Seeing Verse: Five Original Poems Inspired by a Photograph

In the Utopias Issue, we published “One Day,” a photo essay uniting the work of 10 local photographers that features images of Hawai‘i living all shot on May Day 2019. Individually, this circle of creatives turned their lens to the quieter moments of their lives—a father gathering mangos with his son in Mākaha, an anonymous man fishing at the beach—to document the simple moments that comprise the islands’ waking hours; in its collective prosaicness, they show how the mundane can also be quite majestic.

Poetry, with its illuminating ability to reflect our world back at us, can often do the same. We invited five contemporary poets based in Hawai‘i—Serena Ngaio Simmons, Derek N. Otsuji, Noʻu Revilla, Cory Kepuanani Lovejoy, and M.G. Martin—to look through the library of images shot for the photo essay, to select a single photograph, and write a poem inspired by it. Below, read five never-before-published works that explore a variety of themes including heritage, land, and identity.

Always Window” by Serena Ngaio Simmons

Photographer Christian Cook roamed his home island of Kaua‘i by bus and foot on May 1, 2019.

A Sadness Interrupted” by Derek N. Otsuji

Intergenerational Memory” by Noʻu Revilla

Photographer Kenna Reed chronicled a beach day with her family.

ʻohu ʻohu (intoxication)” by Cory Kepuanani Lovejoy

thick aloha” by M.G. Martin

Hawai‘i Island-based photographer Andrew Richard Hara turned his focus to the national scenery of Hilo.

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