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HOPE IS A LIE

HOPE IS A LIE

This poem was written by Robert J. Maxie, Jr, who has a You-Tube channel that features his spoken poems.  (Do check out his poetry site on Wattpad for more of his work.)  Robert recently independently published a book of poetry as well, BLEEDING INK, which is available on Amazon.com.

He says, “The back story of this poem isn’t as much in the past as it is what I’m living. I oftentimes recently have found myself in situations where I feel hopeless and powerless.

“This poem is a reminder to me that I can’t live that way. That if I let myself lose hope I won’t be able to make it.”

A wise young man….

Here’s the spoken poem on his You-Tube channel:

The words are powerful:

The truth is a blinding light
Shining over an ocean of lies
Gliding on black skies
On wings of fear and rage
It’s a rushing river that empties lakes
A hungry beast that takes and takes
A monster that terrifies
An ever living hawk
Scouting the skies
Bringing death to all
Because hope is the ultimate lie
A lie that lives on as long as the light is gone
Hope survives when hidden from the truth
Hope is the noble lie staying my soul from chaos and rage
Hope is a cage
Hope is control
Hope is a blinder over my eyes
And now that hope is gone
And all that’s left is an infinite
Black void through which I cannot find my way
Without my hope
Without my faith I stumble even though my eyes are open and my path is empty
I am blind to trouble
Though I see
Everything

by Robert J. Maxie, Jr.

Header picture credit:  Black Storm Petrel by Trish Gussler [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

[Please note:  If any of you would like to contribute a poem, please let me know by leaving a comment below….  I’d be happy to hear from youClick here to access the Guest Poet Portal.]

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THE KUMULIPO AT THE WHITE HOUSE

THE KUMULIPO AT THE WHITE HOUSE

The Kumulipo is a Hawaiian creation chant.  It is probably one of the few recorded accounts about the earliest Hawaiian understandings regarding the origins and life-development in this world.  It is also a finely wrought ancient chant that links one family of ali’i, chiefs, to the Creative and to the pantheon of gods shared by other Polynesians.  It is about how our world was formed and the inter-connectedness of that world.

The ancient Hawaiian kahuna, priests, would chant the Kumulipo during the annual Makahiki season which honored the god Lono. In 1779, Captain James Cook arrived in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island (Hawai’i) during the Makahiki and was greeted by the Hawaiians chanting the creation chant.

Some stories say Cook was mistaken for Lono, because of the type of sails on his ship, which the natives called a “moving island.”  It is said that the Captain’s pale skin echoed the legends of Lono, who was also supposed to have light-colored skin and who had promised that one day he would return from his travels.  Cook’s emergency return to the islands shortly after the Makahiki ended dispelled that illusion and had devastating consequences for him and his crew.

In 1889, King David Kalakaua, as part of his effort to preserve the most important of his people’s wisdoms, printed a sixty-page pamphlet with the words of the chant. Attached to the pamphlet was a 2-page paper on how the Kumulipo was originally composed and recited.  The work was taken from a manuscript copy that the King had.  That manuscript is now in the Bishop Museum on Oahu.

Several later translations of the chant were made by various people including one by the King’s cousin, Queen Liliʻuokalani (Lydia Kamaka’eha Paki).  Her translation of the chant was published in 1897.  It was written while the queen was under house arrest at Iolani Palace after the overthrow of the Hawaiian government by a group of American businessmen.  The beloved Lili’u was the last queen of Hawai’i.   (Her translation was re-published by Pueo Press in 1978.)

However, none of the translations of the chant were available in English until American folklorist and ethnographer Martha Warren Beckwith also published a translation of the chant in 1951.  Beckwith’s Kumulipo has been a resource for students of Hawaiian culture ever since.

The point of all this is that through the years the chant and the native mindset from which it emerged was preserved for future generations.  The words of our ancestors are remembered.

In 2009, Brave New Voices champion slam poet  Jamaica Osorio performed her spoken word poem “Kumulipo” at a White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word.  The piece was a many-layered lament in the style of the ancient Hawaiian master poets.

It was magnificent….

 

The featured picture in the header of this blog is a part of a 16-panel work by contemporary Hawaiian artist Carl F. K. Pao.  It is an interpretation of the Kumulipo chant and was featured in an exhibit at the Hawaiian Hall in the Bishop Museum on Oahu.

Here’s another poem.


CREATION MYTHS

I have often wondered

Why the others among us

Don’t seem to understand

That they are a part of

All the everything there is.

Today it hit me:

They think they were made

By some bachelor god

In the sky up high

Who took the mud from the earth

And mixed it all up and gave it breath.

So, all these other ones,

They think they are mud and spit and ashes

Made animate.

How sad.

 

Wakea and Papa and Hoku:

They are OUR parents.

Grandfather Wakea made the Universe

From the sacred gourd, we know.

Grandfather Wakea and Grandmother Papa,

From them was born this ‘aina,

The islands we call home.

