What to Read This April: 5 Hawai‘i Poetry Book Picks Recommended by Local Experts

Happy National Poetry Month! We reached out to our friends at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities to ask their community of writers and readers for their poetry picks.


Angel And Hannah Ishle Yi Park One World

Photo: One World



Angel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse

by Ishle Yi Park

I been following Ishle Yi Park since da early 2000s when I used to send fan letters to New York for mail order her chapbooks and slam poetry CDs. Wuz so long ago I remember paying by check. Lol. In 2004 her first poetry collection, The Temperature of Water, came out and she got one Asian American Literary Award and da PEN/Open Book award. Das big time, you know! Sometime in between den and now, she wen move to Hawai‘i and she made fans of her poetry wait 17 years for her follow-up. Kidding, not kidding. Set in New York, Angel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse demonstrates why she’s da former Poet Laureate of Queens. On da story level da collection stay about book smart Korean girl Hannah who falls in love with da street smart Puerto Rican boy Angel. You wonder … in one world full of hate, will this love be able for survive? Forbidden love is one familiar trope, but da beauty of this story stay in da telling. Da cultural details she includes. Da poetic language choices she makes. Lyrical and lethal, brah. Ishle Yi Park kills it. —Lee A. Tonouchi, author of Significant Moments in da Life of Oriental Faddah and Son


My Dog Has Flies Sue Cowing Jon Murakami Mutual Publishing

Photo: Mutual Publishing



My Dog Has Flies: Poetry for Hawai‘i’s Kids

by Sue Cowing, illustrated by Jon J. Murakami

It’s Where the Sidewalk Ends in Hawai‘i! This spunky collection of illustrated poems reads effortlessly, like a Shel Silverstein book, but it’s talking to us! To us kids in Hawai‘i. Only we know what these things are all about: catching your first wave, twanging on the ‘ukulele, slipper roulette at family parties, mynah birds and coqui frogs, and of course, cockroaches in inconvenient places. Must read aloud—you’ll be cracking up. —Mariko Merritt, illustrator of Island Toes and Hush Little Keiki


SEE ALSO: What to Read This March: 5 Hawai‘i Book Picks Recommended by Local Experts


From The Spider Bone Diaries Richard Hamasaki Uh Press

Photo: UH Press



From the Spider Bone Diaries, Poems and Songs

by Richard Hamasaki

Before I even opened this collection, the title had me thinking of connection and contradiction. Do spiders even have bones? Do bones keep diaries, and if they do, what do they reveal? I asked myself, not for the first time, how poems make music and how songs enhance language. As soon as I opened the book and started reading, I felt like I was entering a world that was simultaneously familiar and uncanny. To read this collection is to visit old places with new language. Or maybe that’s not right: Maybe to read this collection is to discover new language from old places. From the Spider Bone Diaries is a collection of word art that emerges from the way the natural world merges with the spiritual world. To read this book is to travel outside and within, to see connections in the contradictions and contradictions in the connection. I finished the book and felt like the poet helped me see worlds I’d never discovered before even though they have been here all along. —Tim Dyke, author of the poetry collections Awkward Hugger, Atoms of Muses and MAGA, published by Tinfish Press


Moon Before Morning Ws Merwin Copper Canyon Press

Photo: Copper Canyon Press



The Moon Before Morning

by W.S. Merwin

I am absolutely in love with W.S. Merwin’s The Moon Before Morning, Copper Canyon Press, 2014. It’s his second to last collection of new works, and I have found myself turning to it again and again in the past year or so. It starts with a poem called “Homecoming,” which refers to the golden plovers or kōlea, migratory birds that return home to Maui in the verses. As I read through the pages, among other themes, references to natural cycles, natural elements and feelings of being on Maui remind me of what I love so much about our home. —Sara Tekula, director of programs and communications, The Merwin Conservancy


SEE ALSO: 7 Must-Read Hawai‘i Poets


School Figures Cathy Song University Of Pittsburgh Press

Photo: University Of Pittsburgh Press



School Figures

by Cathy Song

What I love most about reading Cathy Song’s poetry is that it’s like I’m looking through an album of memories. Her poems are like photographs that encapsulate moments and people suspended in time. They feel familiar, wistful, joyous and even heartbreaking. My favorite pieces are the ones when she mixes pidgin with proper English, such as the verse from “A Conservative View”: “Her clear and practical sentences / are sprinkled with expressions / semantically rooted to the conservation of money … / ‘Poho’ if we bought something we couldn’t use. / ‘Humbug’ if we have to go out and buy / something we don’t need. / ‘No need’—her favorite expression of all.” School Figures is Song’s third published volume of poems. —Lani Lee, bookseller at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities



Da Shop: Books + Curiosities, our 2020 Best of HONOLULU winner for Best Place to Find Your Next Great Read, is open for browsing Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 3565 Harding Ave., (808) 421-9460, dashophnl.com@dashophnl