Frances H. Kakugawa’s Latest Book Features ‘Poetry for the Ageless’

Kevin Y. Kawamoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Reading Frances Kakugawa’s poems in her latest book, “Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless,” is like cozying up with an old friend and talking story. This particular friend has lived a long life and traveled far, literally and in her imagination. Along her journey, she wrote poems. In this, her 14th book, she shares a collection of those poems that she selected for the reader — some of this and some of that, like a literary hot pot — which, when consumed as a whole, offers a complex mix of tastes and flavors.

The poems in the 215-page volume published by Watermark Publishing are divided into five sections: A Poet’s Life, The Enemy Wears Many Faces, The Fifth Season, Collected Poems, and Dangerous and Ageless. They are not arranged in chronological order. In her introduction to the book, Kakugawa writes that to arrange the poems chronologically “would give a false impression that the things I wrote about were happening in some logical sequence, each poem somehow leading to the next and then the next, or building off the previous. The reality is that any of these poems could have been written when I was twenty-one or eighty.”

Those familiar with Kakugawa’s writings through The Hawai‘i Herald know that she has a special place in her heart for caregivers and care recipients. She demonstrates this in books such as “Mosaic Moon: Caregiving Through Poetry,” “Breaking the Silence: A Caregiver’s Voice” and “I Am Somebody: Bringing Dignity and Compassion to Alzheimer’s Caregiving.”

“Dangerous Woman,” however, addresses a much broader swath of themes. Kakugawa has also written memoirs (“Teacher: You Look Like a Horse! Lessons from the Classroom” and “Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii”), children’s books (“Wordsworth the Poet,” “Words-worth Dances the Waltz,” “Wordsworth! Stop the Bulldozer!” and “Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket!”) and poetry (“Sand Grains,” “White Ginger Blossom,” “Golden Spike” and “The Path of Butterflies”).

“Dangerous Woman” has the feeling of a retrospective, looking back at a diverse body of work developed over a long period of time. Her first book of poems was written when she was in her 30s. “Fifty years later, I am still here,” she writes in her most recent book. In “Dangerous Woman,” you don’t always know what period of her life a poem is from, but that — in Kakugawa’s own words — is what makes them ageless.

“Our passionate desire for answers to life’s existential questions, the need to understand our relationship with nature and the world beyond the self, do not diminish with time,” she writes in the introduction.

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Kevin Y. Kawamoto is a longtime contributor to The Hawai‘i Herald.

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