The Lost Art of Room Travel

9780987596505_p0_v1_s260x420by Jennifer Barrett
Koala Cove Press, 2013

In 1790, a Frenchman by the name of Xavier De Maistre claimed to have pioneered the art of room travel; he explored his bedroom for the 42-day duration of a house arrest sentence he received for dueling. Over two centuries later, an Australian by the name of of Jennifer Barrett tried De Maistre’s unusual mode of travel for herself, embarking on a journey around her study. Her personal observations of the various objects she encountered soon developed into deeper meditations on the wider issues and ideas that arose from them. The result is The Lost Art of Room Travel—a collection of nine narrative essays that navigate ideas including imagination, travel, and nostalgia, in a voice that is, by turns, serious, comic, and even surreal.

An excerpt:

One  day while searching the T.V. channels for something interesting, I found that a Magnum P.I. re-run was on, the first time I had seen an episode since they were originally aired in the 1980s. As I settled down to watch I thought it would probably be a bit cringe-worthy, as many television series from that era are when re-visited. Although I had been a huge fan of the Magnum episodes, I wasn’t sure whether they would hold the same appeal decades later. However, somewhat to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The episodes, which aired a few days a week, became something to look forward to. For the brief time it took Magnum and his friends to “save the day” I was transported away from the constricted confines of my house and deposited into the tropical beauty of Hawaii. The fact that the leading man, played by Tom Selleck, was very easy on the eyes may have added to the show’s attraction, but I admit nothing…

[One] reason the Magnum episodes appealed to me was that I had originally seen them when in my early twenties, so at a subconscious level I was connecting with my youth again while watching them. That’s presumably why nostalgia is such big business, with re-runs of the shows from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and clothing from previous decades coming back into vogue. People who were young when the originals made their debuts are reminded of their youth.

 

Brothers Under a Same Sky

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by Gary Pak
University of Hawaii Press, 2013

Gary Pak’s latest novel is the story of two Korean-American brothers, Nam Kun and Nam Ki Han, raised in a devout Christian household on a Hawaiian plantation. Following their father’s death, Nam Kun works to support his mother and younger brother, but distances himself from the same Christian faith his remaining family clings to. Years later, at the start of the Korean War, Nam Ki is drafted into the army—an occurrence Nam Kun believes will make a man out of his younger brother. However, the need to kill clashes with Nam Ki’s religious convictions, and the ethical turmoil that follows is soothed only when he meets and falls in love with a young Korean, Christian woman. Nam Ki vows to return for her once the war ends, but upon doing so learns that she has fallen into an ignominious lifestyle, confronting him with a final choice between faith and flesh.

Gary Pak is a third-generation Korean-American. He received his BA from Boston University and his MA and PhD from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, where he is currently a professor of English. His published fiction includes the novels A Ricepaper Airplane and Children of a Fireland, as well as the short story collections The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories, and Language of the Geckos. He is the recipient of the 1992 Elliot Cades Literary Prize, as well as a 2002 Fulbright award to Seoul, South Korea.

My Funeral Gondola

my_funeral_gondola_fullby Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Mānoa Books and El León Literary Arts, 2013

Melissa Kwasny writes that the poems in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s second collection of poetry, My Funeral Gondola, “navigate the swells of loss…I recognize this speech, haunting and strange, the speech of true poets.”

In My Funeral Gondola, Sze-Lorrain takes on departures and rifts in a lyrical voice that reclaims the personal and the universal. As if to subvert expectations in narrative, memory and experience, these poems speak through their restraint to the meditations, bittersweet struggles, and inner intensities of an existence that trusts the music, the distance, and the timeless.

Sze-Lorrain’s debut collection of poetry, Water the Moon, was published in 2010. In addition to her books of translation of Chinese poets from Zephyr Press, she has translated several contemporary French and American authors and co-edited the Mãnoa/University of Hawai’i Press anthologies Sky Lanterns (summer 2012) and On Freedom (winter 2012). An editor at Cerise Press and Vif éditions, she is also a zheng harpist and orchid healer.

