STILL OUT OF PLACE, poems by Christy Passion, is a powerful collection that explores a life lived in Hawai‘i, rich with cultural heritage that few others have really captured. Tough and unflinching, compassionate and beautifully crafted, this is a sharp-eyed, singular portrait of island life. It’s working class. It resists nostalgia. It shows that there can be a beauty in the everyday pain that blue-collar people endure.
Passion is a sensory magician, her words an incantation that manifests all that is darkness and light and broken and beautiful in Hawai‘i. From drunk uncles planning a robbery, to pulling ginger in Tutu’s garden, her ability to mine the depths of fractional moments of time and place, living and dying, and love and regret, elevates Passion to the top tier of Pacific poets. Her scenes are vivid and the odors are indelible—sweat and stagnant water, sweet sour and diesel, tea that will make you live forever, and ripe mangoes sold to Chinatown vendors in exchange for movie tickets. Passion’s textures are unforgettable: a patient’s voice that sounds like grated ginger, and the coarse sand that shapes our way.
Honoring a world of fishermen and glass floaters, old train tracks and Sand Island weekends, these poems are both raw and exquisitely crafted. They are love poems—love of home, love of the father, even love of strangers in hospital beds. Passion looks unflinchingly at what is broken in this world and what, happily for all of us, remains.
Funny, moving, and, like the loved ones in these poems, heartbreaking and fearless, STILL OUT OF PLACE is an impressive debut.
Christy Passion is a critical care nurse and poet. Her singular works have appeared in various local journals and anthologies, as well as in mainland and international journals such as CRAB CREEK REVIEW, HAIGHT ASHBURY LITERARY JOURNAL, BLUE COLLAR REVIEW, and MAURI OLA. She has received the James A. Vaughn Award for Poetry, the ATLANTA REVIEW International Merit Award, and the Academy of American Poetry Award. Her first book, NO CHOICE BUT TO FOLLOW, is a collaboration of linked poetry. She works and resides in Honolulu.
At the 2017 Hawai‘i Book and Music Festival, Passion received the Elliot Cades Award for Literature for an emerging writer from the Hawai‘i Literary Arts Council.
I remember the thin tin roof and big blue fishing ball
hanging by the macramé net
open electrical wires, hibachi and ocean smell.
Try catch black a‘ama crab,
scream and drop them when we do.
Race to Uncle’s door when papio is running,
I want to tie on the wiggly bait.
Everybody is Auntie, so no need be hungry—
Auntie always has food.
Mind your family, listen and say grace before dinner.
We got there too late that day, amazed
how quickly everything came down. Sand Island
after bulldozers came and crushed
metal and wood and us...scattered.
Say something to Auntie and Uncle,
look at their faces; but,
I can only see the bags at their feet
and my cousins crying. Every Auntie and Uncle
with bags at their feet. Most cry,
some scream, some quiet.
Dust and noise combined with HPD push...us...back,
and I don’t believe Papa anymore when he says it will be ok.
Winner of the 2017 Cades Award for an emerging writer, Christy Passion has set literary Hawai‘i on its ear with these plain-spoken, understated poems of contemporary hard-luck Island lives. She can bewitch a lurid scene into beauty:
"Fish heads, heads as big as mine,
with their purple red lungs trailing
like party streamers are held up for approval—"
But she doesn't gild human losses and misfortunes, and we feel their weight:
"Because in jail you met Jesus
Because time passes
Because you are his only son
Papa said, Come home."
Her backstory—she is a critical care nurse at The Queen's Medical Center, part Native Hawaiian, from a sprawling local family that reckons its past in terms of losses—may explain the gravity of her work. This isn't art school fancy-dancing, it is masterful, producing a kind of emotional whiplash in almost every poem. Like Philip Levine, who made his early life as a machinist in Detroit factories the bedrock of his engagement, Passion comes at us with quiet, incisive authority. She writes like someone who walks the wards at night.
—HONOLULU Magazine, June 2017
Christy Passion’s words glitter like broken glass on the road—beautiful, dangerous, sharp-edged jewels that can draw blood. Her ability to capture complex emotions with everyday images is unrivaled. This isn’t hearts-and-flowers poetry. Nor is it angry for the sake of being cool. Her poetry is beautifully wrought with an eye toward form and the guts to take the reader to surprising places. I’ve used some of these poems in class. The students love her work for its mixture of depth and accessibility and because the poems are so honest and artful. Christy Passion writes about a Hawai‘i that few others have really captured but that we all can recognize.
