First iwi poet to win the national poetry series competition



For the first time, a ‘iwi poet (native of Hawaii) won the National Poetry Series competition.

The winner No’u Rivella is an assistant professor at the University of Hawai’i in Mānoa. The Maui native will likely become the first openly queer woman ʻŌiwi to have a comprehensive collection of poetry published by an industry leader.

When Hawai’i Public Radio asked her how she felt when she received the award, she replied: a screenshot of the email and I sent it to my wife. “

His collection of 42 poems, Ask the brindle, was selected for publication from over 1,600 applications for the NPS 2021 competition.

His work examines the concept of aloha in the face of colonization and sexual violence.

Rivella wrote the poems with Hawaiian women and Oceania’s queer families in mind, but she didn’t always write poems rooted in her heritage.

She discovered her current style with Robert Sullivan, a former professor at the University of Hawai’i in Mānoa.

“He looked at the draft of a short story I wrote and he asked me why I used so many allusions to Greek and Roman myths,” says Rivella. “What about stories from your culture? He asked me. “Where are your people? Where is your land?”

Ask the brindle is expected to be published in fall 2022 under Milkweed Editions – a national publishing house. His poems intended for Hawaiian readers will be seen by many people unrelated to Hawai’i.

Rivella describes poetry as a type of literary art that helps people slow down their thoughts. She hopes her poems will help non-Hawaiians slow down and think about the true meaning of “aloha”.

“There is olelo HawaiÊ»i in the book, and I make no apologies for not offering translations, and let the language stay there, let it be rooted and strong.”

“And ask better questions about aloha. Ask better questions about Hawai’i and their relationship with Hawai’i because we’re not just a playground,” she says.

Rivella says her next writing will be thank you letters and the thank you page for her new book.

She recommends reading the acknowledgments page so readers can see how the author brought the work to life with the help of their different connections and communities.

Ask the brindle will be dedicated to the late Native Hawaiian activist and author, Haunani-Kay Trask.


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