“Some people draw inspiration from a Neil Young or Bob Dylan song. Some people think that a glass of wine and a rare steak inspire them. Others lie on the roof of a dog house and stare out into space. My inspiration today comes from Mindy Pennybacker. She can dive into the ocean, cover herself in surfing memories, and pop up with a new surfing story every Sunday. Well, I dove into her stories to find my own memories about foam and fiberglass, and here they are.
What is it about human nature that makes us so willing to be donkeys for days, weeks, or a whole lifetime pursuing a particular passion in our lives that we don’t want to live without? My confession is surfing.
I surfed religiously from the age of ten to eleven, perhaps almost every day. And this was back in the day when a shortboard was eight feet long and weighed twenty-five pounds. I surfed within a throw from the birthplace of modern surfing. Waikiki Beach. From Publics to Queens. From Canoes to Pops. From Kaisers to Ala Moana Bowls. This would have been just following Hawaii Statehood from 1959 to 1961. I was in fifth and sixth grade at that lower Manoa private school that we couldn’t mention back then.
Steel, Ink & Fiberglass
He fixes cars. He writes poetry. He surfs. A portrait of Kyle Metcalf.
A film by Ben Yuri Biersach
Anyone who has ever taken a surf lesson from the Hans Hedeman Surf School has surfed at this beach break in Waikiki. Diamond Head sits to your right and the phalanx of Waikiki's hotels sits to your left when you are out in the water. The water is very shallow with many looming rocks jumping up to and sometimes above the surface of the water. I am out here using the GoPro camera that my folks gave me for Christmas. As you can see, the clarity is very good. The wide angle lens is great within two feet of the camera, but the waves (which are about head high) appear to be the tiniest of ripples. I am using a six foot six inch NSP thruster surfboard.
KYLE METCALF, RUNNING HIS LITERARY SALON FROM HIS AUTO SHOP.
A Writer’s World: How to Make it in Hawai‘i
YES, LUCKY WE LIVE HAWAI‘I, THE ONLY STATE WITH ITS OWN REGIONAL LITERATURE. BUT, LATELY, IT’S ONLY GOTTEN HARDER TO MAKE A GO OF IT FOR OUR DIVERSE, DEDICATED AND INK-STAINED SCRIBBLING CLASS. IS SELF-PUBLISHING THE ANSWER? WHO’S WRITING THE NEXT GREAT HAWAI‘I NOVEL? WHY WON’T NEW YORK PAY ATTENTION TO US? WE PUSH THE ENVELOPE IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS TO THESE AND OTHER BURNING QUESTIONS.
BY DON WALLACE | PHOTOS BY AARON K. YOSHINO
Early Friday mornings over the past few years Kyle Metcalf, 68, a shaggy-haired owner of a small car repair shop in Kaka‘ako, would send out his weekly email blast. Of original poetry. Started two years ago, The Poi Tree quickly grew to about 100 loyal readers. “One gal writes 30 poems a week; I pick one out,” he says. “One guy never wrote a poem in his life and decided to tell his life in rhyme. He gets the most comments every week.”
A Makapu‘u lifeguard before he opened Kyle’s Service, Metcalf actually pursued writing seriously for the first half of his adult life, in college and after. “I was sending out to every little journal and magazine,” he says. “Hundreds of rejections. When I turned 40, I said, time to stop sending them out.” Decades later, Metcalf resumed sending his stuff out—but this time it was a daily rock ’n’ roll quiz emailed to friends all over the Islands. Email back and if you answered right he might reply: YOU ROCK.
Metcalf was amazed at the far more fervent response to poetry, what some think of as a quaint, outmoded literary form. Last year, as he closed down his shop, poetry ousted rock ’n’ roll. “I opened this little door to something and now I’m this hub.”
In other words, he rocks.
Metcalf is not alone. He’s part of a new writing world in the Islands, rising from the ashes of the old, after a ravenous internet, bookstore closures and the 2007 recession broke our local publishing model. But, as Metcalf has learned by publishing The Poi Tree via a simple email chain, technology also sparks creativity and regeneration.
Now, if we wish, we can all be Kyle Metcalf. And a multiverse of streams, feeds, blogs and platforms does make for instant gratification. But does it add up to what existed before—a fully engaged and physically present community of readers who support and sustain our regional literature.