At the tail end of my recent travels, I had an amazing opportunity to do a poetry reading and visit classes at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, where I studied art and English as an undergraduate. Twenty-two years had passed since my graduation—enough time for another generation to go from the womb to a lifetime of student loan debt.

I left Hawaiʻi for the first time to attend college in 1992. I started college with a typewriter; I left with an email address. I wore black-and-white-striped tights with shorts, and long-sleeved shirts under my Radio Free Hawaiit-shirt. I learned that, yes, it really was possible to be cold when the sun was shining. I learned that jackets weren’t merely fashion accessories, when a fellow art student told me I should zip up.

In my first poetry class with Laurie Lamon, the last semester of my senior year, I wrote a catalogue poem, a food poem, a political poem, a dream poem, a villanelle. I found a way of engaging with that world that I loved. I still love it. For the poetry reading, I decided to read poems I’d written in that first poetry class in 1996, along with poems from my book, and a new longer piece.

I wanted to do something that would tell current students in the audience that the work they are doing now is valuable and important—not as a steppingstone to get them somewhere more “real” in the future—but worthy in and of itself. I think we so often want to hide early work, early drafts, early selves; we want to get beyond all that. I wanted to say to them and to myself: you are enough in every moment.

I read from my blue portfolio from that first poetry class, full of drafts with comments from Laurie, held together by a rusty metal clip. I told the audience that I wanted to honor myself as a young college student and so honor all of them. In truth, I felt admiration for those poems and the beginner who wrote them, so earnest and unaware of such things as simultaneous submissions, rejection letters, and graduate degrees. I recognized wisdom in my younger self that I hadn’t previously been able to see.

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m thinking about cycles and returns, the ones we mark collectively and the ones whose patterns speak to us quietly. I’m thinking about how I can wake up to patterns that do harm, and nurture patterns that invite healing. The reading took place on October’s full moon, and I felt my own fullness at the age of forty-four—returning to the place where I first began to love poetry, and reflecting on how poetry has sustained me in the twenty-two years since then.

After three months away, it’s wonderful to be home, writing, offering massage, and continuing to study lomilomi. Wishing you a peaceful end to 2018.

2 thoughts on “Cycles and Returns

  1. Welcome home, Janine! Thank you for your insights and inspirations. As semester winds down was hoping for quiet time, but now filled with rehearsals! Dance I choreographed for UH concert last year “Steel Rain” was selected to go to American College Dance Conference in February so back on the treadmill. What happened retirement!?! Hope you and Ben are enjoying the holidays.

    Sent from my iPad


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