Pondering the Pacific: One of the Moons Version I

Prologue

Written by Shih-hao Huang

Employing “the Pacific” as a contact zone, this poetry collection explores the dynamic and shifting relationship between land and sea, allowing Indigenous culture and history in the trans-Pacific context to engage in spatial and historical complexity. 

In 2020, we took a seminar on Pacific cultural production, in which we read Epeli Hau’ofa from Tonga, Teresia Teaiwafrom Kiribati, Robert Sullivan from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Kathy Jetnil Kijiner from the Marshall island, Craig Santos Perez from Guam/Guåhan, Linda Hogan from the Chickasaw Nation, and Syaman Rapongang from Pongso no Tao/Orchid Island. By reading these authors, we see draw powerful connections across the Pacific. The literary texts are like canoes that take us on a journey from one island to another. 

After a two-day field trip to Orchid Island─Ponso no Tao, we were determined to embody this relationship and embark on a journey from Pongso no Tao. This poetry collection is our collaborative work to commemorate this journey. We hope the poems will travel across the ocean to reach the (is)lands beyond Taiwan.

This journey triggers memories and connects the present with the ancestral past. When seeing the constellations in the sky, one is reminded of the stories about stars. However, we were reminded that we often forget Taiwan is also a part of the Pacific. Therefore, we authored poems to represent, substantiate and celebrate the connection: the LOST connection between the Pacific Ocean and us.

We wrote about our trip to Pongso no Tao and our trip, but our poems are more than that. For example, we wrote about the flying fish culture of the Tao people, but we are constantly reminded that flying fish travels across the ocean and connects the islands. Furthermore, we wrote about the nuclear waste stored on Pongso no Tao, but we are fully aware that nuclear contamination is a critical issue throughout the Pacific.

With a desire for a deep connection and to celebrate the resilience of Oceania, we present to you “Pondering the Pacific.”

Opening Script

Written by Chiahua Lin

E Hō Mai
Ka ‘ike mai luna mai ē   
I nā mea huna no’eau
O nā mele ē  
E hō mai, e hō mai, e hō mai ē

Grant us knowledge from above
The knowledge hidden in the chants 
Grant us these things

From Hawai‘i, I offer this chant and my gratitude to Tao people who have been the guard of Pongso no Tao for centuries.

〈Panlanlag 祝禱〉(Benison)
akma tamo iyalyali pasalaw    
kakma tey vohawan no kaotaotao 
apzatan n ani Ama do taingato 
                                        
May us be as healthy
as the swallow
may our bodies be as healthy
and strong as the silver
may fathers in heaven bless us

With this chant, we are blessed and welcomed to Pongso no Tao.

From Taiwan, to Pongso no Tao, to Guam, Hawai‘i, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Pacific Northwest Coast, we traverse the Pacific. Ocean and texts connect the islands and us.

As Epili Hau’ofa puts it, Oceania denotes a sea of islands with their inhabitants. The world of our ancestors was a large sea full of places to explore, to make their homes in, to breed generations of seafarers like themselves. People raised in this environment were at home with the sea…They developed great skills for navigating their waters and the spirit to traverse even the few large gaps that separated their island groups. Theirs was a large world in which peoples and cultures moved and mingled, unhindered by boundaries of the kind erected much later by imperial powers. From one island to another, they sailed to trade and marry, thereby expanding social networks for greater flows of wealth. They travelled to visit relatives in a wide variety of natural and cultural surroundings, to quench their thirst for adventure, and even to fight and dominate. 

Syaman Rapongan echos: 

What does the “world atlas” mean? A chain of islands in Oceania. The islanders share common ideals, savouring freedom on the sea. Yet, on their own sea and the sea of neighbouring islands, they are in quest of the unspoken and unspeakable passion toward the ocean or maybe in quest of the words passed down from their ancestors.

Ocean passages where Tao, Indigenous Pacific, and Native American cultures and communities have intimately intertwined are central to reimagining “a new Oceania” and a “decolonial transpacific.” Passages also refer to our poetic passages, which we will be presenting to you shortly, in which the Pacific is the space for cultural production and a locus of textual and aesthetic circulation. These rich Oceanic cultures have blessed us, and now, our poems and reflections are our gifts to you. So, join us, on a trans-Pacific voyage, to an ever-broadening horizon.

Mata-no-tatara

Written by Robinson Pinghao Liu

  Eyes see through water Wavy, 
  sweaty

  Eyes see through ancestry Fishy, 
  salty

  Eyes see through light Shiny, 
  starry

  Eyes see through land Bumpy,
  curvy

  The moment of harmony with I
  -Tao, fish, sea-
  All shaped in Orchid Eye-land
Image credit: Haydn Wei-chung Hsin

This is part one of a two-part article. Part two can be found here.

Shih-hao Huang was born and raised up in a hillside town but nurtured by the ocean during his college days, so he knows the life between waves and mountains, the life “on” an island. However, the journey to Pongso no Tao teaches him to live “beyond” and awakens the islander consciousness deep within but never fully recognised. Shih-Hao’s poetry trilogy “Songs of Becoming” documents this very process of awakening and tackles the issue of “islander consciousness” by drifting between memory, sensation, and tradition. 

Chiahua Lin is a PhD candidate in the English Department of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is the recipient of the 2018 Fulbright Graduate Study Grant and the 2020 Government Scholarship to Study Abroad (GSSA) from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. Her research interests include Trans-indigenous Studies, Ecopoetics, Hawaiian Literature, and Pacific Literature. She currently serves as the Asia Pacific Observatory of Humanities for the Environment secretary. She is the co-editor of Chinese Railroad Workers in North America: Recovery and Representation and Pacific Literature as World Literature.

Ping-Hao Liu was born in a harbour city—Kaohsiung, Taiwan—and is currently a PhD student at National Sun Yat-sen University. Exposed to this unique environment, he feels connected to his (home)land and engaged in a spiritual, imaginative bond with the sea. Therefore, during the Lanyu trip, more than simply exploring connection as another key issue, he explored interconnection. Reducing material images to immaterial perceptions, he excavated the seeds of the land sowed in the Pacific Ocean from an (eco)critical perspective. 

This article was published as part of a special issue on “Pacific Encounters.”

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