The Birds, The Bees And … Termites?

Poetry has tackled every recess of our universe both physical and psychological. Though individual poets’ oeuvres tend to follow a single theme (nature, horror, the philosophical), others, like Joseph Stanton, address every topic under the sun. By day, the award-winning poet is a professor of American studies and art history at UH, but take a voyeuristic peek at him any other time over the past 40 years and you’ll see him waxing poetic about baseball, fairy tales, noh, the sublime, the exotic – not to mention centipedes and termites.


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Shaun Dikilato and Kaitlin Souza in 'Big Love'. Photo by Chesley Cannon

In this short poem Mejiro, a Japanese bird, abundant on Oahu since it was introduced in the early 1900s, captures his attention:

Mejiro-a deft green stroke, flying or hopping from branch to branch, tail upstruck – is the moment’s punctuation, a comma flickering so quick the rest of the bright green syntax can only wheel after, a lost clause trying to catch up.

Ah, the structure, the deft wordplay, the visual his captured moment evokes. Having written five books of poetry and published more than 300 poems in literary magazines including Harvard Review, New York Quarterly and Bamboo Ridge, Stanton has plenty more works to tease audience’s minds at a free talk and poetry reading this Saturday. For now, let the attached contemplation on what Stanton calls “one of the most ferocious creatures we have in Hawaii” suffice. “Certainly,” he adds, “it is the most feared beast in suburban Oahu. We do not have lions and tigers and bears, but we do have subterranean termites!”

(Both poems featured here come from Stanton’s collection, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu.)

the TICKET stub
Joseph Stanton
When: Sept 28, 2 p.m.
Where: State Library
More Info:

Subterranean Termite Blues

They are making a world under our world.

Building, building, building.

Ten thousand insidious, tiny jaws are taking apart our house to fuel their underhanded city.

Secret, miniscule nibblings, no bigger than marks of punctuation or grains of sand, will someday lead to nothing-

my family open under the wide sky, home fallen into total ellipse exposed to the living light of day, as if we could live that way;

while underground a tiny, reverse suburbia will be the mirror image of all we will have lost.

Deep down underground mornings will see tiny faces lather and shave and, over a breakfast of coffee and cellulose, speak of us almost, it will seem, with regret;

while in some corner of subterranean city a tiny thorax will hunch over a tiny typewriter,

forelegs tap, tap, tapping- beginning to take away the words of this poem.

From ‘Identity Crisis’ To Bollywood

With no shortage of excitement coming up this weekend, here’s a quick rundown:

* UH’s Late Night Theatre season kicks off with dance concert Identity Crisis at Kennedy Theatre, featuring six dance and theater students adept at dance styles that include modern, ballet, jazz, Okinawan, Chinese, Irish, butoh, hip-hop, bharata natyam and hula. Sept. 27-Oct. 5, 956-7655.

* Also at Kennedy Theatre, is Big Love – not the TV show about the guy with four wives. This musical finds 50 sisters arranged to marry 50 suitors! But they’ll be represented by just three sisters. Happy 50th anniversary season! Sept. 27-Oct. 6, 944-2697.

* ARTafterDARK at Honolulu Museum of Art features an exhibit by 11 Island-based artists, as well as the artists working live throughout the night. Sept. 27, 532-8700.

* Cabaret, the 1966 Broadway hit, comes to Diamond Head Theatre. A little bird mentioned that lovely hopefuls were encouraged to outfit themselves provocatively for auditions. Expect something sizzling. Sept. 27-Oct. 13, 733-0274.

* A Bollywood & Beyond exhibit opens at the UH East-West Center Gallery. The show is paired with a series of illustrated talks, films and a dance workshop. Sept. 29-Jan. 12, 2014;