HONOLULU (KHON2) — Poet and UH Mānoa assistant professor No’u Revilla won the 2021 National Poetry Series competition. She is the first-ever ʻōiwi, or Native Hawaiian, to claim the accomplishment.
As a proud woman of her upbringing, this opportunity to represent her people on an esteemed level is, in her words, “a dream come true.”
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Revilla defended her dissertation, which was highly autobiographical, while she was a Ph.D. student in 2019 at UH Mānoa. After winning the biography prize in 2019, she turned her dissertation into a book she titled: “Ask the Brindled.”
At the ending of 2020, she entered it into the National Poetry Series, and out of over 1,600 submissions, she was one of five chosen.
“Ask the Brindled is about aloha and how can aloha grow in the aftermath of sexual violence,” said Revilla.
“How can aloha grow in the face of colonization? My poems, I hope, explore themes of desire and intergenerational healing.”
Following in the shadows of her inspiration, the late author and poet Haunani-Kay Trask, Revilla was moved by the way Trask rivered between politics and poetry, speaking of indigenous women not bound to the motions of sexism, but by the questions asked and knowledge learned.
“I came home because I found her books in the library at NYU, and I realized ‘what am I doing here,’” said Revilla.
“And she is known for telling people in diaspora, Hawaiians abroad, you need to come home, there’s a movement happening.”
As a queer indigenous woman, Revilla represents a minority whose challenges could be overwhelming. But with her new publishing contract, she hopes to create a shift in the world for the betterment of her people.
“In the face of a world that needs Hawai’i to be small and needs Hawaiʻi to be servant to profit, for aloha to be this simple postcard, I hope that this book shatters all that simplicity,” Revilla explained.
Revilla’s new book is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2022.
When her book is released, she will most likely become the first openly queer Native Hawaiian to have a full-length collection of poetry published by a leader in the industry. In her case, that is Milkweed Editions.
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