Teachers share a world of words

Photo by Jessica Crawford

Language arts faculty members, Row 1-Janine Oshiro, Susan St. John, Desi Poteet and Libby Young; Row 2- Lance Uyeda, Annette Priesman, Jenny Webster and Robert Barclay.

WCC’s Hale La‘akea was filled with laughter – and tears – as language arts faculty from English, Japanese and journalism read poems, stories and screenplays at “Out Loud In The Library” March 18.

Janine Oshiro, “Out Loud” coordinator and emcee of the event, opened the evening with a poem from Philip Levine entitled, “A Simple Truth.”

This poem, seemingly light-hearted at first, becomes much more intense and caused Oshiro to pause, and even tear up a little, before continuing.

Up next was Japanese lecturer Akiko Swan, who performed three haiku, which are Japanese short poems that follow a five, seven, five-syllable format and normally are related to seasons.

Afterwards, Swan played the taishōgoto, a Japanese stringed instrument with keys to change the pitch. The sound it produces is similar to a harp, but with a more Asian feel.

Following Swan’s musical performance was Robert Barclay, introduced as the language arts department’s “fearless leader” and department chair. Barclay kept up the humor by delivering two original short stories, “Assessment of Love” and “Gil’s Gay-Friendly Hot Tub,” which made the audience repeatedly erupt with laughter.

In a change of pace, Susan St. John recited four original short poems that ranged from “My Daughter’s Toes” to “To Our Lake.” Each poem was filled with vivid, thought-provoking detail.

Succeeding St. John was Jenny Webster, who read a story called “In the Navy,” about her father and her experiences growing up.

From eating runny oatmeal to trying to get her ears pierced, Webster fondly talked about her memories of her father and the kind of man he is.

After a brief intermission, Annette Priesman took the stage. She read a poem she adds one line to every semester that discusses her frustrations and joys of teaching.

“It was inspired by my students, it is about my students, it is for my students, and it’s called ‘Have I told you how much I love you today,’” she explained.

After Priesman’s presentation, Lance Uyeda stepped up to the microphone to read three poems that dealt with experiences or occasions.

In one poem, he remembers a vivid dream about his grandpa; in another, a long walk to a Thanksgiving dinner, bringing food home inside of a cabinet he found on the side of the road.

Reflecting about people coming together in peace, Desi Poteet told a touching story of a girl whose father and uncle fought in WWII, where the uncle died.

At a reunion, they met the person who sunk her uncle’s ship, but her father ultimately befriended him.

The last performance of the evening was Ka ‘Ohana’s own Libby Young, who will be retiring in June.

Reciting five poems, Young shared her many experiences with those in the audience and even received a standing ovation.

Recalling her experience as a child, Young told us of her trials as a young Asian-American living in Detroit, and contrasts her childhood to her daughter’s, who was born and raised in Hawai‘i.

Young also reminisced about former students and described the feeling she gets when she comes to WCC.

“It’s events like this that remind us about how wonderful Windward is – the students, the teachers and the staff. I’m just so grateful that I got to spend 35 years here,” she added.

by Eric Levine, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter