Maui

HIKI NŌ
#1012 – One in a Million and other stories

HIKI NŌ Episode 1012: One in a Million and other stories

 

TOP STORY

 

“One in a Million”
Students from Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu feature two cancer survivors who battled with their diseases at a very early age: Lily Mallory, who was undergoing treatment for her cancer at the age of three, and Emi Robison, who was battling leukemia at the age of seven. The girls’ fathers discuss what it was like dealing with their daughters’ life-threatening illnesses at the time. Phil Mallory, Lily’s father, comments on how scary it was to know that the size of his daughter’s tumor indicated that her chances of survival were not very good. Emi’s father, Ryan Robison, created video games with superheroes who defeated cancer in order to help he and his daughter visualize beating the disease. Lily says the experience taught her that “if you really want something, you gotta work hard for it. Life is short, and you really have to do what you want before you don’t have enough time.”

 

Program

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

–Students from Lahaina Intermediate School on Maui profile a cross-fit instructor who helps students find their mojo.

 
–Students from Hilo High School on Hawai‘i Island show the proper way to conduct oneself at a job interview.

 

–Students from Kamehameha Schools Kapālama on O‘ahu show how high school students are discovering the joys of traditional film-based photography.

 

–Students from Waiākea High School on Hawai‘i Island profile a star athlete who faces his toughest opponent off the field: diabetes.

 

–Students from Kea‘au High School on Hawai‘i Island honor the memory of a beloved student who departed far too soon.

 

–Students from Ilima Intermediate School on O‘ahu show us how to make a traditional Maori dance implement.

 

–Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i introduce us to a unique facility that uses friendship and personal bonds to help treat mental illnesses.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Iao School in Wailuku, Maui.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1011 – Shark Ambassador and other stories

HIKI NŌ #1011 – Shark Ambassador and other stories

 

TOP STORY

 

“Shark Ambassador”
Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i introduce us to Mike Coots, a surfer and photographer from Kīlauea, Kaua‘i, who lost his leg in a shark attack. Ironically, Coots now works to protect sharks against the ravages of the shark-fin soup industry. He decided to dedicate himself to protecting sharks after watching a YouTube video that informed him that 70 to 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. Coots uses the irony of his situation to get him into policymakers’ doors. He has lobbied the United States Congress, the United Nations and the Hawai‘i State Legislature on behalf of policies designed to protect sharks.

 

Program

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

–Students from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui profile an asthmatic swimmer whose positive attitude and competitive spirit help her overcome any ill effects that her condition might have on her swimming.

 

–Students from Moloka‘i High School on Moloka‘i show us how to draw the perfect plumeria flower.

 

–Students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu introduce us to a young equestrian.

 

–Students from Kapa‘a Middle School on Kaua‘i show what it takes to become a junior lifeguard.

 

–Students from Hawaiian Mission Academy in the Makiki district of O‘ahu introduce us to the grandson of Mary Kawena Pukui, one of the most influential Hawaiian scholars of the 20th century.

 

–Students from Punahou School on O‘ahu profile the late Beebe Freitas, who was one of the most prominent figures in Hawai‘i’s classical music community.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students from Waiākea High School in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Mahealani Wendt

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Mahealani Wendt

 

Growing up in the crowded, rundown tenements of downtown Honolulu, Mahealani Wendt witnessed the poverty of the Native Hawaiian people around her. That ignited a passion to help, and she spent more than three decades fighting for Hawaiian rights, with a long run as the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation in Honolulu. Today she lives in Hāna, Maui, and is a poet and author.

 

Program

 

More from Mahealani Wendt:

 

“Righteous Cause”

 

Hawaiian Homeland

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Mahealani Wendt Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When I went to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, I’m not sure that the most effective thing I could do there was as an attorney.  I worked as a volunteer, I worked as a grants writer.  I knew nothing about writing grants.  You know, a lot of times, you’re fueled just by passion, and you have so much … I don’t know how else to put it.  You know, you just feel so, so intensely about something, and it drives you, and you do everything you have to do to make it happen.  And that’s how I became a grants writer.

 

Her success as a volunteer grant writer led to a thirty-two-year career fighting for Native Hawaiian rights.  Mahealani Wendt of Maui, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Mahealani Wendt is the retired executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a community activist, accomplished writer, and poet.  She’s the eldest of seven children, grew up on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, and now lives on farmland on Maui in Wailua Nui along Hāna Highway.  She knew from the time she was nine years old, living in the rundown tenements of Downtown Honolulu, that she wanted to help others.  She was deeply affected by the poverty of Native Hawaiian people she saw around her, and despite being poor herself, she says she was raised in a loving, nurturing environment, and never went hungry.  In childhood, she developed a love of writing and reading.

 

My father is Spanish; he’s second generation.  My grandparents emigrated from Spain in 1906.  They were plantation workers, the first sugar plantation in Hawai‘i, Kōloa Sugar. And so, they settled on Kaua‘i. And eventually, he met my mother, who’s from Hilo; she’s Hawaiian.  And we grew up on Kaua‘i there.  It was very beautiful, very country.  We had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, raised every kind of, you know, fruit tree, we had a garden. We were cray fishing, climbing trees; all this stuff we did, it was beautiful.  My parents separated.  You know, we were pretty innocent; we never understood what happened.  We just knew that one day, my mother decided that we were going to move, and she brought us to Honolulu.  It was a really different lifestyle.  You know, it was kind of an idyllic life, country life, and we moved to the heart of Honolulu, to the tenements.  And I still remember our address; it was 1278 Fort Street.

 

Fort Street.

 

Yeah; Fort Street, and there were twenty-seven steps going up to the second floor where we lived.

 

This was an old, beat-up building.

 

Yeah; it was the heart of the slums, the tenements in Honolulu.  This was in the 50s, mid-50s, and these tenement buildings, the closest thing that would kind of resemble it would be the buildings in Chinatown.  Those are far more well-maintained than the ones we lived in.  The buildings we lived, I’m now understanding, they were at least fifty years old.  They were wooden, they were termite-eaten.  They were firetraps, basically, you know, not fit for people to live in, but we lived there.  My mother, when she left, you know, didn’t have really the means to support all of us, and so … that’s where we lived.  Some slept on the bed, some slept on the floor.  We had, I think, three showers, cold water.

 

On that floor?

 

In the building.

 

In the whole building?

 

Everybody shared.

 

And how many people were in the building?

 

There were fifty-two rooms. There were three areas where we could do our cooking.  There were kerosene stoves.

 

Was it dangerous?  I mean, I know from a fire standpoint, it was dangerous.  What about from a human standpoint in a rough part of town.

 

It was a rough part of town. From my standpoint, I never saw any danger, I never experienced any danger.  It was a new world; I thought it was really kind of cool and exciting. New kids to play with, new people to meet, new aunties and uncles.  All Hawaiians in that building.  You know, in the same way they do now, the aunties take care.  So, we felt very protected and free, and I never felt any danger.  If you were entering from the sidewalk, you know, there were these narrow steps that went to the second floor.  And the pool hall was downstairs, next to a Chinese restaurant, next to a grocery store, next to, you know, all these different kinds of—

 

So, it felt like a neighborhood to you.

 

It did; totally.

 

No creepy people hanging around.

 

I never remembered any creepy people.

 

You know.  And I mean, when I think back on it, I think: Wow, it would be like, you would think there would be creepy people, but in my child’s eyes, I never saw creepy people.  To me, they were really nice; nice people.

 

And you felt adults were looking out for you, too.

 

Yes, we did; we felt very protected.

 

I wonder how your mom felt with seven kids to take care of.

 

We owned our own home on Kaua‘i. My grandparents homesteaded twenty-five acres there, and you know, the lands are still there.  So, you know, what caused her to feel so compelled to move, we never understood.  I never even understood it as an adult.  But there we were.  It must have been very stressful; we were really poor.  I sold newspapers.  I thought that was really cool, ‘cause I could have spending money, you know, and stuff. I was selling newspapers.  My corner was Fort and Kukui, and I sold the Honolulu Advertiser.  I sold forty papers, made a dollar.  And then, that was my lunch money.  I made most of my money from tips, ‘cause I was so young.  You know, I was like, nine years old, standing on the corner with newspapers.  Oh, poor thing, you know.  So, they’d give me a dollar.  Wow, that’s a lot of money.  That’s what I would make for the whole, you know, selling forty papers.  So … I thought it was great.

 

M-hm.

Again, the perspective.  You know, as a child, I was innocent.  I saw all of it as a great excitement.  It was just a different thing, you know.  I mean, one thing, for example, when we lived in Kauai, the store was really far.  You know. When we moved to Honolulu, the store was downstairs.

 

It was amazing.  I was just like, enthralled, you know.  When I lived on Kaua‘i, we’d go to the movies once, you know, every six months or something.  When we went to Honolulu, we lived next to the theater.  You know.  So, that’s how I saw it from a child’s sort of sense of wonder.  It wasn’t until I was, you know, older, maybe intermediate school, I sort of kinda understood that we were really poor.  And then, as I got older, I realized that, you know, the auntie that, you know, was so sick, and da-da-da, this is why.  And then, I realized that, you know, so-and-so, that you know, we really thought was really a cool guy, he’s in jail because he did this.  You know, so I had a sense of perspective, but it was afterwards.

 

After the fact.

 

Yes.

 

Did you ever connect with your father again?

 

Yes.  We saw him as we could afford to.  I think he would send money and, you know, we’d go.  But it wasn’t very often.  And he came to visit us once.  You know, he was not a Honolulu man; he was a hunter, a fisherman.  He would come back from the mountains with, you know, these burlap bags full of ‘o‘opu to feed our family.  You know, very subsistence lifestyle.  When he worked, he worked as a heavy equipment operator, kind of a laborer.  I loved my dad.  Both of my parents read to us.  My father would put us on his lap and read.  You know, those experiences.  I came to really love literature and reading from both parents.  My parents were very good parents, in spite of the separation. And my mother was very strict; she taught us very fundamental values, and we were expected to, you know, adhere to them.  And if we did not, the punishment was swift and sure.  All of the kids turned out good.  I went to Royal School.

 

Royal School.

 

Yeah.

 

Okay; elementary.  And then?

 

I went to Royal Elementary, and then I went to Central Intermediate.

 

And then?

 

And then, I went to Kamehameha in my sophomore year.  I liked public school.  Public school was awesome; I learned a lot.  You know, again, the common theme of, you know, this love of literature, that was more than reinforced in the public school.  In fact, at Kalaheo Elementary, where I went to, you know, from first to third grade, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Robello, encouraged me when I wrote a little poem for my mother.  You know how teachers do.  It’s so important.  She took my little poem, she put it on the wall.  You know how teachers, you can encourage by telling everybody, you know. And when her students would make a little picture, she’d put that on the wall.  So, she had ways of encouraging and making you feel: Ho, this is something I can do.

 

How long were you in the tenements?

 

Well, we lived in Honolulu for three years.  There was a terrible fire in the tenement next door.

 

Another wooden building?

 

It was a wooden building; it was right next to ours on the next block, and it burned down.  And four people died in that fire.  One of the ones who passed was a three-year-old who was my brother’s playmate.  And so, it really affected everybody, the family.  It really had an impact on me.  And it was just … I don’t know; I’ll never forget it.  We stood out there and watched this whole thing happen.

 

And watched it burn down.

 

Yes.  We lived there until my mother could find someplace else she could afford.  So, we moved close to Queen’s Hospital; same sort of building, but not as big.  We lived there for another, like, three or four years, and then we moved, and we actually moved to a much nicer place. Things were getting better; you know, Mom could find work, and so, we moved to a much better place.

 

How formative was the experience of living in places like that, those two different buildings and the fire that took your acquaintances and friends?

 

I know that it has everything to do with my community advocacy work, especially on behalf of Hawaiians.  The people who made a difference in our lives when we were growing up were the social workers who reached out to us. They were so kind.  They were so kind to my mother.  And I grew up feeling that I wanted to be a social worker.  I changed my mind when I realized I didn’t have the fortitude.  I saw what they had to deal with.  And I’m a little bit emotional; I have a really hard time focusing, you know, when I see that.  I got older, I guess I gained a perspective.  As a child, I didn’t really understand what that environment was all about.

 

Yeah; you thought they were nice people.

 

I thought everybody was nice.

 

But they were carrying all this pain, I suppose—

 

Yes.

 

–that they saw.

 

M-hm.  And as I got much older, and we learned our history and, you know, the displacement, I started focusing on Hawaiians.  It happened kind of gradually.  I was, you know, someone who was intent on a social work profession, but I also had competing things that I was really interested in.  The literature thing was always an interest.

 

After graduating from Kamehameha Schools, Mahealani Wendt went to work for big corporations, first on the continent, and then back home in Hawai‘i.  She was good at what she did, but her heart was not in the corporate world.

 

Right out of high school, I lived in Texas.  And while I was in Texas, I worked for a very large insurance company, a national insurance company, and I learned a lot about corporate business.  And so, I worked there for five years, I worked my way up.  Then I came home to Hawaiʻi.  I worked for a local corporation called Crown Corporation.  They had a bunch of industrial loan banks, they had securities firm, they had insurance. You know, I mean, some of the companies are still around; a lot of them are no longer.  But you know, they were real estate developers; all of that.  I was into that.  And I was like an admin assistant to vice president.  So, I did that.  And then, I went to college.

 

That was good preparation.

 

Yeah, it was good preparation. But interestingly, I started doing the community activism, you know, the demonstrations and stuff when I was still working for this corporation.  And my boss, who was a vice president, said: Just don’t let me see you arrested, or on TV. You know, something like that.  I said: I’ll be fine.

 

You know, so I always like, had these two like, sort of identities there.  I would be this corporate thing at work, and then, you know, uh, the rest of the time, I’d be … and then, I decided I needed to go to school, because I needed skills to do the thing I wanted, which is [SIGH] effectuate social reform.  Working for business was really a survival thing for me.  I had good skills, I had good typing, accounting; those sort of things. I had skills that I could market very readily in the business environment, so that’s where I went.  But that’s not where my heart was.

 

So, you’re taking political science now at the UH.

 

M-hm.  I’m taking political science, and I have an opportunity to do an internship with Legal Aid Society, along with thirty other interns, students at UH Mānoa, political science majors.  And we’re placed at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i at a time when, you know, we were coming into a growth of social programs, social economic programs in our community.  So, there was this quantum leap in legal services available to the community through Legal Aid.

 

Because there was more funding.

 

There was more funding.

 

More value placed on that.

 

Yes.  I chose to go with the so-called land unit at the time.  And in the course of my internship, I was assigned to work with community organizations in the Hawaiian community. And that sort of was a catalyst for my future work.  I attended law school, I left law school.  I was very active in the community.  I mean, actually coming into this kind of work, the genesis of it was community activism.  So, the early so-called land struggles—Kalama Valley, Kokua Kalama, He‘eia Kea, Waiāhole-Waikāne, Niumalu-Nāwiliwili on Kaua‘i, Mokauea Island—all of those struggles, I was there.  I was there. I was not there as a leader; I was there as someone who felt compelled to be there.  I really related to what the people were suffering, and I felt I had to be there.  It’s a combination of that activism and my experience at the Legal Aid Society leading me to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.  You know, it’s kinda like all boiled into the picture.

 

Why did you leave law school after college?

 

Well, I had children.  At that time, I was a single parent.  That was part of it; it was the economics of it. You know, when I went to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, I’m not sure that the most effective thing I could do there was as an attorney.  I found my niche was really talking to the staff about community; how community felt, you know, what was important.  Because sometimes the rigor of legal linear thinking separates you from community. And I think you need both.  So, I think it would have been fine to go through law school, but at that point in my life, I felt I would be more useful in bringing that perspective to the firm.  And I think that it worked really well.

 

And you worked your way up to heading the office; you ran the office.

 

Yeah.  So, the first position was an interim attorney who agreed to come over from private practice to sort of get us started.  The second was Melody MacKenzie.  Then after, I think, a year or two, the first gentleman moved on back to private practice after kinda mentoring us.  I became the third staff person.  And Melody MacKinzie was my boss for, I don’t know, maybe six, seven years. And she taught me so much.  I just owe her a great debt of gratitude.  She’s the kindest, the most brilliant mentor a person could have.  I mean, I just love her; I love her to this day.  She was the executive director, but I guess she was kind of, you know, having to do a lot of this admin stuff.  And it just seemed more efficient to have me do the administrative part, you know, deal with personnel hiring, firing, that sort of thing.  ‘Cause I had a background in it.  Melody has those skills, but she’s also brilliant; a brilliant jurist, a brilliant scholar.  You know, I mean, talking story as a staff, and it just seemed like, you know, a more sensible way to go.  And so, I guess in name, you know, I became the head of the organization, and then she could focus on cases and clients, you know, and I could just deal with the other stuff.

 

You did that for a long time.

 

M-hm.  Well, I retired after thirty-two years.  So, yes, I did it a long time.  It was fun.  I loved it.

 

What kinds of cases did your firm handle?

 

Well, our cases were all Native rights cases.  So, you know, they’re kind of characterized as the things that we require in order to be Hawaiian.  Hawaiians were being affected with respect to land tenure, their ability to hold onto their lands, ability to hold onto their natural resources, have access to it, ability to engage in traditional and customary practices that they require to be Hawaiian.  If their access to the ocean is cut off, then they can’t go fish, they cannot gather limu; these kinds of things.  The ability to exercise practices relating to their traditional religion, things that would impede it, ability to access their trusts, the Hawaiian Homelands trusts or the public lands trusts.  All of those things became our areas of focus.  We had genealogists on staff, we had title people on staff.  We had Hawaiian translators on staff, because we’re dealing a lot with archival documents, many of which are only in Hawaiian. So, we had people on staff who specialized in translating legal documents.  So, the shop is a specialty shop, you know, asserting the rights of native people.  And we did well.  There were many cases that we did, that I’m very proud of.

 

That was a very … just vibrant time, and also, it was a time of people coming into age and being very proud, and also running into a lot of walls, too.

 

Yes; yes.  And I think with knowledge comes power.  You know, and the more we’re able to understand our history—and of course, language is a window into culture, the more we understand our language the more we understand better who we are.  Part of that is having, you know, connection to land, connection to water, connection to ocean, continuing to keep traditional practice vibrant and alive. All of those things are important. And you know, ultimately, it’s about values.  And as many other peoples, including indigenous peoples, those values are really important, not only for us here as a people in Hawaii, and not only for all of Hawai‘i, but even globally.  You know, you join with other peoples.  There are certain values that are universally exalted as being life-affirming and necessary in order for, you know, humankind to thrive.  We can make a contribution, and it’s really, really important that we be allowed to be a people.

 

Why do we do this?  We do this because we love Hawai‘i.

 

A&B doesn’t own the water, the taro farmers do not own the water.  Our people own the water.  Ke Akua owns the water.

 

Ae!

 

Ae!

 

Ke Akua owns the water.

 

Ae!

 

For all of us.

 

So, let our people live, and let the ‘aina live, forever. [INDISTINCT]  Stand up so that we can make that happen.

 

Mahealani Wendt met her husband, Ed Wendt, through her work in native water rights.  He’s a taro farmer with kuleana land.  Where they live in Wailua Nui, in Maui’s Hana District, is beautiful, but as always, farming kalo is hard work.  Besides her passion for justice, Mahealani Wendt has always had a love for poetry and writing.  Even as head of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, she found time to write, and has received numerous literary awards, both nationally and internationally. We’re going to close now with a reading from one of her poems that reflects back on her childhood.  Mahalo to Mahealani Wendt of Wailua Nui, Maui, for sharing her life story with us, and mahalo to you for joining us.  For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

At statehood, we trundled kerosene tankards over rutted Honolulu sidewalks, past beer halls, pool halls, taxi dancehalls, past honky-tonk dives, juke joints, and shoeshine stands, to rooming house kitchens where we lit our communal fires and kept vigil for the one day our nation would be restored.  The torches burned bright as we stood watch.  Our children, listless on tenement floors, their coverings prickling with insect filth, and the grit of ambient sounds, incessant scuttlings and winged scurryings inside squalid floors and walls, we sensed a slow collapse under the terrific weight of a people whose gods kept watch with them there. The minions of forest, river, and ocean gods, companions in these root places whispering their encouragements as generations of children turn to hear, like flowers brightening to sun.

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
W.S. Merwin

Original air date: Tues., Dec. 22, 2009

 

 

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet

 

In his more than fifty year career, William S. Merwin has received nearly every major award for poetry, including two Pulitzer prizes. He has traveled widely and lived in Europe, but since the late seventies Haiku, Maui has been his home. It is also where he found an affinity for native Hawaiian culture and where he crafted a mythical, Hawaiian narrative. He talks to Leslie about how his love for words began as a child, when his mother would read to him. He also reads from some of his poetry collections.

 

W.S. Merwin Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

All day, the stars watch from long ago. My mother said, I am going now. When you are alone, you will be all right. Whether or not you know, you will know. Look at the old house in the dawn rain; all the flowers are forms of water. The sun reminds them through a white cloud, touches the patchwork spread on the hill, the washed colors of the afterlife that lived there long before you were born. See how they wake without a question, even though the whole world is burning.

 

That’s one of Maui’s most honored residents reading his work…he’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, W.S. Merwin. Yes, a major American writer whose poems, prose and translations have brought him international literary standing…he has lived in Ha‘iku, Maui since the late 1970s. W.S. Merwin, or William as his friends call him, next on Long Story Short.

 

Aloha mai kākou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Welcome to Long Story Short. From childhood, W.S. Merwin has loved the sound of words and putting them together. He’s won nearly every major award for poetry in his five decades as a writer.

 

Born in New York City, raised in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Merwin traveled widely before coming to Maui in the late 70s to study Zen Buddhism. He built a house on old pineapple plantation land in Ha‘iku, Maui, and found himself drawn to native Hawaiians, their culture and their causes. Words remain a constant in his life. In April 2009, he won his second Pulitzer prize for poetry, for his 21st book, The Shadow of Sirius.

 

Well, let me ask you…kind of daunted to be talking to a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Any advice—

 

Forget about it.

 

—for me?

 

[chuckle]

 

What annoys you when people…in terms of how people react to you as a poet and as a Pulitzer winner?

 

Well, I don’t think of myself that way at all, obviously. I mean, pretty silly, wouldn’t it, if I walked around thinking, I’m this, and I’m that. All my life, I’ve wanted to write poetry since I was five years old. I’ve always thought when I finished—when I got a poem to where I was ready to let it go, ‘cause I couldn’t do any more to it, or for it, I thought, Well, I may never do that again, it may never happen again. ‘Cause I don’t think, for me, that it’s an act of will or an act of reason, or any of those things. Suddenly, I think to me, it’s something that you hear. I mean, suddenly, there’s a phrase or there’s a moment in your life, or something which brings up, some words, something that have to do with that. And they’re maybe words you’ve known all your life, but you never paid any attention to them. But all of a sudden, there they are, they’re alive and they’re going somewhere, and you listen to them. And I think that the whole secret of poetry is listening. And children know how to do this. Children start listening. Even before they know what words are, they’re listening, they’re paying attention. And then they learn to read, and in our culture, they’re discouraged from reciting poetry or from the pleasures of poetry, which they know all about when they’re very small. And if they’re lucky, they catch up with it again, and they realize that it’s a matter of not of just understanding, it’s a matter of hearing something, and it’s a matter of pleasure. It should be pleasure. And just as people say, Oh, I can’t do that. Well, you don’t think about a rock lyric, you don’t think about whether you understand it. If you like it, you remember it, and you find that you’re humming it in your head, after a while. And you haven’t thought about whether you understand it, or maybe you don’t understand it. I mean, back in the days long ago, when we all listened to Bob Dylan…I mean, the great lyrics of Bob Dylan and the Beatles I don’t think anybody was supposed to understand then.

 

Somehow, it resonated.

 

What about the Yellow Submarine? I mean, what is understandable—

 

Or—

 

—about a yellow submarine?

 

Or who was the Egg Man?

 

Yeah. Yeah.

 

You know, I’m thinking of my daughter who wants to be an artist, and I think from the very beginning, I said, Well, make sure you can earn a living at it. Did you ever say, I want to be a poet, and a parent or someone else said to you, Whoa—

 

Oh, they all said that.

 

—be practical.

 

They all said that. And they said, What are you going to do to earn a living? And I said, Well, I’ll find out that as I go along. But I didn’t do it the other way around. I think I’m going to have a career, and then I’m going to write a little poetry in my spare time. I never ever thought of it that way. I thought, this is what I want to do with my life, and maybe I’ll find some way to stay alive. And I lived on very little money for quite a few years. A lot of artists, in all the arts were that way until very recently. And it’s only in recent generations that people thought that the first thing was earning a living. And as long as you think that, I mean, as long as you think that, you’re not gonna do it. A friend of mine said, Well, I really want to try to translate Hawaiian poetry and I’m gonna do it when I get a grant uh, to do it. And I said, You’re not gonna do it. You don’t care enough about it. He said, What do you mean? I said, You like surfing. And I said, If you want to go to surf in Australia or Bali, you find a way to get to Bali and Australia, and you go surfing. You don’t worry about somebody giving you a grant to go surfing in Bali and Australia. You get on with it. If you want to start translating Hawaiian poetry, which I think is pretty well impossible, you try. You get to work, and you devote a lot of time to it, and you don’t wait for somebody to subsidize you. [chuckle]

 

Why do you think it’s impossible to translate Hawaiian poetry?

 

Because in the first place, the melodic—the lyric aspect of the great chants is… hano hano hanalei I ka ua nui. I mean, how do you ever translate a line like that? It’s so magnificent. But you can’t—there’s nothing—no way in English that you convey that sound. And then underneath; so much of Hawaiian poetry is the overtone, all of the things that it’s referring to, all of the myths that it’s referring to. I mean, if you look at a book of translations, classical translations of Hawaiian poetry, about three-quarters of the page is footnotes, to say what all this really means. I mean, the rain always has an erotic meaning to it, and it has a reference to the place. And that place in other legends. And if you don’t know those things, you don’t really know what the oli is about.

 

You wrote an entire epic narrative of Hawaiʻi, your—

 

Yeah.

 

—adopted home.

 

That’s right. You know the story of Koolau and Piilani. Koolau was famous as a young man. He was the best shot on the island. And they said he never missed. He had one rifle that he was very proud of. And his wife—everybody believed that—you can’t tell from the photographs, but she was considered very beautiful as a young woman. And they were in love, and they were married, and had a little boy, Mana, out on the western corner of—

 

Kauai.

 

Kauai. Koolau was fingered with leprosy, and it was at a time when they wouldn’t let people with leprosy—they would ship them off to Kalaupapa to the leprosy colony over there. And they wouldn’t let anybody from their family go with them, or even accompany them over there. And they never came back. And so the Hawaiians’ name for leprosy was the separating sickness, because it broke up the family. And of course, for Hawaiians, nothing could be worse that that, because the family unit is integral. Koolau and Piilani, they suspected that their little boy probably had it too. And he did. And they decided that they would not allow him to be arrested, and they were going to stay together. And they went over to Kalalau to the valley on the north coast, where there were already a number of Hansen’s Disease patients staying, to stay out of reach of the law. I mean, this was a very wild place, Kalalau, and then was one sheriff that wanted to capture him and make his political name doing that. And Koolau let it be known that they would not leave the valley alive. And that meant, obviously, that anybody who came for them was risking his life too. And the sheriff tried to get the jump on him, and Koolau killed him. And then, of course, they sent the army in after him, and they escaped and I was absolutely fascinated the story, and I suddenly realized that if someone were to want to write about this—I couldn’t write the history, I’m not a historian. I can’t write an essay about it, that’s ridiculous. And so I just sort of carried it around, that story. And I finally thought, the only way it’ll work is as a poem. And the only way it’ll work as a poem is if the central figure is not even Koolau, it’s Piilani. It’s a Hawaiian woman. And I said, I can’t write a whole poem in the voice of a Hawaiian woman. Once I got started, this one night, I just saw her starting out at night, going up the trail,

 

You saw her in your mind? It was a visual—

 

Yeah, yeah. And I started the poem, about her just going up this trail. And the whole of her journey up, who she met, the places she went, and so forth, until she went down and the whole story. And then from there to the whole history of Kauai, because you can’t separate them totally, it’s all the same story. That was the poem.

