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Poe Mageo

Poe Mageo

ASCC Music Instructor Published in NZ Literary Journal

December 8, 2014

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

Poe Mageo, music instructor at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), can now add “published author” to his already impressive list of credentials, after having a short fiction piece published in SPAN 64: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. An academic publication which focuses on postcolonial, neocolonial and diaspora literature in English, mostly from the British Commonwealth nations, SPAN is issued biannually by SPACLALS, a sub-group of the Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies. Widely referenced by literary scholars for its critical articles and book reviews on postcolonial literature of the South Pacific, a typical edition of SPAN will contain eight to ten scholarly articles, one or two book reviews, and a wide selection of poetry and fiction.

Mageo’s story, “From Josten’s With Love,” focuses on a group of students graduating as part of Samoana High School’s class of 1982. “The events take place on the day the caps and gowns arrive from Josten's company,” explained Mageo. For those long out of the graduation loop, Josten’s has for many years been the primary supplier of graduation supplies and paraphernalia across the United States. “It tells of a flurry of heightened emotions when one realizes that graduation spells the end of a four-year itch,” the author continued. “The setting is the Lee Auditorium where the seniors, perhaps for the last time, summon courage to say the most difficult things. The story highlights the 'coming of age' for most young people and celebrates the courage of one particular girl who can’t allow fear to paralyze her conscience.”

An adjunct faculty member of the ASCC Language and Literature Department since 2005, and a full time instructor from 2009 in that department until fall of this year, Mageo made the connection with SPAN through his good friend, renowned author and former American Samoa resident Sia Figiel, who hosted a visit to the Territory by University of Auckland literary professor and current SPAN editor Selina Tusitala Marsh. “I had the privilege of meeting Mageo some years ago when visiting with Sia,” said Marsh via email from New Zealand. “His modesty prevented him from showing me his manuscript of short stories, and possibly a novel, until my last day in Pago Pago. Discovering this 'closet writer' turned out to be the highlight of my trip! Mageo's sharp eye for detail and deft use of language alongside a deep appreciation of cultural nuance makes for a riveting reading experience.”

A member of the Fine Arts Department since this semester, Mageo also runs the Dancing Fingers piano academy. Given his extensive involvement with music, to many who know him it came as a surprise when his literary talents came to the fore. “Like every one else who likes to write, or likes to work in the garden, you do it when you have the time,” Mageo reflected. “I usually try to write when things slow down on the weekends, and I always try to find something to edit during the holidays.” His experience as a former literature instructor gave him more than a passing familiarity with the basics of fiction writing. “In my classes, I would introduce the basic literary elements such as the plot, point of view, character, setting, figurative language, and theme before we read and analyzed a story. Like poetry, short fiction as a genre has its own conventions, which conventions are universal. Most importantly, the way each writer manipulates a certain element like conflict or irony is what 'sells' a story.”

Among his literary inspirations, Mageo cites novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (“My all time favorite!”), Toni Morrison, Harper Lee and Edith Wharton, as well as the short stories of Anton Chekhov and Stephen Crane. Besides his short stories and poetry, he also has a novel near completion under the working title of “Hearts Between The Mats.” The early version of the novel is currently under review by the editors at Huia Publishers in Wellington, New Zealand. “They’ll let me know sometime in the next three months whether they’d like to publish it,” said Mageo. “In the meantime, I'm putting a collection of my poems in order with a view towards having them published as well.”

Mageo got his first experience with fiction writing while an undergraduate at UH Manoa. “From Josten’s With Love” actually dates back to an Autobiographical Fiction class he took with UHM English professor Nell Altizer. “Funny thing is, she believed that I could write, even though I didn’t think so,” Mageo recalled. Many years later, that same piece of short fiction begun for Prof. Altizer came to the attention of Prof. Marsh, and is now Mageo’s first published literary work. Marsh, who referred to Mageo “a writer to watch out for,” expressed hope that his novel will also reach the general public. “I and my Pacific Literature students await his first book with eager anticipation,” she said.

ASCC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle also commended Mageo’s publication. “We’re highly proud that one of our faculty members has contributed to the developing genre of Pacific Literature,” she said, “and we wish him the best of luck with his future literary endeavors.”