‘So We Can Live In Paradise’

By Jack Kiyonaga, Community Reporter 

Photo courtesy of Jayson Mizula.

Molokai resident Jayson Mizula has published a book of poetry entitled “So We Can Live In Paradise: Poems by an American Settler in Occupied Hawai’i.” The poems are the culmination of seven years of work and intend to reflect the reality of life in Hawaii, especially for Native Hawaiians. 

The collection is inspired by Mizula and his wife Bahar’s time as caretakers for Moke Kim’s homestead in Ho’olehua. 

“As we helped Uncle grow kalo and other things to share with friends and neighbors, we were horrified by the barrels and barrels of black plastic we’d pull from the soil every time we’d plant a new area,” said Mizula. “We were saddened by the military aircraft flying low enough overhead to rattle the metal of the barn. We were heartbroken to see the hardships and pain so many of the neighbors we came to know and love were dealing with on a daily basis.” 

 Mizula’s interest in writing began with a Warrior Writer’s workshop for veterans in college. Ever since, Mizula has written daily with work ranging in style and subject.

“Some are love poems about my wife and newborn son, some are about my time in the military, some are about climate change or school shootings or corporate greed, but many are about Hawaii,” he explained. 

Ever conscious of his identity as “an outsider” and “a settler” in his own words, Mizula hopes that this collection of poetry “can start a dialogue about what it means to “live in paradise.” 

Mizula has pledged to donate all proceeds from the book’s sales to an empowerment camp for Maui County’s foster youth. 

“All profits from the book are going to help host this camp and whatever money remains after this summer’s camp will go to a possible future camp or will be donated to some other Molokai youth programs,” explained Mizula. 

The book is currently sold out, but a new shipment is expected after the holidays. Mizula is asking for a donation of at least $20 per book. 

“I’m not claiming to be Robert Frost, but my wife thinks my poems are pretty good, and at worst, the money raised by book sales will help the community a little bit,” Mizula humbly stated.  

“At best,” he said, “I hope these poems can get my fellow outsiders thinking about ways they can contribute to the community and be respectful of Hawaiians and other locals who have cared for this land for generations, and be respectful to the sacred spaces they hold dear.” 

One of the most striking poems from the collection is entitled “Taro Donuts.” It calls to mind that strange, travel-specific hopeful loneliness – appropriate for the holiday season. 

Mizula writes:

I’m sitting here alone

at the Kahului airport tonight

waiting for a states-bound

redeye flight

eating day-old taro donuts

from Kanemitsu’s

and I wish that you

were here with me

and I wish that we

had some coffee.  

Those interested in buying a copy of the book or learning more can reach Mizula at mizubi@yahoo.com


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