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Woven words: Reflections on my time at UH Manoa

By Leilani Tamu, 2013 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence

Leilani TamuThey say that every journey begins with a first step. But in my experience, every journey begins with a connection. When I think about my three months at UH Mānoa as the 2013 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence, it is the connections that were made, nurtured, and treasured that stand out as the highlight of my time in Hawaiʻi. Woven together, relationships bind Pacific people across oceans of perceived distance, and in coming to Mānoa I am confident that, despite my now being back in Aotearoa, that bond is one that will last a lifetime.

During my residency at the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, I spent an equal amount of time in the library researching and writing, as I did engaging in discussion with students, staff, and community members. It was through these relationships that the true value of my residency was realized. While in Hawaiʻi I gained new and fresh insights into a wide range of issues and perspectives of relevance to me as a Pacific Islands scholar. On reflection, much of the creative benefit from the residency was the impact that these experiences had not only on my poetic and editorial work but also on me as a person. To all of those who made a contribution to my time at Mānoa, a sincere faʻafetai lava: each of you has played a role in shaping the creative work that is my personal journey. The following poetic song was written during the residency in collaboration with D Kealiʻi MacKenzie as a tribute to each of our grandparents. These woven words represent the ties that bind each of us across time and space.

Diasporic Dreams
A Poetic Song Written in Collaboration with David Kealiʻi MacKenzie
Mānoa, Hawaiʻi, November 2013

Verse 1
wrapped in your love, woven memories
arrive on the back of the fourth wind
each word a tender parcel
carefully folded into notes
and melodious aloha

Chorus
a mele to carry across generations
the love of our ancestors
inscribed with longing
always to return with them
home

Verse 2
songs plaited through ukulele, guitar, refrain
a calm rocking of your moʻopuna
an unfurled git to carry them
across the currents and remind them
of all the meanings for love

Verse 3
wrapped in your love, woven memories
call me back, call me home
to the islands of your heart
to the gentle strum
of your guitar

This article by Leilani Tamu originally appeared in the September-December 2013 issue of “Pacific News from Mānoa,” the newsletter of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai’i.

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