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Watercolor by Frank Ducote.

Still waters run deep.

Consider the small, quiet town of Hanapepe (hah-nah-PEH-peh), on the island of Kaua'i, which is the northernmost and oldest of Hawai'i's eight main islands. I had never been there, until I read this poem:

by Geraldine Heng

january does not awaken this town.
this skin of stillness has lain quiet now
for gentle lifetimes.

the houses, like colored wooden make-believe
sit perennially charming in picture frames,
in the metal reflection of a family car.

sunlight, teeming with dusty life
warms the storefronts, yellowly.

in shadowy interiors, proprietors measure
condiments and words, their greeting a secret meeting

shy as deep water, the memories of this town,
dimly glimpsed in the glass jars.

and a modest dance studio waits down the road
now serene, once eager perhaps
with impatient feet quick for the new steps

perhaps the doctor in the clinic danced them.

perhaps once the two old friends
dreaming gently over ice-shop counter

waxed companionable moustaches
in steamy barbershop mirror,
while their wives, tired by children, softly complained.

holiday visitors come this warm afternoon
in bright voices, chasing weekend lives
they leave the sound of feet on bare boards.

in the evening the young gathered at jukebox and pool tables.
the movie house plays a lone feature.

soon, february passes unnoticed by the soda fountains.

- from Island Fire: An Anthology of Literature from Hawai'i, edited by Cheryl A. and James R. Harstad (University of Hawai'i Press, 2002).

It's fun to wander small, quiet towns and imagine what might have happened there at one time. This sign, proclaiming Hanapepe as "Kauai's Biggest Little Town," made me very curious. 

I did a little investigating and discovered that Hanapepe ("crushed bay"), back in the day, was quite a place. It was founded by some Chinese rice farmers in the late 19th century, and was the only non-plantation town in the area. It once housed opium dens and was known for its rowdy bars and brawls. There was even a massacre here in 1924, where the police shot and killed 17 Filipino sugar cane workers who were on strike. And do you remember "The Thorn Birds," with Richard Chamberlain? Some of it was shot here, and scenes from "Jurassic Park" were shot in the surrounding valley. Who knew?

In 1992, Hanapepe was decimated by Hurricane Iniki. But this little town has come back. Its rich past, charm, and quirkiness still lures the curious, and creative souls have found a haven here. 

Talk Story is the western-most bookstore in the U.S.

Today, main street houses a few art galleries, gift shops, eateries, and the coolest bookstore/cafe evah -- Talk Story, which is a friendly gathering place, and the home of 1500 used, new, rare and collectible titles. Every Friday night, it's Indian food and live music. You can even buy locally-made gifts and jewelry, Hawaiian records, or take slack key guitar or ukulele lessons there. 

Isn't it cool that despite everything this little town has been through, "the printed word" still thrives? English was first heard in the Hawaiian Islands when Captain Cook stepped ashore on Kaua'i in 1778. I love that if you travel just about as far west as you can in the populated U.S., you'll find an indie bookstore there!

You know, it is Friday. I was thinking -- why don't we all zip on over to this funky spot, and hang out tonight? They've got art, music, books, and food. Who could ask for more?

In case you're thirsty:

The poetry goddess hosting today is the lovely Karen Edmisten. Cruise on over for the roundup. She's got coffee! 

Master Poetry Friday schedule is at Big A little a.

Visit the alphabet soup 2008 Poetry Friday archive here.

*Thanks to Ed and Cynthia of Talk Story for permission to post photos of their bookstore!

Edited 1-17-09: A couple of corrections to this post -- Talk Story doesn't have 1500 titles, but over 15,000!! Wow! And while they are no longer a cafe, they still have live music (yay)! They ship worldwide; check out their Amazon storefront here.


( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 16th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
You've whetted my appetite for travel, jama! How I'd love to visit this lovely place...

Jan. 16th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Me too!
Jan. 16th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
Loved the poem, loved the travelogue. Great post, Jama!
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Kelly. Another mai tai?
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
None for me thanks. Pass the kona coffee.
Jan. 16th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the trip back to Kauai. Beautiful place.

(Your blog calms me down when I'm anxious.)
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Lucky you to have been to Kaua'i. I've been to the Big Island and Maui besides Oahu, where I grew up, but never Kaua'i. Maybe this year? Another mai tai will REALLY calm you down. :)
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
Yes to the mai tai! :)

We hiked along the Na Pali coast. Wow. Incredible.

