|Available at Amazon|
As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently trying to complete a couple of reading challenges. To say that getting books from Oceania is a challenge in itself would be a severe understatement. I was happy to find this poetry collection published by Kahuaomānoa Press. According to the “about the author” blurb, Emelihter King was born on Guam, and has spent much of her life back and forth between her native Pohnpei, Hawai’i and Guam.
The title comes from the traditional Pohnpeian skirt. In a footnote to one poem King states that she is likens the uroh to Pohnpeian culture as a whole. I confess I know pretty close to zilch about Pohnpeian culture, so I was eager to dig into this when it finally arrived from Amazon.
King is at her best when describing slices of life in tantalizing detail. One of my favorites in the volume is “Kool-Aid.”
doesn’t taste good here in Honolulu
I wanna eat it sweating in the heat,
sitting on a rock,
under a guava tree
with my red-fingered friends
dip, dip our green mango
lick, lick our fingerstongues turning dark red
Gorgeous. I want to be sitting there eating Kool-Aid with her.
My biggest complaint is the gender essentialism in a couple of places. In “Ngih Kohl O” (The Gold Tooth), King talks about young Micronesian men who have gone and taken government jobs, and now come by,
“speaking English while strutting around
with that white man’s attitude…
when was the last time you
planted something in the ground
and felt like a real man?”
I understand this is a reaction to colonization – and this is a collection that speaks powerfully to the colonial experience. King is fiercely proud of her culture, and rightly so. But just like colonization is a harmful process, so is reinforcing the idea that “men” and “women” are to act in fixed ways and no one should deviate from them.