Ask the Brindled
Ask the Brindled, selected by Rick Barot as a winner of the 2021 National Poetry Series, bares everything that breaks between “seed” and “summit” of a life—the body, a people, their language. It is an intergenerational reclamation of the narratives foisted upon Indigenous and queer Hawaiians—and it does not let readers look away.
In this debut collection, No‘u Revilla crafts a lyric landscape brimming with shed skin, water, mo‘o, ma‘i. She grips language like a fistful of wet guts and inks the page red—for desire, for love, for generations of blood spilled by colonizers. She hides knives in her hair “the way my grandmother—not god— / the way my grandmother intended,” and we heed; before her, “we stunned insects dangle.” Wedding the history of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi with contemporary experiences of queer love and queer grief, Revilla writes toward sovereignty: linguistic, erotic, civic. Through the medium of formal dynamism and the material of ʻŌiwi culture and mythos, this living decolonial text both condemns and creates.
Ask the Brindled is a song from the shattered throat that refuses to be silenced. It is a testament to queer Indigenous women who carry baskets of names and stories, “still sacred.” It is a vow to those yet to come: “the ea of enough is our daughters / our daughters need to believe they are enough.”
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Praise and Prizes
“Poised in the electric space where history and lyric converge, Noʻu Revilla’s Ask the Brindled has new things to say about old things—the work of love, the work of family and community, the work of articulating a self that is ‘shattered & many-named.’ Sustained by a wily variety of forms, the poems’ abiding figure is the shapeshifter, underscoring Revilla’s accomplishment of a complex testimony. With both tenderness and urgency brought to poetry’s reparative labor, Ask the Brindled shows survivance as a gorgeous unfolding of story and polemic, audacity and song.”
“Ask the Brindled is an astonishing addition to the canon (or canoe) of Pacific Islander literature. No‘u Revilla embodies the many definitions of a queer, Indigenous shapeshifter. In this collection, she transforms the origins of hurt into seeds of healing through verse, prose, erasure, visual typography, and even a Hawaiian alphabet abecedarian. Cling tightly to these poems because they will crawl under your skin like sly lizards and ask you to shed fear and swallow abundance.”
“As you devour Noʻu Revilla’s poems in Ask the Brindled for their stories and secrets, for their deftness and innovation of language and form, you will, in turn, be devoured by their shape-shifting, regenerative beauty and power. Like Hāʻōʻū, Maui and the great moʻo deities from whom she descends, Revilla reveals herself as warrior, protector, witness, survivor, lover, mana wahine, healer, and teacher. With the fire of transformation, the fluid memory of water, and the shimmer of light on scales, this collection is nothing short of Indigenous queer feminist decolonial revelation and revolution. This is not poetry for the heart; this poetry is only for the gut. Prepare to be swallowed whole in body and emerge with new, raw skin. Here is ʻŌiwi poetry at its finest and fiercest.”
“In Ask the Brindled, No’u Revilla revives a lineage nearly severed at the hands of occupation and empire. These protection songs and incantations of remembrance and resistance are forged by saltwater and mettle of queer, indigenous alchemy. Both in armor and in tender flesh, I feel seen in Revilla’s world. Here, queer-femme-rage is medicine. To know the languages and aesthetics of the archipelagoes is to understand the vital arteries of earth: ‘No matter who you are, who you / pretend to be on dry land, / when we get you, it is wet and honest.’ Revilla wields narratives of sacrifice, regeneration, matriarchy, and femme identified myth with ferocity that resuscitates ancestral voices back to the sensual, back to blood.”