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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 13, 2001

Lit Scene
Hybolics 2 helps get 'da word' out

Though expensive and time-consuming to produce, Hybolics has been worth the effort for the team of (top left, clockwise) Normie Salvador, Lee Tonouchi, Aaron Tamanaha and Carrie Takahata.

'Hybolics 2 Good Reading'

With Lee Tonouchi as host and featuring Lee Cataluna (with Devon Nekoba and Sherry Clifton), Richard Hamasaki, Ronda Mapuana Hayashi (aka Katana), Ian MacMillan, Chris McKinney and Jason Minami

7:30 p.m. Monday

Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St.


366-1272, hybolics@lava.net

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

— Emily Dickinson

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's all about "da word" for Lee Tonouchi.

This time around, the word is "hybolics."

According to "Peppo's Pidgin To Da Max," the unofficial Pidgin dictionary, "hybolic" means "to talk like one intellectual-kine haole."

Tonouchi, who speaks like one intellectual-kine local — all in Pidgin — wants to change the perception that standard English speech equals intelligence.

"Hybolic" is the Pidgin version of "hyperbolic," an exaggerated form of speech. "We trying to show you don't have to talk in standard English to have intellectual ideas," he said.

So two years ago he came out with Hybolics, a journal that celebrates and cultivates local literature with an alternative feel: artsy design, spectrum of works, choke expensive to publish.

To mark the completion of the second issue of Hybolics, Tonouchi's throwing a party of words Monday at Kumu Kahua Theatre, with a name that's all him: "Hybolics 2 Good Reading."

"We trying to reclaim da word," Tonouchi said in his standard Pidgin about the purpose of Hybolics.

"Da word" — it's the philosophy behind his journal and the name of his first book, a collection of stories that sold 3,000 copies in its first month.

Writing is a personal endeavor, almost so personal it reveals the soul. Most writers don't see the first-hand reaction of readers who experience their writing. But when they do, it's an unmatched feeling, one that makes the whole turbulent exercise of writing worthwhile.

Tonouchi discovered the satisfaction recently, at his latest reading on the Big Island.

"Was hardcore, brah," he said. "People drove 40 miles to come see me. Fo' real. I thought the Volcano one would be empty, like two guys. Had more people than could fit in da room, standing outside looking in da window."

But the magic of Pidgin has always been in its oral incarnation, its roots.

"I guess for me I rather have 'em said than read," Tonouchi said. "As long as people can talk, going still be alive."

Aside from being visually interesting, the journal, one of Tonouchi's many pet projects, showcases local talent, from the screenplay of "Da Mayah" by Lee Cataluna (now an Advertiser columnist) to the rap lyrics of Rhoda Mapuana Hayashi (aka Katana) in the second issue.

From established writers, such as poets Eric Chock and Richard Hamasaki, to up-and-comers Chris McKinney and Jason Minami, Hybolics 2 has something for every ear, for every taste, for every beat.

And though many of them can — and do — publish their works for more exposure and more money in other journals, they believe in what Tonouchi is doing.

"I admire people (like him)," said McKinney, whose personal essay, "Kahaluu Caveman," is in Hybolics 2. "A lot of it comes out of his own pocket. He devotes a lot of time and energy into this. And it's very beneficial to the literary community ... In a way, he's basically expanding Hawai'i's literary community."

Hybolics has become a forum for local voices, a place to be heard.

Because, as Dickinson wrote, the word is nothing until it's said.