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A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O'ahu

by Joseph Stanton



Mejiro — a deft green stroke,
or hopping from branch to branch,
tail upstruck —
is the moment's punctuation,
a comma
flickering so quick
the rest of the bright green syntax
                      can only wheel after,
a lost clause trying to catch up.


I love to get the news from a world separate and distinct from mine, so it has been with great pleasure that I have spent a Nebraska morning reading Joseph Stanton's thoughtful, colorful and even exotic poems from Hawaii.
— Ted Kooser, author of Delights & Shadows, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Who better to write a field guide than someone out standing in the field? In this collection, Joseph Stanton writes with a lyric flow as natural and seamless as water. One poem spills into the next in a continuing conversation as he gives voice to the subliminal blue and rumors of ash of this place where landscape is not merely external but lives in those who live in it.
— Sue Cowing, editor of Fire in the Sea: An Anthology of Poetry and Art and author of My Dog Has Flies: Poetry for Hawai'i's Kids

We always take too much for granted. That's why it's good to read Joe Stanton and his earnest observations on the flora and fauna of modern-day Honolulu. His is not the collection of souvenir postcards for tourists. Rather we are treated to revelations of a bamboo garden with little finches, a rain of jacaranda bells, the down-to-earth habits of termites and geckos, and the Brazilian cardinals regular folk / who disdain the star system. He even turns his magnifying glass on his own outings with his family: little-league practice, a reef walk, a burial at sea, how to deal with his wife's fear of toads. This is a field guide for learning and accepting our place in the world, while we wait for each small serendipity, till at last / there comes a burst of rapture, / partial still, but ornate enough for now, / a joy . . .
— Wing Tek Lum, author of Expounding the Doubtful Points

The cameraman sifts the coarse grains / of our nervousness to catch the fine, / bright particles of our feelings. Joseph Stanton performs the same duty for his readers in this field guide to the wildlife in Hawaii's suburbia. Arranging the particles with the care of a student of human nature, he encourages us to approach, to listen to his observations. Many are witty and humorous, others subtle and accurate enough to allow us to grasp the poignancy of living in suburbia. Something could come of this, Stanton tells us. Something will for the reader searching for the meaningful in the comfortable life, sighting down / the barrel of the rest of [his] life.
— Pat Matsueda, author of Stray and managing editor of Manoa

Joseph Stanton is a writer in tune with his natural and suburban environment. In this fine volume of work, he translates everyday observations into poetry that transcends the reality around him. Like an exploratory stream that finds its way to the sea, he touches upon a variety of subjects such as the weather, floral beauty, animals, people and buildings in the city bluer than midnight, intertwining all that he sees into a sure and identifiable vision. Stanton's poetic voice is a steady beat of oars that keeps a ship passing effortlessly through the waves. Enjoy the voyage as he takes you to a familiar horizon and looks back at the ever changing shore.
— Joe Balaz, author of Domino Buzz, a CD of music-poetry, editor of Ho'omanoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O‘ahu . . . turns a keen eye to [the poet's] most immediate surroundings and finds meaning, even magic, in every mundane corner of contemporary Hawaii life. Within Joseph Stanton's accessible yet subtly complex poems, man and nature gnaw at each other's boundaries, and divisions of indigenous and introduced fade into imperceptible seams. Here mongooses and mejiros strike symbolic poses of our shared language, and Stanton's language in turn coaxes us to find the familiar in the foreign and the supernatural in the sundry.
— Michael Tsai, staff writer and columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser

In A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O‘ahu, Joseph Stanton reveals the nuanced sympathies and ironies of O‘ahu landscape and weather, flora and fauna. His painterly eye offers deft perspectives and reveals the intimate secrets of place.

The subtle shifts of light and atmosphere conveyed in A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O‘ahu are those of a truly intimate familiar. Stanton is by turns affectionate, meditative, entertained, and bemused by what he sees and knows.
— Neil Nakadate, editor of Robert Penn Warren: Critical Perspectives and author of Understanding Jane Smiley



This book is available in Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, and Apple E-book formats, for purchase, and through public libraries' Overdrive account, for loan.

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