Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Tomorrow morning well before dawn we leave for Hawaii. I'm looking forward to some sun and sand and fish. In between adventures, I'm hoping to relax and read and spend some time with my long project.

I'm not a very good traveler, but I like being places and I like writing about them—not that I'm necessarily successful. It's good practice and a good way for me to reflect on my experiences and surroundings. But it makes me wonder about the difference between a travel poem and a place poem—or is there a difference?

I guess I'm thinking of the travel poem as being about the place and the place poem being about something more. If none of this is coherent, I should probably go finish packing.

In 2007 Poet's Market, the entry for the journal Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawaii notes: "Hawaii gets a lot of 'travelling regionalists,' visiting writers with inevitably superficial observations." Fair enough—and that's the bar that I'm trying to transcend.

In the meantime, for whatever postcard respite it can provide, here is a poem from a previous trip.

False Bloom

Bougainvillea clouds the hillside
in flocks of purple, orange or red.
Its papery leaves mimic true blooms,
the throats of hibiscus,
the fragrant plumeria.

The bougainvillea, guest from Brazil,
grows by the name pukanwila,
shows rampant on roadsides
by old lava flows and pale grass—
hard to tell what doesn't belong.

I would be a visitor here
even if I put down shallow roots
and spoke of local plants
in a new tongue,
learned another language for time.

I would need a strong anchor
when the trade winds blow,
good reason to stay as a stranger.

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