A Japanese Girl Speaks

642Kubo_Mari_Cov2by Mari Kubo
Finishing Line Press, 2013

In her new poetry chapbook, A Japanese Girl Speaks (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), Mari Kubo “[expresses] the magic in ordinary moments with delicate images and sly humor” (Dana Naone Hall).

Mari Kubo was raised in Hilo and Honolulu, Hawai’i, and began writing poetry and fiction in her youth. She received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and her MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. Her poems and fiction have been published at both the state and national levels. She currently lives in Hilo.

How to Live on the Planet Earth: Collected Poems

nanao front coverby Nanao Sasaki
Blackberry Books, 2013

How to Live on the Planet Earth is the most extensive collection of Japanese poet Nanao Sakaki’s work, containing poems from the previously published volumes Bellyfulls (1966), Real Play (1981), Break the Mirror (1987), and Let’s Eat Stars (1997). The book’s final section also features over one hundred pages of new work, written before Sakaki’s passing in 2008.

In his introduction to How to Live on Planet Earth, Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Synder describes Sakaki as “a uniquely free and bold-spirited wanderer, occasional river or mountain activist, singer and chanter, and internationally published poet.” Born in Kagoshima Prefecture, Sakaki grew up in pre-war Japan and served in World War II. In the early 1950s, he began studying English, immersing himself in nature, and writing poetry. In the late 1960s, he began making visits to the United States, around California and New Mexico. At the time of his death, Nagano was living with acquaintances in the mountainous areas of Nagano Prefecture, Japan.

A Possible Bag

Imageby Andrew Schelling
Singing Horse Press, 2013

Following the trail he set out on in From he Arapaho Songbook, the poems in Andrew Schelling’s A Possible Bag take us further into the recesses of the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion, tracking the remnants of the Arapaho language that was once the native tongue of that terrain.

A translator, poet, ecologist, and explorer, Andrew Schelling was raised in New England, but relocated to Northern California in the early 1970s, where he studied Sanskrit and Asian literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He has explored and traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe, and South Asia, and currently lives near the Southern Rocky mountains, in Boulder, Colorado, where he teaches poetry, Sanskrit, and nature writing at Naropa University.

Wind Says

Wind Says- Bai Huaselected poems by Bai Hua
translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Zephyr Press, The Chinese University Press of Hong Kong,
and Brookline Mass | Hong Kong

Considered a central literary figure of the post-Obscure (or post-”Misty”) poetry movement during the 1980s, Bai Hua is one of the most influential poets in contemporary China. Born in 1956 in Chongqing, he studied English literature at Guangzhou Foreign Language Institute before graduating with a Master’s degree in Western Literary History from Sichuan University. His first collection of poems, Expression (1988), received immediate critical acclaim.  Bai Hua’s poetic output is considerably modest but selective; in the past thirty years he has written only about ninety poems. After a decade-long silence, he began writing poetry again in 2007. That same year, his work garnered the prestigious Rougang Poetry Award. A prolific writer of critical prose and hybrid texts, Bai Hua is also a recipient of the Anne Kao Poetry Prize. Currently living in Chengdu, Sichuan, he teaches at the Southwest Jiaotong University.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s debut collection of poetry, Water the Moon, was published in 2010. In addition to her books of translation of Chinese poets from Zephyr Press, she has translated several contemporary French and American authors, and co-edited the Manoa anthology, Sky Lanterns (University of Hawai’i Press, 2012). An editor at Cerise Press and Vif éditions, she lives in Paris. (adapted from inside cover)

Bai Hua and Fiona Sze-Lorrain are proudly featured in Sky Lanterns. Bai Hua’s poetic style, potent and complex, when paired with Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s remarkable talent for translation continues to be a pleasure to read in Wind Says. The English poems in Wind Says appear along side their Chinese originals, so this small collection is perfect for people who read both English and/or Chinese texts. Also, the poetry in this collection is ordered chronologically, just like the collection by Shi Zhi mentioned on this site. Likewise, Bai Hua’s evolution as a poet between the book’s first poem dated 1984 and its last, dated 2010, is apparent and inspiring.