Poems from my forthcoming book, Footprints Wings Phantasms.
Due to be published in late May.
Black women sing praise songs
Shout hallelujah, holler pain.
Adorned with clapping bracelets of perceptions
Indigenous women whisper secrets
Collect herbs, stories, exercises tantric.
Unspeakable joys held in reflection
Women perennially silenced to invisible
Hiding their aging wanton womanhood.
Mysteries flutter nostalgic
Women camouflaged in plants and animals.
The pantheistic Yoruba orisha represent life:
Yemanja, mother of waters
Ezrulie, goddess of love and women
Oshun, deity of generosity and sensuality.
Dream-shadows fly with mercurial movements.
Women work hard, endure, shape-shift
Share food, rituals, whisper sex lessons.
Hidden meanings beneath compassion and patience
Secrets are stored deep in women’s crevices
Metaphorical eclipses and recurrences.
Diverse messages transform longevity
Reveal recurrences and scale.
Women unveil the shadowed meanings
Beyond illusive words.
Truth of the feminine falls from the sky.
This book currently available: $12
The title of this book, Pacific Raven, was a difficult choice because these poems are about a part of my journey as a sojourner in Hawai`i. Actually, I chose the title 12 years ago. Initially it was a feeling, black in Hawaii, a malihini, a part of and apart from the local born community. I have lived here three times longer than any other place in my multivarious life. But there are no ravens in Hawai`i. I asked myself, how many times has the raven been in and out of my life? What was going on and was there any significance? Where was I and when? What have I learned from raven?
The raven has been around for thousands of years. In the Bible, the raven is the first bird named in Genesis, the first creature sent out of the ark by Noah after the great flood, the unique bird who carried meat and bread twice daily to the prophet Elijah while he was in hiding.
The raven is often thought to be the same as a crow, and although they come from the same family (corvus corvid), their looks, intelligence, size, and behavior patterns do differ.
My childhood roots are in the deep Jim Crow South. I was born and raised in a place and time when black was not considered a beautiful color and was associated with many negative things. Secretly, as a child, I admired the ravens for their shining beauty, their jet black glossy plumage, their iridescent blues, purples and green hues. They seemed big and strong and dominant. The old folk would say ravens are highly intelligent. They also considered ravens to be crafty agricultural pests, even aggressive scavengers of the dumps and road kill as their natural habitat was encroached upon and diminished. Some said ravens were noisy, bothersome, chatty nuisances, but who does not need a Plato’s gadfly to awaken our consciousness?
My mother, a professor of English and languages, regularly recited poetry to me including The Raven and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe.
I went to high school and college on the East Coast where my father and his Cherokee ancestors were born and raised. The raven was an important bird to the Cherokee and the head of the clan was called Raven. I attended a Quaker boarding school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania where ravens hung out in the taller trees near the pond in the woods where we students ice-skated, dreamed and wrote poems and did homework under maple, spruce and elm trees in Fall and Spring. Ravens watched as we occasionally met close friends, seemingly as aloof and distant as the people in the East.
University study in Massachusetts provided me with other settings of Raven, on campus occasionally, and in the outlying woody areas where I would go to write, walk in the woods, look at the early spring flowers, and cut armloads of lilacs for my dormitory room. Ravens were always present when I went off the beaten path, out in Nature, seeking beauty, inspiration, and adventure. They were the observers, sitting by and looking on. I studied literature but did not learn that the ancient Greeks, Apollo and certain oracular priests, regarded the raven as sacred, prophetic, bold, wise and cunning. Later with Christianity and notions of God and purity associated with whiteness, European and American literature, folklore, and mythology demonized the black bird and used raven as a metaphor for fear, and an ill omen (see Shakespeare, Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Tolkien, Whitman, Thoreau, and Stephen King to mention a few).
I also lived in southern France where ravens flew, sat on rocky ledges and in tall trees on the edges of vineyards, and in the open countryside. They seemed to watch the many changes as the towns and cities expanded, the mores changed, more foreigners and tourists appeared, and immigrant phobias and hypermarch?e? began to flourish.
I spent a summer in Niger, West Africa where ravens heard incredible rhythms of drum beats and balaphones, nested near oases and watering holes, hung out near market places and in babobab trees like vultures, and scavenged and squawked over the scant food supply on the edge of the Sahara Desert, ever present, ever watching, ever waiting.
