A New Generation of Editors Take Over After Founders of Hawai‘i’s Premier Literary Press Retire
Celebrating 35 years of Bamboo Ridge.
Darrell Lum, left, with Eric Chock.
Photos: Courtesy Bamboo Ridge
In 1978, two Hawai‘i writers fresh out of graduate school set out to prove a point: There is such a thing as local literature. Thirty-five years later, Darrell Lum and Eric Chock’s experiment, Bamboo Ridge Press, has not only proven the point, it has yielded something the pair could have never predicted—a growing list of canonical local books.
From Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Saturday Night at the Pāhala Theatre to Lee Cataluna’s Folks You Meet in Longs, myriad titles from Bamboo Ridge have gone on to become perennial sellers, taught in local high schools and admired in university creative-writing workshops.
“It seemed, at the time, that a lot of our fellow writers weren’t getting published in major journals,” Lum says. “It was kind of naïve, but we said, ‘Let’s do our own journal.’”
As the 35th anniversary edition of Bamboo Ridge’s anthology launches this month, the founders of the journal will also pass on their editing pens to a new crop of wordsmiths. The transition is already underway, with the new issue guest-edited by Lee Cataluna and Lisa Linn Kanae. A series of guest editors will continue to put together the next few issues, Lum says.
“It’s nice to see that there are people willing to step forward. They see a value to continuing what we started,” he says.
And what he and Chock started is nothing short of remarkable.
“One of the signs of Bamboo Ridge’s success, especially in the literary scene now, is that we take for granted that it exists. It’s an institution,” says Craig Howes, University of Hawai‘i English professor and writer.
As Hawai‘i’s oldest and longest running literary press, Bamboo Ridge publishes two volumes a year—one large anthology and another single-author collection. The duo, perhaps unapologetically, published the kind of work they liked. While some of the titles, such as Kanae’s Islands Linked by Ocean, have seen major success, others, such as Albert Saijo’s Outspeaks, remain obscure to most readers.
Saijo ran with the Beat poets before settling on the Big Island later in life. “Cathy Song pointed him out to us,” Lum says. Except there was one problem: “Nobody could read his (handwritten) manuscript except him,” Lum says. The editors had to wait months for Saijo’s wife to help him type it up.
After all these years, does Lum have a favorite Bamboo Ridge title? “Who’s your favorite child? It’s that question,” he says.
Bamboo Ridge Essential Reading
We asked the editors for their list of hits and bestsellers.
By Frederick B. Wichman
Originally published in 1985, this collection of Kaua‘i lore remains a Bamboo Ridge top seller today.
Growing Up Local
By multiple authors
Established writers and students, including a first-grader with a poem on the closing of Waialua Sugar Mill, explore the unique experience of growing up in Hawai‘i.
Folks You Meet in Longs
By Lee Cataluna
This collection of hilarious and poignant monologues conveys the voices of people who could only ever exist in Hawai‘i.
Saturday Night at the Pāhala Theatre
By Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Now a staple in local literature classes, Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s first collection of narrative poems captures the absurd and often painful experiences of growing up local.
Islands Linked By Ocean
By Lisa Linn Kanae
Published in 2009, Lisa Linn Kanae’s collection of stories has quickly claimed its place as part of the local canon. Kanae’s strength is in her characters—they will make you cry along with them.
Other titles selected by Bamboo Ridge’s editors: In the Company of Strangers, by Michelle Cruz Skinner; Anshu, by Juliet Kono; He Leo Hou, by multiple authors; The Nanjing Massacre: Poems, by Wing Tek Lum.
From Roots to Shoots is a “wine and words” fundraiser for Bamboo Ridge, Nov. 18, 7 p.m., at Mānoa Valley Theatre. For more information, call 626-1481, or visit bambooridge.com.