CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Keith Kashiwada reads poems by Wing Tek Lum that were published by Bamboo Ridge in 1987, during a taping of "Aloha Shorts" at Hawaii Public Radio Sunday. The founding editors of Bamboo Ridge, Eric Chock and Darrell Lum, will be the honored next Tuesday at the Manoa Valley Theatre.
Bamboo Ridge presses on
Writers and readers celebrate the Hawaii publisher's 30th anniversarySTORY SUMMARY »
What does Bamboo Ridge Press mean to noted author Lois-Ann Yamanaka?
"Without Eric and Darrell, there would be no me."
Like many of the hundreds of writers whom founders Eric Chock and Darrell Lum have worked with for three decades, Yamanaka is indebted to the two editors who helped shape her writer's voice.
She and others will help kick off a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Bamboo Ridge that will continue all year. Next Tuesday it all starts with a "toast and roast" of Chock and Lum, a fundraiser "4 the love of BR" at Manoa Valley Theatre.
(Already in progress are monthly tapings called "Aloha Shorts" -- readings of prose and poetry originally published by Bamboo Ridge. At Sunday's taping at Hawaii Public Radio's Atherton Performing Arts Studio, actors Ginger Gohier, Nara Cardenas and Keith Kashiwada read from Aria Soyama's "Confessions of a Porn Store Clerk," the late D. Mahealani Dudoit's "My Father's Garden" and the poems of longtime contributor Wing Tek Lum. The weekly program airs at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays on KIPO FM 89.3.)
The first Bamboo Ridge rolled off the press in 1978, left. At right, three decades later, the publication remains true to its mission of giving Hawaii writers a voice.
More than 850 writers and artists have been published since 1978 by Bamboo Ridge, which has become one of the longest-running noncommercial small literary presses in the United States.
"We do all we can in our efforts to gain subscribers and market ourselves better," Lum said, "but it seems we're only successful enough to just keep constant. In terms of what we are, we're doing pretty good. There aren't that many like us that have survived this long."
But it's that one-on-one relationship with their contributing writers that is the essence of Bamboo Ridge.
"Their criticism of my work, their mentorship, their friendship, their trust in the integrity of our voices made it possible for me to dream and write for an audience beyond our shores," Yamanaka wrote via e-mail.
"Eric has probably the sharpest 'ear' for voice in Hawai'i. When Darrell told me (after many, many months of submitting stories), 'Now THIS is a story,' I nearly died/cried."
The story was included in Yamanaka's 1996 debut, "Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers," which brought her work to an international audience.
For all that Chock and Lum have done, she said, "they are Hawaii treasures."
FULL STORY »
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Wing Tek Lum closes his eyes as he listens to a poetry reading of his work at the Hawaii Public Radio studio during a taping of "Aloha Shorts."
Like most people when middle age comes-a-callin', Darrell Lum would rather not make too big a thing about turning 30.
But when it's about celebrating the birthday of one of the most important literary presses in Hawaii, the voices and desires of others trump Lum's.
Bamboo Ridge Press -- named after the popular East Oahu ulua fishing spot -- was created by Lum and Eric Chock in 1978 with a simple mission: "to publish literature by and about Hawaii's people." For remaining relevant this long, and for helping so many local writers and artists gain crucial exposure around the world, the anniversary is certainly cause for a yearlong celebration.
The small, nonprofit press continues to publish two volumes of work a year. Last year ended on a high note with the warm critical reception to Mavis Hara's story collection, "An Offering of Rice." Three publications will be offered in 2008, anthology No. 91 and two collections of fiction.
A publishing effort that started as relatively slim chapbooks has blossomed into heftier tomes. "My, how we've gained weight," joked Lum.
"We started Bamboo Ridge at a time when most of the literature taught at the University of Hawaii was the old dead canon," Chock said via e-mail, "and I guess we did our share to open that up to include a multicultural reflection of Hawaii and America. ...
