Award-winning Maui poet publishes debut book | News, Sports, Jobs

No’u Revilla, a UH Manoa professor and a native of Maui, has published her first volume of poetry, Ask the Brindled. BRYAN KAMAOLI KUWADA Photo

Maui poet No’u Revilla has published her first book, “Ask the Bridles” a sacred tribute to survival, resilience, and the unbreakable bonds between Indigenous women and queer Kanaka ‘oiwi (Native Hawaiians).

Revilla, assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, shines a spotlight on themes such as lust and cross-generational healing through the cultural figure of the Hawaiian Mo’o or shape-shifting water protectors. According to a press release from UH-Manoa, Revilla is the first openly queer ‘Oiwi woman to publish a complete collection of poetry from an industry leader.

“Seeing my family’s name on the cover of this book always triggers my na’au.” said Revilla. “Recently both my father and my sister asked me to read them poems from the book, poems that I had written for them. My father and sister in Maui, where I was born and raised, having poetry read out loud and seeing them cry because they recognized themselves in my words, because they felt the aloha I poured into each poem…that is a unique kind of rooted joy.”

In September, independent publisher Milkweed Editions offered Revilla a book deal after she beat more than 1,600 other poets in the 2021 National Poetry Series open competition. A Wai’ehu, Maui native, her first volume of poetry is based on her dissertation, which examines how aloha is possible in the face of colonization and sexual violence. Revilla’s 141-page collection of poetry, written primarily in English, also includes ‘Olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language), which sometimes better expresses some of her deepest thoughts and feelings, according to the press release.

In 2019, Revilla earned a Ph.D. from the English department of UH-Manoa and went on to teach creative writing with an emphasis on ‘Oiwi literature. She dedicated a poem in her book to the late UH Manoa professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask, an acclaimed Indigenous author, poet, and scholar who mentored and inspired Revilla at college.

“Poetry helps me reflect on and process heartbreak, especially as an ‘Oiwi Wahine who loves my ‘aina (country) and will always fight for it.” said Revilla. “Poetry helps me refocus on aloha, which in a very real way means poetry helps me listen to my kupuna (elders) better.”

Revilla is hosting a launch party on September 1 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm in Ka Waiwai, Oahu.

“Ask the Bridles” is available online and from Native Books in the Arts & Letters Building in Chinatown.

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