 

It was a novel-in-verse called “The Folding Cliffs.” He was born William Stanley Merwin and from an early age he had a fascination with the magic of words. In his home on Maui, he writes only in longhand—daily—in a room with a view of the outdoors. Nature is an inspiration.

 

Can you tell me where you were, and what you were doing when you heard your first poetry inside?

 

Well, you know, I was very lucky. This is another thing that a lot of children don’t have. Maybe they never did, I don’t know. But my mother read poems to my sister and me; everything from silly childhood jingle poems to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses. Stevenson spent several years here in Hawaiʻi on the way to the South Pacific.

 

Yes.

 

And I can remember her reading Tennyson’s The Brook, and I love that poem.

 

You loved it as a kid too?

 

Yeah, even when I was a little boy, before I could even read. I think some children are lucky and their parents read stories to them. And that’s great. But prose and poetry are different, and hearing their parents read poetry is, I think very important. My father was a minister, and the sermons, I didn’t pay any attention to. But we had to go to church every Sunday, and sometimes more often.

 

He was a Presbyterian minister, wasn’t he?

 

Presbyterian minister; very strict Scotch Presbyterian. But he read the King James version of the Bible, the psalms and lots of the Old and New Testament, and that in the King James version. And that was the version that really seemed like magic to me, and I really listened to that language, and I know I knew quite a lot of those passages by heart by the time when I grew up and moved away from the whole thing. But I still remember that sound of hearing, hearing the psalms and hearing the proverbs, and hearing the prophets and hearing the New Testament. That’s very valuable for children to hear that.

 

So when you’re writing, do you come at it from a place of joy?

 

Yeah, I really love everything to do with poetry. And I feel very lucky if something ever begins to sort of happen. I think there was a great French novelist, Flaubert, who somebody asked him about inspiration. He said, Inspiration consists in sitting down at the same table, at the same time, every day. And waiting—waiting—wandering around hoping to be struck by lightning, I mean, that doesn’t make much sense. I mean, Keats, the sort of archetypal romantic of English poetry, very great poet, worked at it all the time. He tried very hard to write all the time.

 

And yet, you say when it happens, it’s an accident.

 

Sure. It is; both of these things are true. When you look at dance, I mean, take ballet dance, for example.

 

M-hm.

 

It looks effortless, doesn’t it?

 

It does.   That’s the point, isn’t it?

 

And it’s certainly not effortless. I mean, the effort that went into being able to do that. When you hear someone play Mozart, or any instrument, or whatever kind of music you like, a saxophone playing jazz and improvising; it looks effortless, doesn’t it? It looks as though it happens—

 

Yes.

 

—all by itself. And you know perfectly well it didn’t happen all by itself. This is a whole lifetime that’s gone into that. And I think that’s true of any of the arts. The arts have to be sort of partly an obsession. You have to be a little—

 

Partly an obsession.

 

—a little bit obsessed to make it work. Look at the great surfers. I mean, did they learn how to stand up on a surfboard with a with a big wave curling behind them all by themselves? It looks like the easiest thing in the world. At that point, it is the only possible thing to do. If you change your mind, you’re—

 

[chuckle]

 

—you’re wiped out right there.

 

And for years before, they’ve been on the alert for any bump in the surf, and they’ve been out there.

 

That’s right.

 

After graduating from Princeton, W.S. Merwin began his literary career by translating in works in Spanish, French, Italian and Latin into English. He also worked as a private tutor to the son of famous author and poet Robert Graves. It was through Graves that Merwin met many other literary greats, such as T.S. Elliot. In 1952, when he was only 24 years old, he became a published author, with a book of verse titled The Mask ofJanus. He lived in England, Spain, France, and New York, before settling in East Maui.

 

And what brought you there? You’ve lived in many parts of the world by then.

 

Yeah. I kept a little rent controlled apartment in New York for many years. I wanted to live there part of the year. I came out to Hawaiʻi, and I really fell in love with Hawaiʻi. And I met Robert Aitken, who was the Zen teacher here, and I wanted to stay and spend more time with him. Little by little, the longer I stayed here, the more I wanted to stay.

 

Was it just the nature that drew you?

 

It was partially the feeling of the remains of an ancient culture too, and of an ancient language and culture. And suddenly, here were the real remnants of it, I mean, with the hula and the chants, and the things like that, things that. Everything about it fascinated me. And they were still related to a place, and you could see the place that it was related to. I’m not a wannabe Hawaiian. I mean, that would be very silly. But I had I had, and still have, enormous respect for everything to do with Hawaiians.

 

You’re a very successful poet. But what if you needed to pay the bills, you needed to publish poetry.

 

I would do something else. Then I would—

 

You couldn’t force poetry?

 

No. I would take on a prose writing job, or go do some readings, or something like that to pay the bills. I’ve had to do that all my life. I never expected to earn a lot of money. I think that’s been true of artists all through the years. I mean if money is the first thing, there are very few artists that, for whom money was the first thing. I think there are usually quicker and faster ways of earning money than writing a symphony or writing a few poems, or even writing a novel. I mean, sometimes you make it big with a novel, but sometimes most novelists have got five or six novels in the drawer that never even got published.

 

Do you always pay attention to how many books are selling, how you’re doing in the—

 

No.

 

—marketplace?

 

No, when I get a royalty return or something like that, I look and see how they’re doing, and then I put it in the file and forget about it. I think, sometimes I’m agreeably surprised, and books of poetry don’t sell an awful lot.

 

You’ve won two Pulitzer Prizes for poetry thirty-eight years apart.

 

[chuckle]

 

And yet, you’ve written more than twenty collections, more than twenty books. What was it, do you think, that won you those two Pulitzers for those specific books?

