Fashioning Linguistic Masterpieces

To read Gail N. Harada’s poetry and prose is to be cradled by words – words that transcend the sum of their parts, immersing the reader in a private space that is comforting, historic, ambivalent, seductive, melancholy and at times tickling. The entries in the Kapiolani Community College writing and literature teacher’s newly published book Beyond Green Tea and Grapefruit are masterfully honed, inviting the audience to ruminate a while.


Image 3 of 3

Author Gail N. Harada. Photos courtesy of Bamboo Ridge Press

This is what I remember:
The barbed wire fence
rose along one edge
of the playground
jabbing the blue sky
like the prickly hedge
surrounding Sleeping
Beauty’s castle.

Thus begins her poem The Fence: at a U.S. Army base, Japan, that paints the picture of a young Asian American gazing at her Japanese counterparts as though looking into a foreign mirror. They are kindred humans, at once connected and distanced.

She pens autobiographical bits about her plantation-era grampa, picture-bride grandma, and a brother who, unimpeded by the fresh “centipede” of stitches on his knee, grabs his surfboard, giving in to the beckoning swell. Readers are invited into a firsthand sense of discovery as Harada journeys to Bruyères for insight into her father’s stint in the 442nd Infantry Regiment. She also writes of her local and Japanese cultural heritage, of pets and relationships, of depression. In her witty, sensual and ultimately emotionally tragic “Waiting for Henry,” the speaker is more in tune with Henry her cat than Henry her lover.

“I tell Henry my cat what a lady-killer he is. I tell him what a handsome handsome tiger he is,” the protagonist says, while crippled by an inability to voice her more substantial feelings to Henry the man.

Harada has a way of making the familiar exotic, the seemingly trivial suddenly weighty. Particularly compelling are her emotional portraits of her characters. A few choice words and physical descriptions and the

reader is instantly sucked into the skewed vortex of her subjects’ emotional states.

“Instead of driving off a cliff by the Blowhole, Stella decided to see a psychic,” announces the first sentence in her story, Afternoon at the Psychic’s House, commencing an adventure through one lady’s vivid mental sphere.

Then there’s gems of pure Hawaii that stir up wistful yearnings even for Island residents who can look right out of their window to catch a glimpse of the majestic Ko’olaus:

When I was on the mainland,
the torpor of winter
kept depositing itself
on my tropic bones,
making me long
for the blue Pacific Ocean,
the ripeness of mangoes,
crests of waves in moonlight,
the myriad greens of the Ko’olau …

Harada’s book ($18) is available through Bamboo Ridge Press, but she’ll be appearing in person as one of the authors at an April 3 reading at Manoa Library: A Celebration of Words and Poetry. She also will be interviewed via live-stream April 30 at 2 p.m. by, and will be reading May 4 at noon at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival.

the TICKET stub

When: April 3, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: Manoa Public Library
Cost: Free
More Info: 988-0459,

Theater Mission

In honor of Lenten season leading up to Easter, FiACT (Faith in ACTion) Drama Community is putting on The Passion of Christ, not related to the gory, similarly named Mel Gibson film. In fact, the March 27-30 show at Paliku Theatre is very much family fare, promises deacon Modesto Cordero, the director.

“The storyline covers from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – his recruiting of the 12 disciples, teachings, miracles, entrance to Jerusalem – to the last supper, betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection,” says Cordero.

The two-act show, based on the Gospel readings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, will incorporate music, dancing and singing, including three original songs written by local artist and songwriter Glenn Medeiros in collaboration with Cordero. The 38-member cast includes actors as young as 5, up to age 60. Organized by the Diocese of Honolulu, the actors were culled from churches around the island, with most getting their debut taste of the stage with this show.

FiACT was formed last year and has produced several plays, including a shorter version of Passion of Christ. This year’s production ($20-$25, 222-0644) is the group’s introduction to Hawaii’s theater community, and functions as a way of ministering to the public via theater, says Cordero:

“The show is about the story of Jesus Christ told from the eyes of two angels. Our goal is to evangelize through dramatization. We are not Hollywood, but we have put together a show that will inspire people to seek God in their lives.”