—Lee Cataluna, author of FOLKS YOU MEET IN LONGS and THREE YEARS ON DOREEN'S SOFA
Tough and unflinching, compassionate and beautifully crafted, this is a sharp-eyed, singular portrait of an island life. Ms. Passion has a quiver full of arrows aimed straight for the center of your humanity.
—Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, author of HAWAI‘I NEI: ISLAND PLAYS, co-author of HE LEO HOU: A NEW VOICE
STILL OUT OF PLACE by Christy Passion is a powerful collection of poetry that is very much like listening to the best of Bruce Springsteen. It’s working class. It resists nostalgia. It shows that there can be a beauty in the everyday pain that blue-collar people endure. We see a Hawai‘i how it really was. STILL OUT OF PLACE is about things lost and things never gained in the first place.
—Chris McKinney, author of THE TATTOO and BOI NO GOOD
In her collection of poems, Christy Passion writes her way out of darkness, describing with a true poet’s eyes all the details of time and place. The poet teaches us that shadows of memory provide temporary solace from the gaping hole that she fills with words chosen with meticulous precision, forming cords of lines and images. My sista’s words weave a rope for pulling the self out of the self with incredible artistry and in-your-face truth.
—Lois-Ann Yamanaka, author of SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PAHALA THEATRE and WILD MEAT AND THE BULLY BURGERS
This captivating collection is the soul of Hawai‘i and Hawaiians. Every poem in Passion’s book is a family member, classmate, friend, or neighbor. I cry-laughed, especially in the poems where I saw myself.
—Kimo Armitage, author of THE HEALERS
Passion is a sensory magician, her words an incantation that manifests all that is darkness and light and broken and beautiful in Hawai‘i. From drunk uncles planning a robbery, to pulling ginger in Tutu’s garden, Passion’s ability to mine the depths of fractional moments of time and place, living and dying, and love and regret, elevates her to the top tier of Pacific poets.
—Robert Barclay, author of MELAL: A NOVEL OF THE PACIFIC
With a sober and powerful voice, Christy Passion explores a life lived in Hawai‘i, a life rich with cultural heritage. Honoring this world, a world of fishermen and glass floaters, old train tracks and Sand Island weekends, these poems are both raw and beautifully crafted. They are love poems, love of home, love of the father, even love of strangers in hospital beds. Passion looks unflinchingly at what is broken in this world and what, happily for all of us, remains.
—Adele Ne Jame, author of THE SOUTH WIND
Forget the travel guides and lies the Tourism Authority tells you about Hawai‘i. Christy Passion’s collection takes us to places that upend fantasies most of us have about paradise. Her scenes are vivid and the odors are indelible—sweat and stagnant water, sweet sour and diesel, tea that will make you live forever, and ripe mangoes sold to Chinatown vendors in exchange for movie tickets. Passion’s textures are unforgettable: a patient’s voice that sounds like grated ginger, and the coarse sand that shapes our way. For any journey, you need both truth and trust. STILL OUT OF PLACE offers both in great measure.
—Theodore S. Gonzalves, author of THE DAY THE DANCERS STAYED: PERFORMING IN THE FILIPINO/AMERICAN DIASPORA and FILIPINOS IN HAWAI‘I
This collection includes an unforgettable catalog of advice about island life, family, love, and home—that murmur in our hearts that follows us throughout our lives. From a father to his daughter: “Grow teeth where your heart should be.” About marriage, a mother tells her child that it’s labor and “We get through it tougher. Not shinier.” Grief, on the other hand, is like a tartare recipe: “Best served and consumed in small pieces.” And when all hope has been exhausted and trust no longer holds weight, we are reminded, once again, that “we are rocks in ruins / rocks can spark or rocks can bludgeon / listen closely daughter / choose bludgeon.” Funny, moving, and, like the family in these poems, heartbreaking and fearless, STILL OUT OF PLACE is an impressive debut.
—R. Zamora Linmark, author of THE EVOLUTION OF A SIGH