Later, I moved to the West Coast for graduate study and began to learn of the raven tradition in Native American mythology and folklore as ethnic studies programs developed and minority groups began to teach, write, and publish books about their cultures. For centuries, Native Americans have considered the Raven a spiritual figure or Creator God endowed with super powers, a trickster, a cooperative survivor, intelligent, opportunistic yet sharing, devoted to family.
More recently, I spent five summers in China. Again the raven was omnipresent wherever I was: at the Summer Palace near Beijing, in the urban gardens, the parks, at the rock garden where I wrote poetry, passing through the countryside on the train to and from Qingdao, up at the monastery in Laoshan, or at Tai Shan. If I looked, I could see them where they sat still and observed the happenings from the branches of ancient conifers, the gingko trees, and pines.
The versatile and adaptable ravens are revered as powerful flyers, able to soar effortlessly. They are known to mate and nest together for life, carving out a territory for their nest high in a big tree or perched on a precarious cliff, or telephone pole, facing out. Adaptable ravens thrive in the wilderness, even in the midst of icy winter, in the middle of the desert, in the wet Northwest Territory near the woods, in the rocky headlands, and in the great forests. Yet, wherever they are, they prefer to be close to large expanses of open land to facilitate their hunt for food such as grains, berries and small animals. In fact, ravens are found all over the northern hemisphere, but not here in the Hawaiian islands where the black birds are: the iwa (frigate) bird, the Hawaiian crow, booby birds, black noddies, sooty storm tetrals, and terns.
As I prepared this manuscript of poems written off and on over three decades, I could not decide on the title. I naturally wanted the title to include or suggest Nature’s beauty, inspiration, fruits and magic, papaya dreams, mango sunrises, ocean currents, unpredictable winds. However, I also wanted the title to go deeper, to reflect me and the influences of travel and my unique experiences, my African, Native American and European roots. I wanted to evoke my current identity as a malihini, a 40+ year resident of Oahu, Hawai’i and my evolving identity and consciousness as a world citizen.
I kept returning to the title, Pacific Raven as if the spirit of raven kept flying back into my space. I imagined that if ravens were here in the Hawaiian Islands, the adaptable ravens would inhabit a place like Ka`a`awa. I imagined that they would be in my large country garden, where they would squawk and quarrel with the minah birds in the avocado trees, sleep in the tall old mango trees, swoop down to gnaw on guava and papaya seeds, sit next to the cardinals in the plumeria trees after making peace. In my mind, I could envision them in Honolulu sitting in the shower trees, the Norfolk pines, or in the mountains by the Pali where they would like sit high in the koa and monkey pod trees. In my imaginings, I could even see them fly up to the volcano craters for a solitary visit on the Big Island, above the rain forests, sit in the o`hia trees in silent awe at the mighty hot mountain, flowing magma barely hidden beneath the earth’s crust.
Ravens did not come across the ocean, but I did. I am the raven who observes and can survive in many climates and places. I am the cunning trickster who taught, learned and thought secretly, when others thought I did not pay attention. I am the raven who with powerful wings and the spirit of the ancestors flew off to many countries, several continents, and to the high places in my mind where I marveled and awed at the beauty of Nature, the diversity of cultures, the changes in people, the music of the moon and stars. I am the intelligent raven who speaks and tells stories. I am a country dweller who can survive in the urban areas. I am the raven, a seeker of nourishment from the earth, from the seeds, and sometimes the leftovers. I am the raven, inspired by the rhythms of the trees, the whispers of the winds, the flow of various waters, oceans, rivers, ponds, pools, mists and rains. I am the raven, creative, independent, resourceful, and loyal who prefers to dwell in the countryside, woods, wilderness or high places. I am the Pacific Raven, a malihini who found and adapted to a new environment to create this collection of observations and reflections of life in Hawai`i. I am the old soul.
Connecting to a poet’s work for the first time is always a magical voyage into an unknown world of fantasy and emotions. One’s expectations (at least mine) are high, and you secretly ask yourself: What am I going to discover? I can assure you that my expectations were met.
Kathryn Waddell Takara kept her work hidden in a safe shelter for many years until she decided to open her box of treasures and invite the reader to enter into her world of beauty.
From the Title Page: Pacific Raven where the author is the majestic black flight which soars high in her future of change, challenge, healing strength, and compassion, to the last poem: Love Endureth where she opens our hearts, when the reader closes the book, he or she is left with an eager desire to read more of Kathryn’s work.
I was touched, moved, swept off my feet, gasping for breath as I was taken away by a tsunami of words, metaphors hitting me with an extraordinary power of imagination and expertise in which this gifted poet shares her work. Hers is a poetical voice that sings with abundance.
