Even Further West by Eric Paul Shaffer
One evening on Lāhaina’s Front Street, as Shaffer walked to an evening with friends, someone passing on the sidewalk commented, “The islands are even further west than I thought.” Those accidental words, like poetry, shifted his perspective once again regarding the place he lives. Even Further West is a collection of poems written of, in, and on the Hawaiian islands. Companion volume to Lāhaina Noon, these poems strive to encounter and reveal the actual place and people hidden behind the pictures and posters, the myths and misunderstandings, of America’s only tropical state.
Shaffer’s work presents sharply detailed and unexpected scenes of how the blue world looks as a bouncing inflatable globe on a day at the beach, beneath a single streetlight on a dark upcountry road, after the surprise of “NO TRESPASSING” signs between slippahs and the sand, beyond our perverse thirst for apocalypse even in paradise. Yet a love for the land, people, friends, and significant others on the islands shines within these pages as well, in dry grass or rain, under plumeria and kiawe, and leads to lives that grow and flourish in the same landscape.
These poems encourage locals and visitors to the islands to stand on the sand, soil, and sidewalks of the islands of Hawai‘i, on the shifting sea-drawn line on the sand before the deeps where we play, swim, and surf, and see exactly where we are.
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“In Even Further West, Eric Paul Shaffer weaves a garland of narrative and lyric eco-poems gathered from the fallen blossoms of his experiences in Hawai‘i. After journeying through this book, you will see the illuminated depths of our sacred ecology, our boat of bones, our living breath.”
--Craig Santos Perez, author of From Unincorporated Territory, and Winner of the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry
“Shaffer is Hawaii’s Thoreau. Of the usual imaginings of Hawai‘i, these poems resist the normal temptations to pare it down to palm trees and white sands. While being grounded in paradise, Shaffer simultaneously guides you to someplace deeper, someplace holier. Insightful, elegant and unpretentious, these words will make you remember the thing inside that you born with, but lost the second you learned your name.”
--Christy Passion, author of Still Out of Place and co-author of No Choice But to Follow (with Ann Inoshita, Juliet Kono, Jean Toyama)
“In Even Further West, Eric Paul Shaffer beautifully locates himself and the islands of Hawai‘i by means of a pleasantly apocalyptical geography of heart and mind that reaches home “in the last of the light” to unveil for us in his witty and all-seeing lyricism “the voiceless and eventual work the dark does.” These are poems you will want to reread again and again.”
--Joseph Stanton, author of A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O‘ahu, Cardinal Points, and Things Seen
“Like a cocoon, Eric Shaffer’s new book of poetry transforms mundane moments and objects in nature into something transcendental, and the lines take flight from the page. In the title poem ‘Even Further West,’ he writes about finding a cardinal feather and a cowrie shell and says, ‘Hold them till your mind changes.’ Many of these poems may change your mind about the things you take for granted, maybe even the way you look at the world.”
--Stuart Holmes Coleman, author of Eddie Would Go and Fierce Heart
“In Even Further West, Eric Paul Shaffer belies the self-critique that ends his poem “Upcountry Overlook: Kula, Maui”: “I gawked at the furrowed sea and sun-scored red slopes, attentive // to the distant and dramatic, but not to significant lives / close at hand, within reach, and indifferent to our slow recognition.” While he knows well that “the light is gone before we even know we need to see,” what he sees is instructive: we learn to appreciate the beauty of Maui, but also human pain. Among the most moving of these poems are those that allude to a broken relationship between father and son, and between the poet and himself. “If ever there was a good time to pull a Hemingway, / this is it,” he writes in a novena. He pulls back, declares, “I'm not going anywhere,” and returns to writing poems attentive both to natural beauty and the compassion that comes of attending to it, as to “the close at hand.”
--Susan M. Schultz, author of Aleatory Allegories, Dementia Blog, and the Memory Cards series, and editor of Tinfish Press