Jan. 16th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link, Jenny. What gorgeous photos!
Jan. 16th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Ooo... whatever that drink is, I'll take one as I relax on the patio of that charming house.
"the houses, like colored wooden make-believe" - lovely description.
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
It's Friday,so mai tai's are on the house!
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)
In that case, I'll take two. Really, I think you've just inspired me to have a mai tai when we go out for dinner tonight. Too bad it won't be in Hawaii.
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
Poetry Friday
Elaine M.

Love your post--the poem, the pictures, the history. That looks like a wonderful bookstore.

I enjoy driving through areas in northern New England and seeing the small towns that make it seem as if time has stood still there.

Jan. 16th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Poetry Friday
I'd love to explore more of New England -- during warmer months, of course!
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
Whoa. Me, too. I want to be THERE. Now.

Lovely poem.

Jan. 16th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
It's only 13 degrees here now. Bring on the Hawaiian sunshine!
Jan. 16th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Hi Jama,
Thanks for the lovely poem, the history lesson, the desk-chair travel, AND the mai-tai! Now thinking warm thoughts (it's working--we've warmed up from -20 to -4 F here in N. Illinois)!
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
And I thought anything under 20 degrees was cold! Eeeee! Stay warm :)!
Jan. 16th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
Hi Sis, Shucks! When we were on Kauai last November, we passed the turn off for Hanapepe on our way to hike Waimea Canyon. I wanted to stop, but our group of 15 was focused on the hike! Thanks for the tour. By the way, the Talk Story bookstore reminded me of one of the things about the contemporary Hawaiian culture that I love. We still " talk story", that wonderful oral tradition that is a great vehicle for passing on those ephemeral things in a culture that may not be expressed in concrete artifacts such as tools, works of art, clothing etc. I would love it if you delved a little further into this. Love, Syl
Jan. 16th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Hanapepe
I've thought of talk story -- even wrote a prose poem about it once. Hard to explain for those who haven't experienced it first hand. Like food, talk story is an institution in Hawai'i. Its vehicle? Pidgin -- which I blogged about yesterday. Guess you'll have to return to Kaua'i to see Hanapepe!
Jan. 16th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Hanapepe
Prose poem? My ears have perked up. Talk Story sounds like a perfect picture book title.

I've been to Kaua-i and would love to go back. The lovely poem will have to do in the meantime.
Jan. 17th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Hanapepe
I thought it would make a good picture book, too. The national publishers I tried felt that the subject would only have regional interest. Will interest in Hawaii books increase because our new President is from there? Remains to be seen *crossing fingers*.
Jan. 16th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
TadMack says: : )
What a lovely poem.
The Hawai'i'ans are such a resilient people -- possibly made stronger because of the many cultures contained in the one country. Thanks for the virtual visit to Kauai.
Jan. 16th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
Re: TadMack says: : )
Happy New Year, Tanita! You're right about resiliency. Moreover, the welcoming spirit of Aloha still extended to visitors no matter where they come from, regardless of what happened in the past.
Jan. 17th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Sounds lovely; Kauai is my favorite island. :D

I've always associated Hanapepe with Lappert's ice cream - I believe that's where they got started. Mmmmmmmm.
Jan. 17th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
Haven't heard of Lappert's ice cream. Sounds intriguing!
Jan. 17th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
You haven't??

Here you go. Make sure you have some the next time you're on the islands. :D
Jan. 17th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll have to stock up on Lactaid tablets first.
Jan. 17th, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)
I am closing my eyes and pretending I am in a warm place with green grass and flowering trees...and did I mention WARMTH?

Ahh...thanks for the mini vacation in my mind. I needed to escape Ohio's coldcoldcold sub-zero temps!
Jan. 17th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
Can't believe it's so cold. It's 2 degrees here now! It never gets this cold in Virginia. Yikes!
Jan. 17th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for taking me to Hanapepe, Jama! Talk Story sounds like a great bookstore - it certainly has the best bookstore name!

Into the Wardrobe

P.S. 17 Filipino sugar cane workers were killed? :o(
Jan. 17th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was so shocked to hear about the massacre. Apparently, no one questioned the legality of gunning them down or anything.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 20th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. I like to "settle in" a new place for awhile to get the full experience. What a luxury!
Nov. 30th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
I had completely forgotten writing this poem. It's decades old now, though someone seems to have anthologized it just 7 years ago. Your pictures show Hanapepe to be much more modern than I remember it.

Thank you so much for your wonderful post, the beautiful pictures, and for the memories. You made my day.

Geraldine Heng
Nov. 30th, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
What a thrill to have you stop by, Geraldine! Wow! Your lovely poem enabled me to learn more about Hanapepe. Though I was born and raised in Hawai'i, I've never been to Kaua'i. Your poem helped me picture it as it once was. Thanks for your comment :).
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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