Reportback: Adventures in Academia 1

Fall 2011

My first semester as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa (UHM), came and went faster than a case of Spam. I still can’t believe I even landed this dream job, which makes it even harder to believe that the first semester is done.

Teaching

More than anything else, the teaching aspect of the job was the biggest change in my life. I taught two courses this semester: Literature of the Pacific and Intro to Creative Writing: International Poetry and the Visual Arts. These were both new preps for me, but I think I created very interesting syllabi for both courses (I shared much of my curriculum on Facebook). Ultimately, though, my students made these courses sing. Any time anyone asked how the new job was going, the first thing I’d say was, “My students are amazing.” I looked forward to every course period, and I was very sad to see my students go.

Service: Committee Work

I was assigned to the Graduate Program Committee. This committee worked to decide graduate curriculum and deal with other graduate program concerns. It was exciting because we have a very dynamic graduate curriculum. For my own contributions, I will be teaching a graduate poetry workshop for Fall 2012, and a Pacific Poetry and Poetics course for Fall 2013. I felt very fortunate that the committee consisted of faculty members that I deeply respect, and I learned so much from them about how our graduate program operates.

Service: Reading/Lecture Series

I also wanted to serve the native community and the native student body by curating “Native Voices: A Reading and Lecture Series,” with my American Studies colleague Brandy Nalani McDougall. Our goal was to provide a space for indigenous writers, scholars, and activists to engage with our students, and for our indigenous students to share the stage with well-known indigenous writers. Thanks to all of you who participated in and attended our event. And thanks to the English Dept, the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, American Studies, the Pacific Writers’ Connection, Revolution Books, and the Center for Hawaiian Studies. We hosted four events:

  • 8/22: Literary reading featuring Sia Figiel, No’u Revilla, Marie Alohalani Brown, and Tagi Qolouvaki.
  • 9/23: Literary reading featuring Dan Taulapapa McMullin, David Keali’i, and Kai Gaspar.
  • 11/9: “Demilitarization: A Roundtable featuring scholars and activists from Hawai’i and Guahan (Guam),” featuring Julian Aguon, Lisa Natividad, Terri Kekoolani, Ty Kawika Tengan, and Kaleikoa Kaeo.
  • 12/15: Literary reading featuring Imaikalani Kalahele, Terisa Siagatonu, Donovan Kuhio Colleps, Paul Robins, Ulu Cashman.
Performances

I didn’t perform as much as I usually do this semester. Just twice: at Revolution Books in Honolulu (8/6) with Margaret Rhee and Janine Oshiro; and for the Pacific Writers’ Connection in Honolulu (11/1) with W.S. Merwin and Brandy Nalani McDougall.

Awards

Although I didn’t perform much from my own work, I was very honored that my second book, from unincorporated territory [saina], was named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award. If you haven’t read my book yet, feel free to purchase it here ($15.95).

Class Visits

Both my first and second books were taught in several university courses this semester. I had the honor and pleasure to visit some of these courses, either in person or via Skype.

  • 8/3: Native American Literature: Reading and Composition at UC Berkeley
  • 10/27: Documentary Poetics at Syracuse University
  • 11/15: Pacific Literature and Cultures at University of California, Los Angeles 11/17: Poetry: Form & Theory at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa
  • 11/21: World Indigenous Literature at Kansas University
  • 11/28: Intro to English Studies at the U of Hawai’i, Manoa

I enjoy engaging with students reading my work—especially since these students encounter my work in so many different contexts. Because I am too far away now to visit many of these universities in person, thank goodness for Skype. I also feel happy when many of these students stay in contact with me via Facebook or email. Special thanks to all the professors who have assigned my work in their courses.

Lectures

I gave two lectures/talks this semester: 1) “Organic Acts: How my Grandmother Revised the Poem of Her Life” at the Center of Biographical Research at UHM (8/22) and 2) “Chamoru Poetry” to a “Pacific Worlds” course at UHM (11/1). I’ve been writing more and more of what I call “talk-lectures” in the past few years—it’s a form I really enjoy writing and gives me some flexibility when I am a guest speaker at universities or other venues (besides from just reading my poems).

