Importance of Place: Lisa Linn Kanae Visits Writers in Community

By Joseph Navarro

The Writers in Community course on October 1st, had the pleasure of hosting Lisa Linn Kanae. Kanae opened the class with an anecdote on her nervous state at the hotel an hour before arriving. She had never been to Boulder and was not sure what to expect from the WIC writers. This humility would create an immediate sense of calm as she began to discuss the process of writing and publishing Sista Tongue. For Kanae, Sista Tongue was not supposed to be a work of research, nor was it to be labeled as poetry or experimental prose. Rather, it was homage to Hawaiian Pidgin English, using her brother as an example/metaphor for the culture’s long and often tumultuous history. Kanae notes a sense of disconnect in writing, ultimately letting the book take its own course once she had completed the manuscript, saying “language shouldn’t be politicized like that.”

Kanae’s love for her homeland is only outdone by her passion to push writers to explore the depth of their own history.  She noted that her job as a teacher is “to emphasize the importance of place.” The activity that she prepared for the class would remain in this vein, as the writers were to explore three topics through the lens of: Purpose, Role, and Intent.  They were then instructed to map these subject in a place or landscape in which these “live.” Kanae instructed the writers to consider intent, perspective and most import, memory. Ultimately, the project is meant to ask: How do maps connect? Overlap? Reflect? And, potentially “speak to each other?” The ever candid Kanae gave her own example: Teacher, Writer, and Paddler.

The workshop was successful, simply because at every step of the way Kanae emphasized the role of the writers within the lecture. After her introduction to Sista Tongue, she answered questions for twenty minutes before leading into the activity.  Once she had put forth the exercise, she had every writer recount their own exploration. What ensued was an atmosphere of calm, united by the common experience of sharing our craft, not as a class, but as a collective of people with a history to tell.


Joseph Navarro is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University.