Leonard Kubo, Dawn at Kewalo
My first morning in Hilo, Hawaii, where I am a visiting artist in the Art Department at the University of Hawaii, I walked a few blocks into downtown from the quaint inn where I am staying. My host, Art Department chair Michael Marshall, encouraged me to see the Spring show up at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in downtown Hilo.
I thought it was a terrific show, and when I reported for duty at the Art Department later that day I had a list of artists from the show to run down with Michael and his faculty. We went down the list -- she's a student, he's a former student, we know her, he's a lecturer here -- and ended up with only one blank. No one knew who Leonard Kubo was.
I really liked his painting. It was simple, spare and representational, with images of everyday, workaday Hawaiians. The Hilo Art Department and Poetry Scores are embarking on a longterm collaboration translating the work of Hawaiian poet Wayne Kaumualii Westlake into other media. We will work on Westlake's 1972-3 poetic sequence Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki, which deals with the poet's year working as a janitor on Honolulu's tourist strip. Moving into a major multi-media treatment of perhaps the world's greatest contribution to the literature of janitors, set in Hawaii, we are going to need some artists with a respect for the subject of workaday Hawaiians.
The Art Department at Hilo is currently housed down the hill from the main campus, where the department is administrated. When we went up the hill to the main campus and Michael checked his mailbox, there was quite a surprise. Hawaii is famously the land of Olaha, the home of the warmest welcome in the world, and here was a beautiful Olaha for the visiting artist.
University of Hawaii - Hilo
I saw in today's Hawaii Tribune Herald that you will be working on a project featuring a poem by Wayne Westlake.
Leonard & I knew Wayne from UH-Manoa poetry class days, and want to say thank you for paying tribute to him. He was a wonderful person, a gentleman and a poet. You hear of people saying about someone, "Everyone loved him" and wonder how that can be true, but Wayne really was a kind and decent and loving person, and very devoted to poetry.
I don't know how you chose Wayne's poem, but I hope when your project is done you will advertise it so we can be sure to see the finished project.
The letter was signed "Mari Kubo". The "Leonard" she referenced in the letter was Leonard Kubo! When I called them at the number on the letter, this was indeed the Leonard Kubo I had been looking for. Aloha!
I invited them to my public presentation on campus for Thursday, April 19. Leonard said maybe Mari could attend, but he had a gig. A gig? Yes, a gig -- he plays guitar. I rushed to explain the Poetry Scores model of translating poetry into music, visual art, movies and whatever media will have us, typically starting with music, because the people who founded Poetry Scores happen to be musicians.
Will you send us some of your music? I asked Leonard. In addition to being in our Wayne Westlake Art Invitational? Yes, he will send us some of his music, in addition to being in our Wayne Westlake Art Invitational.
Once you get to Hawaii, you learn a word in addition to Aloha, which we all learn on the mainland. Here, you also learn Mahalo: thank you.