"The road was a ribbon of moonlight"..."Pursuers and pursued flew on, over an endless sea"..."There was a Helen before there was a War"..."There are no Magicians"..."And you say ok the bridge or someplace later"...
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Merwin's THE FOLDING CLIFFS, etc.
This is a letter sent to Susan Schultz, editor of the poetry journal, Tinfish, which she publishes from Oahu, where she works as a professor at the U. of Hawaii at Manoa.
i am sorry to impose on your time yet again, but i was quite dismayed by part of your recent blogpost (july 26th) criticizing as "appropriation" the magisterial, deep, ennobling and great work by W.S. Merwin, THE FOLDING CLIFFS (Knopf, 1998), which i consider a masterpiece not just of late 20th century American poetry, but one which as Ted Hughes noted, is "an original masterpiece on a very big scale"....
i did read with interest the links on your blog, in particular the link to the rather nasty (even jealous) deconstruction of THE FOLDING CLIFFS a decade ago (which i had not seen previously) by Kapalai ula de Silva. you should note that it is absolutely incorrect of de Silva to say that Merwin does not acknowledge the major source of his meditative narrative. he clearly states that he read the translation by Frances Frazier of Pi'ilani's story, and of course his poem is dedicated to Olivia Breitha, whose own little-known book, MY LIFE OF EXILE IN KALAUPAPA, (of which i blogposted about 5 years ago - Dec. 2, 2005: www.iprefernotto.blogspot.com), when i read it on Molokai, caused me to weep. well, i am sentimental; i don't apologize for that.
nor do i apologize for believing that when Haunani-Kay Trask (whose writing in other contexts (i.e. her book LIGHT IN THE CREVICE NEVER SEEN) and which i also blogposted on @iprefernotto, and like very much) writes (in your other link) that "Hawaiian culture is our culture. It does not belong to everyone but only to us" that that is cultural fascism which i distrust and resist. in fact, i think it typical of many Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii, to be so resentful, and in fact this goes completely against the grain of Polynesian sensibility, certainly in the islands south of the equator, which, despite all the horrors inflicted on the people there (far moreso than in Hawaii in point of fact) remains open and warm and sans the xenophobia which seems to exist in Hawaii, sad to say.
you don't of course speak for the people of Oahu or of Hawaii so it is wrong of you to say that Merwin's extraordinary poem (and i do not know Merwin personally so i have no ax to grind in his defense except a poetic one) "was seen here as an act of appropriation" unless by "here" you simply refer to the academic world of Manoa. you use the word quite negatively as you must know; would you also say that the lovely short film, KALUAIKOOLAU, made by the Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha Learning Center, is also an act of "appropriation"?
Born in Phila. Local schools / Temple U... M.A.(5/64), Ph.D.(2/68), SUNY Buffalo. LANDSCAPE OF CONTEMPORARY CINEMA (co-author, Leon Lewis),1967; short film, MAXIMUS TO HIMSELF, based on Charles Olson poem (co-director, Theodora Cichy), original in Natl. Archives, BFI. Lecturer, U. of Hull, 67-68. Documentary play, The Case of Ezra Pound, published 1970 (Anglo-Welsh Review). Resigned tenured post, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1972, and began to write full-time. A dozen books/chapbooks of poetry published inc., THE HORSES OF GWYDDNO GARANHIR(76), HEART ATTACK and SPANISH SONGS(81), MERMAIDS parts I and II(86), SHE WANTS TO GO TO PAGO-PAGO(86), GLIMPSES OF INDIA and NEPAL(88), TAHITIAN JOURNALS(90), FROM THE SOUTH SEAS(97), THE MANA OF THE MOAI(Spanner #41, 04). Anthology appearances include NEW POETRY 3 (1977), THE SPANUAL (77), FOOLS HOUSE(80), MATIERES ANGLETERRE(84), FABER BOOK OF MOVIE VERSE(93), THE STILL HORIZON(02), IN THE COMPANY OF POETS(03). Numerous essays/reviews published in U.S. and UK. Editor-publisher, Branch Redd Review (poetry journal) & Branch Redd Books. early archive @ Beinecke.