Last week, a Maui woman became the first Oiwi (native Hawaiian) poet to win the annual National Poetry Series competition with her manuscript titled “Ask the brindle” who strives to empower other ‘Oiwi women and those in the LGBTQ + community.
No’u Revilla de Waiehu, currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing with a focus on Native Hawaiian Literature at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s English Department, was offered a book contract by Milkweed Editions after have surpassed over 1,600 other poets in the 2021 NPS Open Competition.
“At first, I was completely ecstatic, but the more time goes by, I feel more and more rooted”, Revilla said by phone Friday afternoon from O’ahu. “It took me four years to write this book – the manuscript was based on my thesis that I defended in 2019 – and I just started submitting the work at the end of 2020, so winning this award is a huge one. opportunity and every day it passes, I feel closer to all the reasons I write poetry. I feel closer to my kupuna, which inspired me.
Revilla said she is “incredibly honored” and is “very grateful” this “Ask the brindle” was selected by NPS judge Rick Barot. The collection aims to discover how love and aloha are possible in the face of colonization, sexual violence and homophobia.
“Aloha is complex. Aloha is intergenerational, aina based, and brilliant, so respect him as such and celebrate him as such. she said. “The Oiwi poets were aloha ‘aina poets long before 1778, long before 1893, and we will continue to write our own stories and protect our lands and waters for centuries to come. I am only a poet in a long tradition of literary excellence.
The book, which will feature some of Revilla’s most recent poems, will be completed in the fall of 2022 by Milkweed, who is considered one of the top independent publishers in the country.
“They have been a dream editor for me”, she said. “They cultivate daring, tender and innovative work.
According to a press release from UH, Revilla will also very likely become the first openly queer Oiwi woman to produce and publish a comprehensive collection of poetry.
Passionate about family roots and Hawaiian culture, she hopes her poetry book will address the lack of representation of queer Indigenous women in Pacific literature and empower future Oiwi writers and storytellers.
“Representation matters, and when you see someone who looks like you, who speaks like you, who loves you, who expresses what they think and creates positive relationships, the scope of what is possible expands.” she said. “LGBTQ + Hawaiians exist, we are there and we have always been there. We are there to uplift our people, we take care of our elders, we teach our youth, we grow our food, protect our waters, we lead our movements, we are everywhere.
When people are proud of who they are as an individual, they “to love without fear” and “authentically.”
“When that happens, we create more lasting pono relationships and those relationships create a better world,” she added.
And writing poetry, collaborating with other Oiwi or future poets, and teaching is her way of contributing to that vision, said Revilla, who has also held workshops across UH Manoa as well as in Papua. New Guinea, Canada and the United Nations.
She also taught poetry at Pu’uhuluhulu University in 2019 while protesting at Mauna Kea.
Some examples of his latest poems, published as singles, include “When you say protesters instead of protectors” and “Pity” published last year in ANMLY, or “Maunakéa”, Where “Intergenerational memory” published on Flux, The Current of Hawaii, in 2019.
Revilla’s very first poems were spurred on by grief, she noted, but as she continued to write for her dissertation a few years ago, the collection has grown to reflect healing, culture. and different types of love – love for “who you really are, your chosen family, love for your land and your waters.”
Some of his first teachers at aloha are family members living in Valley Isle, such as his mother who showed him the importance of sharing his gratitude and documenting life.
“All have shaped my writing” said Revilla, who has not been home for more than a year due to COVID-19. “No one can make me laugh as happily as these people can either, and the strength and tenderness I learned from being born and raised in Maui – you can’t learn anywhere else.”
Hana’s grandmother Henriette La’ieikawai Kanana, who helped raise Revilla, her sister, and cousins in Kahului, is the main foundation of the book.
“My mind comes from her and she is definitely a major presence in the collection because she is a source for me and my family and without her it would have been nonsense. “ said Revilla. “Some of the poems that talk about her, I hope some people will like”Oh my God, there’s La’iei ‘, and give him some idea of pilina. … That would make my century.
For more information on Revilla’s work, visit https://www.nourevilla.com/
* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]