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Poetry in Protest

It has been ironic and inspiring—but certainly not surprising—that some of the most vocal opposition, both social and legal, to the controversies of the last few months have come out of Hawaii. Hawaiian poets have been speaking out against colonialism, government oppression, and the hidden and not-so-hidden perils of capitalism since their first contact with Europeans.

There are countless fantastic Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander poets and poems (many of which can be found in the excellent anthologies Whetu Moana and Mauri Ola). One that I’ve been drawn to recently is Kirby M. Wright’s “Aloha, Lili’uokalani,” a sobering lament for a bygone time and disappearing culture.

Aloha, Lili’uokalani
by Kirby M. Wright

Queen Lili’uokalani, where is our aina?
My memories are a mixture of slack key,
Plumeria, and Kona wind in the trees.
I measure the trades with a desperate tongue.
Kapiolani is a park. Kaiulani is a hotel.

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