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Award-winning Maui poet publishes debut book

No‘u Revilla, a UH-Manoa professor and Maui native, has published her debut book of poetry, “Ask the Brindled.” BRYAN KAMAOLI KUWADA photo

The Maui News

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

Revilla, a creative writing assistant professor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, casts a spotlight on themes of desire and intergenerational healing through the cultural figure of Hawaiian mo’o, or shapeshifting water protectors. Revilla is the first openly queer ‘Oiwi woman to have a full-length collection of poetry published by a leader in the industry, according to a UH-Manoa news release.

“To see my family’s name on the cover of this book sparks my na’au (gut) every time,” Revilla said. “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.”

In September, independent publisher Milkweed Editions offered Revilla a book deal after she topped more than 1,600 other poets in the 2021 National Poetry Series open competition. The Wai’ehu, 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 ‘olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language), which at times, better expresses some of her deepest thoughts and feelings, according to the news release.

In 2019, Revilla earned a Ph.D. from the UH-Manoa English department 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, a celebrated Indigenous author, poet and scholar who mentored and inspired Revilla in college.

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

Revilla will hold a launch party from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at Ka Waiwai on Oahu.

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

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