Cover Story continued

In her debut book of poetry, How to Be a Good Ojoosan, Tammie Oka explores her identity and the social and intimate relationships formed through growing up in Hawaii. Her local Asian-American heritage is layered in pidgin and slang, and the inspiration for her work seems to be found in the book’s telling dedication, “For Margaret Park Nishimoto, This is how I keep your memory alive.”

Born and raised in Honolulu, Oka possesses a lyrical gift, one that commands the open-form and rhythmically enables the reader to savor the idea that memory can transcend self, gaining entry into a collective literary place.

In the poem, “My Space,” Oka writes,

I painted the walls blue

to remind myself

that womanhood does not come packaged

in a pink paper box.

I remove the ribbon

from my eyes, and though

“Genesis” says I am only a fragment

of man, there are caverns of a woman

where man has

no room

no space

no place

to grow.

They’ve paced me ten seconds behind your feet

declared us fragile creatures

to be supported with wire, metal

corsets and bras,

but I prefer to be unbound

with my tits dangling

towards the floor…

What isn’t buried beneath layers of local matter is uniquely satisfying, both to the tongue and the mind.

How To Be A Good Ojoosan

Tammie Oka

Kahuaomanoa Press, 2008

72 pages $12