Editorships

As many of you know, one of my passions is as an editor and publisher. I feel great joy supporting other writers and sharing their work with the world. I guest-edited a few projects this semester:

1) The first full-length collection by Jai Arun Ravine, titled and then entwine and published by one of my favorite presses: Tinfish Press. You can purchase the book here for $18. Special thanks to Susan Schultz. 10/1

2) A special feature on “Four Contemporary Chamoru Poets,” for The Offending Adam. This featured the work of Kisha Borja-Kicho’cho’, Anghet Hoppe-Cruz, Lehua Taitano, and Clarrissa Mendiola (10/24). Special thanks to Andrew Wessels. Free to read here.

3) Honolulu Poetry Feature, featuring Caroline Sinavaiana, Claire Gearen, Scott Abels, Jaimie Gusman, and Amalia Bueno—all faculty or students of UHM. Special thanks to Charles Jensen. Free to read here.

4) A Special Feature “Kantan Chamorrita: Contemporary Chamoru Poetry” for The Platte Valley Review (Winter 2011 Issue). Special thanks to Allison Hedge Coke. Free to read here.

Publishing

With Brandy Nalani McDougall, we founded Ala Press, a publishing venture dedicated to publishing Pacific literature. Our first publication was Nafanua: Writers and Artist from the Festival of Pacific Arts in American Samoa (8/21), edited by Dan Taulapapa McMullin. This can be purchased here for $12.

Our second anthology, A Penny For Our Thoughts: Poetry from the Kamahemeha Class of 2011 (12/15). This will be available for online purchase in early 2012.

Creative/Critical Publications

Luckily, some of my creative and critical writings were published this semester.

1) Several poems from my first book were translated into Spanish and published in Periodico de Poesia, the literary journal of The National University of Mexico (August issue). Free to read here.

2)a poem titled “from tidelands” in the Platte Valley Review (Winter 2011 issue)
Free to read here.

3)a poem titled “Spam Remix” in Locuspoint (11/30/11). Free to read here.

4)a poem titled “from descending plumeria” in the anthology A Pacific Collection: Reading for Civic Reflection (2011).

5)A critical book review was published in Zoland Poetry Review (Volume 2, 2011). Free to read here.

6) an essay titled “Surviving Our Fallen: Chamorros, Militarism, Religiosity, and 9/11,” Conversations at the Wartime Café: A Decade of War: 2001-2011, edited by Sean Labrador y Manzano. This essay can be read for free on my blog.

Audio Publication

My first ever audio poetry album, Undercurrent, was recorded with Hawaiian poet Brandy Nalani McDougall and released by the poetry label Hawai‘i Dub Machine (8/4). A review of the album was published in the literary journal Litseen (11/15/11).

You can purchase the album for 9.99 on iTunes here.

Activism

Activism this semester centered around the APEC meeting in Honolulu. I participated in several of the marches and protests organized by various activist groups here in Honolulu. It felt very empowering to connect with these groups and to get to know the activists.

I also performed a poem, “The Micronesian Kingfishers,” as part of the Militarism Panel for the Moana Nui conference. It was a great honor to participate in this panel as militarism is an important theme in my work. One of the Native Voices events, the Demilitarization Panel, was also organized as part of the activism against APEC.

The final event I want to mention was organized by the UH Marianas Club, a club composed of Chamoru students at UHM. They decided to hold a screening of the important documentary, The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas. I was part of a panel discussion after the screening, with Tressa Diaz and Anghet Hoppe-Cruz. It was so empowering to connect with the Chamoru student community and to know that they are interested in both culture and politics.

The End

As I re-read this report, I can’t believe all this happened in 16 weeks. Looking at my calendar for next semester, things won’t be slowing down much, but at least I feel passionate and committed to everything I’m involved in, and that I can support myself by doing what I love.

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