii; and “The Holiness of the Heart’s Affections”, a poem I wrote pretty soon after I came back from the islands, a soft (and I have always thought sentimental) poem for my then very young son Daniel.

It goes like this (except every other line is indented, a thing my web design is unable to effect):

If there’s something more like mercy
than grassheads
bending in a prayerful easterly fervent
with early summer
I can’t think what it might be
sitting here
on my doorstep in the godly light
of afternoon.

Then my small son comes and leans
against my chest
and I have my answer.

I’m not sure where you can find the book: from the PWC, I guess, or amazon. It’s a beautiful production and a fine collection. Barry Lopez is in there and Kim Stafford and Larissa Behrendt. My poems seem such small things by comparison with much else in the book. So it is with poetry, though. It writes the big story small. It is a leaf that tells a tree. 


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