- Editor's Note
For over two decades, the Mānoa series has been publishing uncommonly thoughtful and ethically committed literature from Asia, Oceania, and the Americas—often in new translations, and featuring authors and languages little known in the West. Frequently, we have anthologized new writers from a particular place, such as India, China, Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, and French Polynesia. In addition to emphasizing translation and cosmopolitanism in our pages, we seek out writers who are most attuned to what literature, at its best, can do to prepare us for a world growing more crowded by the day (an estimated 9.5 billion souls by 2050), and at the same time increasingly divisive, intolerant, partitioned, and dangerous.
The role of literature in a time of crisis, it seems to us, is not to compose manifestos, propagandize, proselytize, or moralize. It's enough that words and stories restore our powers of ethical imagination—make us more understandable to ourselves, more explicable to others, and more capable of not merely tolerating but welcoming the differences and samenesses of other individuals and communities.
In Wild Hearts we blur the lines between geographical places, ways of knowing the world, and the uncontainable complexities of the human heart—which, as we have heard, has its own reasons and manners of reasoning. In Wild Hearts are, among others, fiction writers Barry Lopez, Leo Litwak, and Andrew Lam; South Asian playwright Manjula Padmanabhan; the preeminent American expert on Japanese cinema (and long-time expatriate) Donald Richie; contemporary poets Yang Zi, from the PRC, and Arthur Sze, from New Mexico; and filmmaker and director Aaron Woolfolk, interviewed by Honolulu artist Calvin Collins.
Some of the works here address the relationships between humans and non-humans, and the prehistory of their mingling; they re-draw reality in alternate and surprising ways. For example, Robert Bringhurst writes of the interstices between the local and the universal, naming and knowing, the here and there. "Home," he writes,
is alive, like a tree, not skinned and dressed or cut and dried like the quarried stone and milled wood houses are made of, nor masticated and spat out like the particle board and plywood used for packaging prefabricated lives. … Home is [Begin Page vii]
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the whole earth, everywhere and nowhere, but it always wears the masks of particular places, no matter how often it changes or moves.
Scientists Deborah Bird Rose, Anna Tsing, and Thom van Dooren ques tion how we look at relationships among humans and those animals who are the "unloved others" among nature's kin, because they are often associated negatively with death. Each of these authors articulates a poetics of "inclusion," illuminating the crucial place of such creatures as vultures, fungi, and bats in multispecies communities. These and other essays on the same theme are forthcoming in an issue of the Australian Humanities Review in spring 2011.
Andrew Schelling writes about three bhakti (devotional) poets of South Asia, introducing a word from Sanskrit poetics, sandhya-bhasha, which means "twilight speech":
Twilight speech is imagistic, paradoxical, a-logical, to counter the "logic" of the powerful. I also appreciate the term used of Kabir's baffling paradoxes: ulatbhamshi, "upside-down speech."
These kinds of non-rational speech communicate with immediacy. Lovers, children, and family members use them all the time. So do Zen teachers, poets, saints, and popular songwriters.
These words might also characterize the writing in Wild Hearts. Though many of the works don't resemble the epistemologies of Zen teachers and poet-saints, each author takes seriously the need to be comprehensible to others across the frontiers and partitions of unexamined ideas and manipulative...