The works Hannah Weiner published during her lifetime are never accompanied by an extensive editorial apparatus. Often, indeed, the only thing following the title page and publication information (sometimes actually omitted) is a brief statement by Weiner acknowledging her use of “second sight” in the composition of the text. For many of her readers, it may seem strange, or even opposed to Weiner’s spirit, to confront an essentially scholarly presentation of her work. The question of whether or not such a representation violates Weiner’s profound and costly commitment to deterritorialization at all levels of her poetics has been constantly with me.
Hawaiʻi’s history following Western contact is a history of disease, colonization, and denial. In Before the Horror: The Population of Hawaiʻi on the Eve of Western Contact (1989), David Stannard estimates the Hawaiian population dropped from 800,000–1,000,000 in 1778 to just 40,000 in 1900, a 96 percent decrease over a little more than a century, following the introduction of various foreign diseases to which Hawaiians lacked immunity. Most of the depopulation — an 80 percent decrease — occurred within the first fifty years of Western contact alone.
In 1992, when I was a student of Charles Bernstein, he asked me to lead one of his classes in poetics on an occasion when he had to be away. The poets slated for discussion were Jack Spicer and Hannah Weiner. I knew Spicer’s work well, but my preparations for introducing Weiner were barely under way when the day of the class arrived. As luck would have it, Bernstein had left me a tape recording — yes, a cassette tape! — of Weiner reading from her work, and that was all I had to offer.