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<b>Down South, Out West</b><br><i>Sir Bob Harvey’s son Fraser walks New Zealand’s Karekare<br>Photo by Dana Edmunds</i>
Vol. 17, no. 5
October/November 2014

 

Writing from the Margins 
Story by Julia Steele
Photo Courtesy of Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing

The literary journal Manoa was begun in 1989, based in the English department at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Its identity was truly forged in its second issue when, as editor Frank Stewart describes it, “a very fortuitous thing” happened: A Hawaiian student named Mahealani Dudoit walked into his office and asked how she could help. “We said, ‘Well, it would be interesting if we could find stories from a place like Papua New Guinea, because we don’t know anything about its literature,’” remembers Frank. Mahealani immediately said, “I’ll go.” She spent a summer in PNG and returned with a wide collection of work— quality literature that merited a voice within world literature.

Manoa’s course had been set: Someone at the journal—usually Frank—would identify a country or region where the writing was not well known to English-speaking readers, and the sleuthing would begin. The mission never wavered — to find, translate and publish excellent but oft- overlooked imaginative literature — and the surprises were constant. “We did a wonderful issue on contemporary Taiwanese poetry,” Frank recalls. “Most peoples’ eyes may glaze over at the thought! But we found that it’s the most vital, surprising and beautiful poetry you can imagine.” The more remote and ignored the country, the more challenging the search. Special issues of writing from Cambodia and Tibet took years and involved Interpol-worthy detective work (one of Cambodia’s famous writers from the ’60s, for example, was discovered driving a taxi in San Jose, California). Tricky as it has been to track down, though, great writing has always turned up. Does that surprise Frank? Not really. “Storytelling is very basic to human language,” he says, “and world-class work is everywhere.”

Twenty-five years in, Manoa has published incredibly diverse collections of writing, most from Asia and the Pacific, many appearing in English for the first time. The Internet and online subscriptions have brought the biannual journal to thousands of readers worldwide. “We’ve now done fifty volumes,” says Stewart. “It’s astonishing because every volume we do is so intense and involved that I can’t imagine having done it fifty times. But we have.” Next up? New writing from Indonesia and an autobiography of archeologist Yosi Sinoto.

hawaii.edu/mjournal

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