 

I have no idea. I really don’t. I don’t know how people felt when they opened those books and read them, and what other books they were looking at that year that they were comparing them to, and all the deliberations that they went through. And what made them like that book more than another one. And a lot of it is not exactly politics, but it’s chance. It depends on what book came up the last time, and so on, and so forth, and the shuffling of the cards. I mean, part of it is chance in that sense. So I don’t know. And I’ve never tried to double guess editors or if prizes come, I’m delighted, I’m always surprised. I’m very happy and it’s very nice. But I certainly don’t spend my life thinking, I wonder if I might get such-and-such a thing, or anything like that.

 

W.S. Merwin is also a pacifist, anti-imperialist, and an environmental activist. His poems are known for their awareness of the natural world, their intimate feelings for natural landscapes. But they’re not always light and upbeat. Some of them are dark and foreboding.

 

You seem like such a pleasant, jovial, happy person for having an apocalyptic view of the world, as I read your poems.

 

I don’t think these are incompatible. I’m on one level, extremely pessimistic. And you don’t want me to pursue that line of thought either, I don’t think.

 

You’re pessimistic about what humans do to nature.

 

That’s right.

 

I know that; that’s very clear.

 

I don’t think that we’re separate from nature. I mean, this is one of the things in which I differ from Presbyterianism, and a whole lot of that tradition. I don’t think that we’re distinct from the rest of the life at all. And I think that if we damage the rest of life enough, we’re damaging ourselves, and we’ll pay for it.

 

You think we’re continuing down that path.

 

Oh, I certainly do. I think that we can only think of it in terms of our own economic advantage, and this is deadly. The human population reached one billion in 1813. It’s now somewhere around nine, and heading for eleven; and that’s only in two hundred years. Now, what does that mean? That means you’ve got your foot on the accelerator as hard as you can, and you’re heading straight for a stonewall. I mean, the first law of thermodynamics, I believe, says that you can’t have an infinite amount of material in a finite space. Something’s gonna happen, it’s gonna explode. And I think that is why everything seems to be speeding up, and speeding up, and there’s more and more conflict. I mean, look all around the world now, people are at war with each other. And I think that every effort in that direction is a hopeful sign. Every act of kindness simple goodwill toward any living thing is a good thing. I don’t think there’s ever enough of it. And I don’t think we can ever learn too much about it. We never do quite enough of it. We all feel that, don’t we? You know, that we’re never quite nice enough to our parents, or to our friends, or we always forget all those things. I think that’s all true. And it seems so simpleminded that it’s hardly worth saying, but we obviously ought to think about more often.

 

Well, would you do us the favor and the pleasure of reading some of your poetry? Some—

 

Well—

 

Perhaps a couple of selections?

 

Sure. Well, the last book, I think it’s probably—the last is the best place to choose them from. That’s The Shadow of Sirius.

 

Pulitzer Prize winning book.

 

That’s the one. Sirius is the dog star. And it’s the brightest star in the visible sky, in visible humanity. And there are lots of stories about Sirius. But the middle poems of the middle section of the book is a series of little elegies, and they’re all poems to do with dogs. Which is not very common. So let me read a poem. This was about a really great black dog, who was blind, and we used to walk every day together. And it’s called, By Dark. When it is time, I follow the black dog into the darkness that is the mind of day. I can see nothing there but the black dog, the dog I know, going ahead of me, not looking back. Oh, it is the black dog I trust now in my time, after the years when I had all the truth, all the trust of the black dog through an age of brightness, and through shadow, on into the blindness of the black dog, where the rooms of the dark were already known and had no fear in them for the black dog leading me carefully up the blind stairs. She was a creature who was never afraid of anything. That was the wonderful thing about her; there was a real nobility to her.

 

W.S. Merwin and his wife Paula live surrounded by hundreds of species of palm trees that they planted and maintain. The poet rarely ventures far from his sanctuary on Maui. Mahalo to two-time Pulitzer Prize winner W.S. Merwin, and to you for joining me on Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawaiʻi. A hui hou kākou.

 

This a poem to my wife called, To Paula in Late Spring. Let me imagine that we will come again, when we want to, and it will be spring. We will be no older than we ever were. The warm grieves will have eased like the early cloud to which the morning slowly comes to itself, and the ancient defenses against the dead will be done with, left to the dead at last. The light will be as it is now in the garden that we have made here these years together, of our long evenings and astonishment.

 

Oh, that was wonderful.

 

Good. I’m—

 

That was wonderful.

 

—glad you liked that.

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1008 – The Top Stories of the Fall Semester, 2018-2019

HIKI NŌ Episode 1008 – The Top Stories of the Fall Semester, 2018-2019

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the fall semester of the 2018-2019 school year. Each of the stories presents a variation on a theme that has become a hallmark of HIKI NŌ storytelling: empathy.

 

Program

 

–Students at Waiākea High School in the Hilo district of Hawai‘i Island tell the story of a married couple for whom empathy has become a profession and a way of life: husband and wife both work in the foster care industry and foster children themselves.

 

–Students at H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui tell the story of a fitness coach who channels his own physical and psychological challenges into developing empathy for his clients.

 

–Students at Maui High School in Kahului tell the story of a young woman who is grappling depression and has, on occasion, harmed herself. The student storytellers who created this feature deal with this sensitive topic with a great deal of empathy.

 

–Students at Konawaena High School and Konawaena Middle School on Hawai‘i Island collaborated on a story which shows that empathy is not limited to people’s feelings for other people. Human interactions with goats at the Dancing Goat Sanctuary prove that animals often elicit and deserve our empathy.

 

–Students at Kamehameha Schools Maui High School show how one teenager’s empathy for girls who suffer from low self-esteem inspired her to launch a positive self-image workshop for young women.

 

–Students at ‘Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu tell an empathy-driven story about the highly personal connection between a young dancer and her art form.

 

–Students at Waimea High School on Kaua‘i tell the story of a girl’s battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a way that leads viewers from feeling sympathy for to sharing empathy with the young patient.

