Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Muse: Hawaii's Poet Laureate

. . . Our creativity allows us to imagine the possibilities,
while our analytical thought processes let us evaluate
what we've dreamt up. On the flip side, our analytical
thought processes help us to understand the world, feeding
into our ability to use our creativity to see it differently. . . .*
~ Kealoha

Known as "Kealoha", Honolulu-born Steven Kealohapau'ole Hong-Ming Wong is Poet Laureate of Hawaii. Presented earlier this year by proclamation, Kealoha is the first official Poet Laureate of Hawaii and serves a largely ceremonial function, charged with promoting the writing, reading, performance, and appreciation of poetry throughout the state and with representing Hawaii at official events. He performed his poem "New Day" at the inauguration of Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie, who named him to the position.

In making his announcement, Abercrombie described Kealoha as "an inspiration to the people of Hawaii" and "a leading force in promoting literacy and creative expression."

* * * * *

Photo Credit: Ronen Zilberman

An internationally known "slam poet", Kealoha has performed around the world at concerts and festivals, conferences and workshops, educational institutions at all levels, and community functions. He also has performed in film and on television and radio. His 70-minute CD Kealoha was issued in 2004.

In this 10:33-minute video, Kealoha addresses and performs for an audience at a 2011 TEDxHonolulu event (video published March 5, 2012):

The founder of HawaiiSlam, Youth Speaks Hawaii, and First Thursdays, a well-attended slam poetry competition, Kealoha became a professional poet in 2002. In 2007, he was ranked eighth (of 350 poets) at the National Poetry Slam (the world's largest team performance poetry event) — he has represented Hawaii more than a half-dozen times and performed in the finals at least four times — and was deemed 2007 Slam Champion at Burning Man Arts Festival. Among other honors, he was named "National Slam Legend" in 2010 and selected the same year as a National Endowment for the Arts "Master Artist".

Kealoha holds an honors degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in applied nuclear physics (his thesis title: "Proliferation Issues Associated with the Transmutation and Stabilization of Plutonium") and minored in writing. Interestingly, according to his Website, he was the primary author of a white paper on the national security consequences of global climate change. He once worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federal think tank, and for a management consulting firm in San Francisco. (Reading more about his fascinating background here.)


* Quoted from "Talk Poetry with Kealoha", Poetry Recess, November 6, 2009

"Governor Abercrombie Proclaims Kealoha 'Hawai'i Poet Laureate", Press Release, Office of the Governor, May 3, 2012

Kealoha Profile at KaimukiHawaii (Included here are videos of two spoken-word performances by Kealoha.)

Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

Amy Marcott, "Nuclear Engineering Major Embraces His Inner Performance Poet", Slice of MIT, April 16, 2012

Liza Simon, "Speaking Their Art", HanaHou, April/May 2004

National Poetry Slam on FaceBook and Twitter


Anonymous said...


S. Etole said...

What a fascinating person.