The Kitchen of Small Hours

The Kitchen of Small Hours

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Reimagining the elusive American dream

In The Kitchen of Small Hours, Derek N. Otsuji embraces the fragility and endurance of a family of immigrants from two prefectures in Japan: Kagoshima in the south and Okinawa, an island more than four hundred miles from the mainland. In these poems, five generations sing, save, scold, bury, and cook against the culture and history that emerged from the pineapple and sugar cane plantations of mid-nineteenth-century Hawaii, from the bomb-scapes and hatreds of World War II, and from the canning and tourism industry of the twentieth century. Otsuji writes of how his family used stories and rugged cheer to fill the spaces apart from the cane fields and the canning factory. Their recipes, rituals, celebrations, songs, dances, myths, and family stories passed from grandmother to father to son, who folds them into lyrics.

Here too are whispers, failures, and traceable absences: a face removed from photos, a love silenced to be acceptable, a dead firstborn housed in an urn. There are things that no one intended to give. Otsuji's language hungers for them anyway. The haunting reunions between author and ancestor sink just as deep as roots and hold just as fast. The cooking pot, the family photo, the moon recur as images that feed and comfort. Lyrical and warm, Otsuji's voice sounds out a sinew of words that make the remnants of heritage and home durable. In these poems each new generation seeks to reimagine for itself the elusive American Dream.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 90 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 10mm | 149.69g
  • Carbondale, United States
  • English
  • 0809338408
  • 9780809338405

Table of contents

Lahaina Obaban Teaches Her Great Granddaughters About Business and Life
The Kitchen of Small Hours
A Modern Fairy Tale
The Road to Kanzaki
Death Comes to a Cousin in the Air
The Splendor of Laundry
Lament for my Father's Sister Whom He lost in Childhood
How She Loves Music
A Brittle Sprig
Even the Airborne Among Us
Redeeming the Cans
Last Walk
My Mother Revists Mahelona Hospital Where Her Mother had been Quarantined 50 Years Ago
The Green Porch Swing
An Offering with Some Embarrassment and Apologies
Returning to My Grandmother's Backyard Orchard the Day After Her Death
How to Sell Your Grandmother's House without Remorse
The Rabbit in the Moon
Three Boys One Fish Two Eyes
Among the More Innocent Touristic Amusements of the Old Waikiki
Bachi Tales
Upon Hearing The Old Advertiser Building May Have to Make Way for New Apartments
Getting the Melons to Market
Evening Visit
Theater of Shadows
A Visit to the Hongwanji Temple on the Anniversary of our Grandfather's Death
Lease Said
The Old Flamingo Restaurant
The Afternoon We Gathered Around A Box of Old Letters and Family Photographs Retrieved from the Dust of Oblivion
Comfort Food
Reinvention of the American Dream
Nostalgia and Memory
A Japanese-American Recalls Pearl Harbor Day When He and His teammates
Headed to a Football Game in Town Were Fired of by a Zero Pilot
Upon First Seeing, Housed at the Bishop Museum, The Kessho Mawashi Belonging to my Grandfather, Skinny Sumo Wrestler
Plantation Town
Parable of the Cedars
A Marriage in Three Quatrains
Ditch Kids of the Maui Sugar Company
Cane Cutter's Song
My Father's Songs
Paternal Pedagogy
Uncles Talking Story on the Porch
On the Recent State of our Local Economy
At the Halfway House
Last Meal
First Dream
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Review quote

"Derek N. Otsuji's The Kitchen of Small Hours is largely an exercise in honoring the dead. Moving lyrics pop off the page, propelled by the momentum of the past."--Chris McKinney, author of The Tattoo and Midnight, Water City

"The Kitchen of Small Hours proves what many fans of Otsuji already knew: he is one of the most talented poets currently writing in Hawaiʻi. This beautifully crafted book casts an 'inner light' on family and food, culture and tradition, death and dreams. Like 'ink brushed on rice paper, ' these words reveal truths that only poetry 'gives us eyes to see.'"--Craig Santos Perez, author of Habitat Threshold

"Otsuji welcomes us into a multigenerational world of family, history, parables, work songs, and secrets--where conversations with the dead intertwine with the rituals of the living. This is a book steeped in love and attention, one that recognizes that 'the bombed station, the sea of pleading / eyes, the cool of the river grass' inevitably bring loss, though we are instructed: 'Don't grieve, says the light. Tangerines / like goldfish swim in their groves. Nothing is lost.' There is a sweetness and reverence here that is rare in contemporary poetry. It is something the body can experience only in the reading, something layered into the word love--as we glimpse an entire century of life and more within Otsuji's The Kitchen of Small Hours."--Brian Turner, author of Here, Bullet
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About Derek N. Otsuji

Derek N. Otsuji, an associate professor of English at Honolulu Community College, was awarded the 2019 Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference. He received the Editor's Choice Award for poems published in the fortieth-anniversary issue of Bamboo Ridge, the longest running independent literary journal in Hawaii. His poems have appeared in Rhino, Missouri Review, Indiana Review, Pleiades, and the Threepenny Review.
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