 

This special episode is hosted by Yasha Ronquillo, a 2018 HIKI NŌ graduate from Maui High School who is currently a part-time HIKI NŌ teacher at her alma mater.

 

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
A Conversation with America’s Poet Laureate: W.S. Merwin

PBS HAWAI‘I Presents: A Conversation with America's Poet Laureate

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and accomplished literary translator William Stanley Merwin shares his thoughts on creativity, conservation, communication and more in A Conversation with America’s Poet Laureate.

 

Program

 

Merwin, the first Poet Laureate from Hawaiʻi, discusses his upbringing, his literary and philosophical influences, and his kinship with the Hawaiian culture in this wide-ranging one-hour interview. Set against the lush, serene background of his Maui home, Merwin expounds on the meaning of language, the practical purpose poetry and literature serve, Hawaiian myths and values, the future of mankind and much more. He also shares poems from various stages in his six-decade career, including readings from some of his 26 published collections of poetry.

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1014 – Top Stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 School Year

HIKI NŌ #1014 – Top stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year:

 

–Students from Maui High School in Kahului introduce us to Maui High robotics captain John Fabella. John’s mother passed away when he was just seven years of age, and his father was deported. Growing up without his biological parents, John found an extended family in his Maui Waena Intermediate School robotics team and later, in the Maui High School team.

 

Program

 

–Students from Wai‘anae High School on tell the story of a female wrestler who used to be teased and bullied about her weight, and lost the pounds to regain her self-esteem.

 

–Students from Kalāheo High School in Windward O‘ahu focus on the importance of taking responsibility while driving. Their story is framed by the recent traffic fatalities in the Kaka‘ako neighborhood of O‘ahu and how that tragedy sparked a family’s memories of losing their daughter in a drunk driving incident.

 

–Students from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy Middle School in the Waimea district of Hawai‘i Island show us the proper way to saddle a horse.

 

–Students from Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu feature two cancer survivors who battled with their diseases at a very early age: Lily Mallory, who was undergoing treatment for her cancer at the age of three, and Emi Robison, who was battling leukemia at the age of seven.

 

–Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i introduce us to Mike Coots, a surfer and photographer from Kīlauea, Kaua‘i, who lost his leg in a shark attack and now, ironically, works to protect sharks against the ravages of the shark fin soup industry.

 

–Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului feature a food truck owner who starts a pay-it-forward campaign to help feed workers affected by the recent federal government shutdown.

 

–Students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu introduce us to figure skater and Moanalua High School senior Kyra Fukumoto. While Hawai‘i has only one ice skating rink, and its resources for training figure skaters is very limited compared to the Mainland, Kyra is adamant about being based out of her home state. She is very proud of being from Hawai‘i and looks forward to representing the islands in her career as a figure skater.

 

This special episode is hosted by Tyler Bright, a 2018 HIKI NŌ graduate from Wai‘anae High School on O‘ahu who is currently studying biology at Chaminade University in Honolulu, with hopes of becoming either a canine rehabilitation therapist or a physical therapist.

 

 

 

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Tibetan Illusion Destroyer

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS: Tibetan Illusion Destroyer

 

This film by Maui filmmaker Tom Vendetti documents the Mani Rimdu Festival in Nepal, which originated in Tibet and is still performed in an authentic colorful ceremony in the shadow of Mount Everest. The title refers to the Buddhist concept of destroying man-made illusions that lead to human suffering. Vendetti and renowned Hawaiian musician Keola Beamer were part of a Hawai‘i contingent that journeyed to Nepal to attend the festival. Beamer worked with musicians in Nepal to create the film’s original music.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1006 – The 2018 HIKI NŌ Fall Challenge – High School Division

 

This special edition features stories from the High School Division of the 2018 HIKI NŌ Fall Challenge. On October 19, 2018, ten participating high school teams and twelve participating middle school teams were given four days to complete a HIKI NŌ story based on the theme “the story behind the food”. Teachers could not provide hands-on help. The students had to conceptualize, research, arrange, shoot, write and edit their stories on their own. The completed stories were scored by members of the HIKI NŌ editorial board based on the following criteria:

 

  1. How well did the story capture the essence of the assigned theme?
  2. How well did the entry fulfill the HIKI NŌ  Story Criteria (the criteria used throughout the school year to determine which stories are approved to air on HIKI NŌ)?
  3. How much did production values (the quality of the cinematography, editing and sound) contribute to the overall effectiveness of the story?

 

Based on the cumulative scores, first place, second place, third place, and honorable mention awards were given in both the high school and middle school divisions. The winning high school stories featured in this episode are as follows:

 

–Tied for First Place: Kaua‘i High School in Lihue profiled the late Barbara Funamura, the originator of the spam musubi.

 

–Tied for First Place: Kamehameha Schools Maui High School in Pukalani profiled Maui chef Jonathan Mizukami.

 

–Second Place: H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui featured the family story behind Aunty Lia’s Baked Goods.

 

–Third Place: Kapa‘a High School on Kaua‘i spotlighted Pono Market in Kapa‘a.

 

–Honorable Mention: Farrington High School on O‘ahu revealed how much members of Hawai‘i’s world championship little league team missed Hawai‘i food when they were on the road.

 

Also featured:

 

–Waiākea High School on Hawai‘i Island highlighted iconic Hilo eatery Kandi’s Drive-Inn.

 

–Moanalua High School on O‘ahu told the story of a young man who is carrying on his late father’s legacy through his family’s Chamorro Grindz food truck.

 

–Wa‘ianae High School on O‘ahu showed how a stay-at-home mom brought together her entire family through her Padicakes mochi business.

 

First place winners will receive $500 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Second place winners will receive $300 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Third place winners will receive $200 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Honorable mention winners will receive $100 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program.

 

 

 

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