Hawaiian Journal
Carl Miller

January-February, 1981

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Hawaii Poems
   January 1981
   February 1981

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This journal contains narrations, descriptions, drawings, and poems from my travels on the islands of Maui and Hawaii in the first two months of 1981, more than thirty years ago. It’s about the islands as they were then, but it also illustrates how my life becomes my art.

I printed a few copies of this book in 2004 with a laser printer that stopped working from a page layout program that only works on an old computer with an old operating system. Seems like it’s time to drag this work into the relatively stable world of HTML, and present it to whatever audience it might find on my website.


I watched ghost crabs, snails, sandpipers, seekers of truth, tourists, hippie hedonists, waves and rainbows, trees and jungles, barren lava flows and sulfurous steam vents filled with lush ferns and moss. My Kilauea crater is a lost landscape. The volcano was sleeping in 1981. The rocks and trails I walked have been buried under new lava flows.

I filled three cheap blank notebooks, which got rain-dampened and wave-splashed in my backpack. I chose to not to carry a camera. I wanted to make myself observe, and draw, translating reality to ballpoint lines, and later to painting.

Here’s how I treated the original material. The journal entries are selected and tightened up a bit to focus on what’s interesting, while preserving my original manner of expression. The haiku and other very short poems are mostly as I wrote them on the scene. Some have been pressed into service as picture captions. Yes, I’ll admit falling under the influence of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. His format seemed to fit the experiences I had, but since my experiences in Hawaii were very different from his in Japan, I think this is something quite different.

Scanning the drawings was an interesting exercise. Putting black paper under the page being scanned usually eliminated whatever was on the underside. I removed paper stains and smudges in my computer, but reproduced the original lines as faithfully as possible. The pictures are always placed exactly where they relate to the text.

Some of the longer poems are loose and sketchy; others have been rewritten many times over the years since 1981. The versions presented here are the best available.

Hawaiian names may seem like tongue twisters, but they’re usually not that hard to say. The spelling uses the English consonants you’re used to, and not many of those. Hawaiian has fewer consonants than any other language. The vowels are always like Italian vowels, a as in “ah,” e as in “hey,” i as in “Maria,” o as in “ocean,” and u as in “tuna.” Apostrophes in the middle of a word indicate that the vowels are to said separately instead of as a diphthong. So, Pa’ia is pa-ee-a, not pie-ya. Pi’ina’au is pee-ee-na-ow, Kau’iki is cow-ee-kee.

Okay, Heleleike’oha is probably a tongue twister even to the native Hawaiians. I think it should be hay-lay-lie-kay-o-ha, but I’m really not sure.