by Marie Carvalho
"I feel like a hostess at a big cocktail party," laughs Honolulu poet Susan Schultz. The party is spirited Tinfish Press, founded in 1995 by Schultz, who seems less hostess than DJ, vibing on the irreverent cross-cultural mix of language, vision, viewpoint and design that the independent press spins. Tinfish brings together work by Hawaii writers with experimental poetry and prose from the Pacific region, which in Tinfish’s world extends from the West Coast of the United States to Australia and Asia. The dialogue unfolds via a poetry journal, manuscripts and a Web site archive.
The press’ pluralism offers up many strands. Sista Tongue, by Hawaii’s Lisa Linn Kanae, splits its time between memoir and critical meditation on pidgin. In his urgent, surrealistic manuscript, All Around What Empties Out, Vietnamese American poet Linh Dinh mourns the immigrant’s loss of native language, with a weary wink to the colloquial confluence that replaced it. Tinfish is equally likely to serve up wacky narrative shifts: Rob Wilson’s Pacific Postmodern, a tangential examination of Pacific poetry, sashays from poetry to politics and lands in the midst of a beauty pageant held in Waikiki with Hawaii posing as Miss Universe.
Honolulu artist Gaye Chan and her team of fledgling designers assure that these potent portables are eye-candy as well as brain-food. Cover-girl Chan sees the one-of-a-kind journal covers as an exhibition space: "We riff with whatever happens... like jazz." The designers’ collaboration has produced journal centerfolds, covers made from recycled objects such as roofing materials, and has even inspired content: Tinfish solicited vegetarian writer Steve Carll’s manuscript, Hamburger, to slip into silver foil hamburger wrappers.