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Nou Revilla
Noʻu Revilla

A sacred tribute to survival, resistance and unbreakable bonds amongst Indigenous women and queer kānaka ʻōiwi (Native Hawaiians) envelop a newly published poetry collection authored by a creative writing assistant professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her debut book Ask the Brindled, award-winning poet Noʻu Revilla casts a spotlight on themes of desire and intergenerational healing through the cultural figure of Hawaiian moʻo, or shapeshifting water protectors. Revilla is the first openly queer ʻŌiwi woman to have a full-length collection of poetry published by a leader in the industry.

Ask the Brindled book cover
(Image credit: Jocelyn Ng)

“To see my family’s name on the cover of this book sparks my naʻau (gut) every time,” Revilla expressed. “Recently, both my father and sister asked me to read them poems from the book, poems I wrote for them. To have read poems out loud for my father and sister on Maui, where I was born and raised, and to see them cry because they recognized themselves in my words, because they felt the aloha I poured into each poem…that is a singular kind of rooted joy.”

Last September, Milkweed Editions, one of the country’s finest independent publishers, offered Revilla a book deal after she topped more than 1,600 other poets in the 2021 National Poetry Series open competition. The Waiʻehu, Maui native’s first book of poetry is based on her dissertation which explores how aloha is possible in the face of colonization and sexual violence. Written primarily in English, Revilla’s 141-page poetry collection also features ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), which at times, better expresses some of her deepest thoughts and feelings. In 2019, Revilla earned a PhD from the UH Mānoa English department and went on to teach creative writing with an emphasis on ʻŌiwi literature. She is immensely inspired by the late UH Mānoa Professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask who was a celebrated Indigenous author and poet. In her book, Revilla dedicated the poem, “Recovery, Waikīkī” to the iconic Native Hawaiian scholar who helped mentor the budding ʻŌiwi writer in college.

“Poetry helps me to reflect on and metabolize heartbreak, especially as an ʻŌiwi wahine who loves and will always struggle for my ʻāina (land),” Revilla said. “Poetry helps me to recenter in aloha, which in a very real way means poetry helps me to listen to my kūpuna (elders) better.”

Revilla headshot
Noʻu Revilla (Image credit: Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada)

Celebrating Indigenous spoken word

The public is invited to celebrate the debut of Revilla’s poetry collection on September 1 from 5:30–7 p.m. at Ka Waiwai in Mōʻiliʻili (1110 University Avenue, Suite 100). The official book launch party will feature Revilla performing selected poems and other on-stage appearances by Brandy Nālani McDougall, Alohalani Brown, Māhealani Ahia, Kahala Johnson and Lyz Soto.

McDougall, an associate professor of Indigenous studies at UH Mānoa, is a celebrated kanaka ʻoiwi poet and author. She is thrilled to see Indigenous poetry gain more visibility.

“It is vital that more works from Indigenous poets take center stage because our histories, issues, and cultural values revolve around our peoples’ deep and intimate relationships with our lands and waters,” McDougall said. “So much of Indigenous consciousness and memory is connected to ancestral wisdom that emphasizes the great power of the natural world and to see ourselves as family to that world, as servants to and students of ʻāina, and not as beings who should (or even can) control it.”

Ask the Brindled is available for purchase online and at Native Books in the Arts & Letters Building in Chinatown.

For more information visit Noʻu Revilla’s website.

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