In “I Am A Poem” she writes, `I transform/like a phoenix/into sunrays and moonbeams/dropped from life s flames/poetic words radiate like new leaves/in a forest of clouds!
So eloquently, so masterfully she weaves and spins her poems with the sharpness of a raven s spirit. Kathryn is, without the shadow of a doubt, a poet who drinks from many sources. You can feel how she has submerged into and emerged from the depths and spiritual richness of many cultures, creating her own brave new world of dreams, beauty, and reflections on life.
The way she captures the wild enchantment of her Pacific Islands habitat absorbs you into the landscapes, the mountains, the pristine waterfalls, and the scent of flowers. She also invites you to smell and taste Nature, to move into the love space in which she creates so sacredly and spiritually the unseen mysteries, the magical Goddesses.
She writes in Morning Figs `Solitary seeker/I sit on a warm rock/sun in memories/ hear the mystic melody of the poetry muse/travel on love s wings/ride the invisible wind!’
Kathryn s rhythmic and lyrical poetry tangles a variety of themes: solitude, politics, travel, history and love. She walks good stands tall. She is bold enough not to shy away from the darker sides of life, like aging and death. In Fleeting Vision she writes, Darkness wants to climb in the lap of my day;’ and in Sunless Memory she muses, `My own voice has drifted out too far/from the shores of my childhood.’
Throughout the book, one must pause to reflect upon visual and sensual images, easing the mind and soul, and then come to terms with the strength of each poem before moving on.
It is difficult to put this volume of poetry aside before the very last poem is read. Her poems are so intriguing they simply do not let you. They have that rare quality of seducing you into the very heart of each and every one of these jewels, evoking tender moments of insights and the love and spirituality of the author. Finally, the work leaves you in total bewilderment and surprise at its power.
A perfect example of Kathryn’s power of impression is experienced in the poem Samantha where she writes, `Samantha with topaz eyes/sees the bird of Solomon/ through her carnal soul and further on: she smiles her toothless hello in a magic flirt/ and reads the Tarot like novels of intrigue!
Dr. Kathryn Waddell Takara is a brilliant, new, powerful voice that deserves to be read and heard, to be admired and respected.
A refreshingly bold, beautiful, and strong new branch on the magical tree of poetry!
Ayin Adams, PhD, author of “The Woods Deep Inside Me”
Poetry. African American Studies. This new collection by poet, essayist, and professor Kathryn Waddell Takara reflects her travels as a performance poet in Africa, Europe, Central America, Tahiti and China. Born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, Takara is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Hawai’i at Monoa in the Ethnic Studies Department. “What makes us able to come together is that we all have a critique – we all bear witness to the social, economic, and the political – not just the tree, not just grandma – but the context”-Kathryn Waddell Takara.
(31 December 1905 – 26 July 1987)
Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD
BOOKS: Black Man’s Verse. (Chicago: Black Cat, 1935); I Am The American Negro (1937); Through Sepia Eyes (1938), 47th Street: Poems. (Prairie City: Decker, 1948); Sex Rebel: Black Memoirs of a Gash Gourmet. (Published as Bob Greene, San Diego: Greenleaf Classics, 1968); Livin’ the Blues, (Published as Bob Greene, Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, 1992).
In Chicago, between 1934 and 1948, Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987) embodied a Renaissance figure who played multiple roles: a poet, newspaper reporter, editor, columnist, a labor and Civil Rights activist, a photographer, a radio personality, a humanist, and an often unacknowledged leader of the Chicago progressive community. In 1934 Davis joined the Associated Negro Press as features editor and eventually was promoted to the position of managing editor. His first book of poems, Black Man’s Verse, was published in 1935. Continue reading Frank Marshall Davis and the Chicago Black Renaissance
Kathryn Waddell Takara PhD
What pulls a person
to a family
to a group?
What does one seek
in a place?
If there is no family
of one’s own
does one satisfy
Mechanical to seek
Inevitable to greet
Those others from
Another tribe and place.
Survival is the aim
And trust, not fear
Fills the space.
By Kathryn Waddell Takara PhD
This essay traces the changing constructs of leadership and power in Hawai’i and how the darker skinned inhabitants of Hawai’i were categorized, labeled and treated during the late 19th and 20th centuries. This history, profoundly informed by the attitudes of white settlers in a process of colonization in which the expanding missionary and merchant classes slowly conquered the Hawaiian kanaka maoli. Continue reading CHANGING CONSTRUCTS OF COLOR AND POWER: Blacks and Hawaiians in 19th Century Hawai’i