"By publishing local writers, by producing public readings, conferences, workshops, 'Poets in the Schools' classes, by pushing the newspapers to feature more local authors, by lobbying the Department of Education to include more Hawaii-relevant literature, by supporting reading tours to San Francisco, Connecticut, Seattle, Chicago, Australia, Hilo, or wherever they would have us, we've nurtured local writers, we've participated in the change in attitude which legitimizes the artistic mirroring of our lives that has resulted in a more diverse culture for us to share -- and a literature we can all be proud of."
COURTESY BAMBOO RIDGE
Bamboo Ridge 30th anniversary T-shirt, "Walking the Tightrope" was designed by Cora Yee.
BOTH HE and Lum keep Bamboo Ridge's original promise in sight.
"Discovering new voices, that part hasn't changed," Lum said. "In going through the submissions from local writers, it's still exciting to read some of their stuff and go, 'Wow, we want to share this with folks.' "
And even when that "wow factor" blossoms into widespread acclaim -- for example, for authors Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Nora Okja Keller -- local roots remain crucial.
"They still can say that we belong with everybody else here -- that they can have regular big-time careers talking about subject matters that reflect us. It's local literature that other people can appreciate and understand."
Chock added that, "We've had our award-winning publications included in university courses from Berkeley to Harvard, Michigan to Washington, Japan to Oxford. And, yes, even college courses in Hawaii. The New York Public Library's been a subscriber for many years. Pidgin literature has been translated into Dutch, Japanese, and just (Saturday), I got an e-mail from an Austrian doctoral student in Salzburg who is writing on pidgin poetry from Hawaii."
"Getting folks to read and then recognizing parts of themselves in the pieces of literature we publish, how great is that?," Lum said. "Much of our exposure to literature still comes from outside of Hawaii, so reading local writing is always just a good reminder of what we can offer."
Despite the constant challenge of fundraising and publishing books in a timely manner, "writing and writers are at the center of what we want to do ... and we're one of the rare small presses not affiliated with a college or university. We admit we've struggled for a long time," Lum said.
"Even though running a press is costly, it's still important for folks to have the opportunity, even though it's infrequent, to be published, and that it's OK to write just a single poem and submit it to us, and know that it's being read carefully."
» Ongoing: Along with monthly tapings of the "Aloha Shorts" public-radio show and writers workshops (visit bambooridge.com for details), the Renshi Poetry Project launches online, featuring poets Jean Toyama, Juliet Kono, Ann Inoshita and ChristyAnn Passion creating a linked poem over the period of a year. One poet will create a new poem weekly, based on the last line of the previous poet's work.
» Next Tuesday: Toast-and-roast of co-founders and editors Eric Chock and Darrell Lum, 7:30 p.m., Manoa Valley Theatre. Participants include Lee Cataluna, Ghislaine Chock, John Heckathorn, Nora Okja Keller, Mae Lum, Cathy Song, Lee Tonouchi, Cedric Yamanaka and Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Admission: $30 donation; free to current press donors. Call 626-1481 or visit www.bambooridge.com.
» April: Release of Bamboo Ridge issue 91, a 350-page anthology featuring 42 writers, including a memoir by local surf legend Gerry Lopez. Free public readings to be scheduled at University of Hawaii-Manoa Campus Center and bookstores.
» May 17 and 18: Writers and Readers Reunion, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Hawaii Book and Music Festival, Honolulu Hale grounds. Panel of authors discusses performance, language, diversity and culture. Authors and artists previously published by Bamboo Ridge may participate; call 626-1481 or e-mail BRreaders@gmail.com.
» July 11 to 20: Restaging of Lee Cataluna's 2005 play, "Folks You Meet in Longs," at Saint Louis School's Tenney Theatre
» Date to be determined: "Celebrating the Bamboo Ridge Community" year-end celebration at the Hale Koa Hotel
» Other publications: "Morningside Heights: New York Stories," by Punahou middle school teacher Joseph Tsujimoto; and "Islands Linked by Ocean," a debut fiction collection from Kapiolani Community College instructor Lisa Kanae. Publication dates and public readings to be announced.