HONOLULU — No’u Revilla, a University of Hawai’i at Manoa assistant professor became the first ‘Oiwi (Native Hawaiian) poet to win the 2021 National Poetry Series (NPS) competition, toppling over 1,600 other poets, while landing herself a publishing deal.
“I feel very lucky that my work gets to be recognized like this,” Revilla said. “When I was young, I didn’t have access to poetry written by Hawaiians, and there were definitely no books being published by openly gay Hawaiian women. It is a dream come true.”
In fall 2022, UH said Revilla will most likely become the first openly queer ʻOiwi woman to have a full-length collection of poetry published by a leader in the industry.
According to UH, Milkweed Editions, one of the country’s finest independent publishers, offered Revilla a book deal which will debut late next year.
Revilla said she submitted a poetry manuscript entitled “Ask the Brindled,” which explores how aloha is possible in the face of colonization and sexual violence.
“If another queer Hawaiian woman reads my book and is able to see herself in at least one poem and feel less alone, less afraid,” Revilla said. “If people read this book and feel how proud I am of my ‘ohana, of the women in my life, of my culture, and start to ask better questions about what aloha and aloha ʻāina (love of the land) can look like, I would feel like I fulfilled a kuleana (responsibility).”
One of Revilla’s inspiration in life is UH Manoa Professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask, a celebrated Indigenous author and poet.
“I am here because of her,” Revilla said. “She wrote about being the kind of woman who was ‘slyly reproductive,’ a woman whose legacy was built not on sexist notions of a woman’s duty to grow a nation through her womb alone but rather on the knowledge she earned, the questions she asked, and the communities she cared for,”
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“Haunani taught us how to weave ropes of resistance,” Revilla said.
Revilla earned her PhD from the UH Manoa English department and now teaches creative writing with an emphasis on Native Hawaiian literature.
“One of the best things about teaching at UH Manoa is being able to work with young ʻOiwi writers as they read more poetry by Hawaiians and get inspired to contribute to our literary traditions,” Revilla concluded.