Grandfather Wakea and Grandmother Hoku,

From them was born Haloa the elder,

Kalo, our brother.

From them was born Haloa the younger,

Man, our forefather.

We are not MADE things.

We are blood and bone of the gods,

And we are their pride.

 

Maybe that’s why these other ones do not understand.

by Netta Kanoho

[My friend, artist Phil Sabado, was going through his Hawaiian myths and legends period and we had a lot of fun exploring the mindsets encapsulated in these old stories together.  It helped my understandings of Hawaiian thought tremendously and sent me off in odd directions.  Wakea, Papa and Hoku are Hawaiian progenitor-gods.  The two Haloa brothers help explain the relationship between Hawaiians and the taro (kalo) plant, which produces our most important staple food.]


Picture credit:  Kumulipo:  The Creation Story in the Hawaiian Hall of the Bishop Museum by Wally Gobetz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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MASH-UPS IN POETRY

MASH-UPS IN POETRY

“Mash-ups” is a new word for me, but an old art-strategy.  You mix or fuse disparate elements or types of media that don’t normally go together and somehow synthesize new meaning out of the mix.  This is what you do when you play with what artists call “mixed media”.

WHAT’S A MASH-UP?

The word comes out of the music industry, from when a recording is created by digitally combining and synchronizing the instrumental tracks with vocal tracks from two or more different songs.  In computing, a mash-up results when a web page or application is created by combining data or functionality from different sources.

One high-flying definition says that you achieve a mash-up by looking at one perspective from multiple moments.  Mash-ups are supposed to “compress time but allow for a new sort of commentary, intention and irony to emerge”….it says here.  (I’m still trying to figure out what that means.)

THINKING ON IT….

My own thought is that mash-ups are a particularly Hawaiian concept.  In the traditional mele (song), two ideas are jammed up next to each other and allowed to resonate, to serve as metaphors for each other which produces in the listener a feeling of glimpsing at a secret third idea that connects the two original ones.  Names of places evoke particular legends or stories or feelings.  Pile other images of the plants, the weather, and other environmental elements for which a particular place is noted on top of that and you multiply the power of the feelings.

An example of that would be a song that honors a particular wind that blows under certain conditions and only in Hana.  Referencing the wind calls up a feeling of the Hana-ness of it all.

USING “HOOKS”

One thing that is essential for helping the mash-up do its work properly is the use of “hooks.”  These are themes like cynicism, humor, angst, irony, aggression, sex, or sincerity.  Just like building a poem.

This poem was an answer to one of the challenges we give ourselves in the Maui Live Poets Society.  We had a featured guest poet who gave us a “spoken poem,” a particular form of poetry that requires you to speak the poem before a group from memory.  The guest poet gave us a twelve-minute poem!  It was mind-boggling.

I practiced particularly hard on this one.  (Memorization is not my forte.)  I did it, though; I was proud of myself.  The poem, of course, was a protest.  There are a number of words that are probably unfamiliar to many of you.  I’ll explain them at the end of the poem.


THE OLD WAY OF SINGING

(A Spoken Poem)

Okay. 

I understand this spoken poem thing is “traditional” and all,

An art form sanctified through the ages

As a conduit from the Creative

Through the poet,

To the audience.

But, I’ve gotta tell ya,

I tend to avoid it…for good reason.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hawaiian…that’s me. 

TRA-dition…‘as how.

Speaking from the heart…

‘Alelu, ‘alelu…oh, yeah.

 

But all this jazz feels unfiltered to me.

The gateway gapes wide open

And I am not so sure

That the thoughts on the other side of it

Are particularly street-legal.

It feels raw, somehow.

 

And you know what?

I like poke, and I like sashimi,

But you get different tastes

When you mix ’em up and cook ’em good.

 

I can’t help thinking

That all those ancient master poets,

Our kumu haku mele, are dead already.

And I am not so skilled at metaphor and kaona

(The hidden meanings)

To sing in layers as they did.

 

All our oral traditions never saved us

From the power of those silly-ass markings

On the palapala – the paper –

That now covers over all the stones,

The food of the land that

The old ones were willing to eat.

So, hey…

No.

No thank you.

 

Me, I’ll just keep speaking my heart once-removed.

I’ll write down my thoughts and cook them up fine,

And I’ll read them out loud,

Serving them up pretty.

From behind the veil of obfuscating scribbles,

I will even make them dance.

 

‘Cause you know,

This other way of singing…

It just breaks my heart,

And I would certainly take that out on you.

‘As how” is pidgin for “that’s the way it is.” ” ‘Alelu” is Hawaiian for “hallelujah.”  “Poke” and “sashimi”  are both raw-fish dishes.  “Kumu haku mele” is a master song- and story-writer.  “Kaona” means “hidden meaning.” “Palapala” is “paper,” particularly legal documents.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: Mixed Media – Opening Patterns by Andreas Lehner via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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