National Poetry Month: UH Hilo students celebrate with readings and workshops

Open mic and workshop events this month encourage students to write and perform their own poetic work: slam poetry, blackout poetry, mele, and more.

Two students pose for photo throwing shakas. At right is a white board.
UH Hilo anthropology major Isabella Thoulouis (left) and marine science major Alyssa Mendoza attend the “Your Journey” poetry event held April 16 at the Kilohana Academic Support Center. At right is a white board where students could add lines to collaborative poetry. (Photo: Emily Thornton/UH Hilo Stories)

By Emily Thornton.

April is National Poetry Month and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is holding events that celebrate poetry.

The April 16 event, held at Kilohana Academic Success Center in Mookini Library, was called “Your Journey,” with students performing their spoken word, slam poetry, mele, and more. There was also a poetry workshop.

The event was supported by the School of Education, the Center for Global Education and Exchange, and Mookini Library.

“Students and campus community members are encouraged to come down to Kilohana, bottom floor of the Edwin Mookini Library, and contribute a haiku, add lines to our “My journey…” collaborative poem, or pick up an article and try a hand at Blackout Poetry,” says Karla Hayashi, director of Kilohana, in an open email invitation to the UH Hilo community.

Karla Hayashi next to sign for Kilohana Academic Success Center.
Karla Hayashi is director of the Kilohana Academic Success Center in Mookini Library. (Photo: Emily Thornton/UH Hilo Stories)

When students arrived at Tuesday’s event there was a “Your Journey” board where students could add a line that started with “My journey…” There was another board where attendees could write a haiku.

Kilohana also had blackout poetry displayed from their previous event, “Blackout Poetry Workshop,” held on April 9. Blackout poetry, also called redacted poetry or erasure poetry, is poetry where the writer selectively conceals words in a pre-existing text. At that event there were a number of articles in various languages for participants to choose from and try their hand at this fun way to compose poetry. The poems written at the workshop are displayed at Kilohana for the rest of National Poetry Month.

Along with Hayashi, the team putting the poetry events together is Corin Kim, an academic support specialist and the STEM coordinator at Kilohana; Clint Anderson, an assistant professor at the School of Education; Carolina Lam, director of Global Education; and Donna Ohora, interim director of Mookini Library.

“What we want is for students to enjoy themselves,” says Hayashi. “We don’t want people to be intimidated by poetry. Anybody can write poetry.”

Karla, Corin and Clint stand for photo, library shelves in background.
From left, Karla Hayashi, Corin Kim, and Clint Anderson, organizers of the “Your Journey” poetry event held April 16 at the Kilohana Academic Success Center at Mookini Library. (Photo: Emily Thornton/UH Hilo Stories)

Poetry readings

During the “Your Journey” event on Tuesday, freshman Isabella Thoulouis, an anthropology major from Minnesota, performed several poems. Two were originally written, titled, “Dance of Life” and “The Beauty of a Melody.” She also read “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson and “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou. Thoulouis is working as a photographer at Ke Kalahea, the student-run news publication at UH Hilo.

Hayashi performed her blackout poetry from the April 9 “Blackout Poetry Workshop” event, titled, “Art Connection.”

Isabella, in a red tee, sits at a table, library shelves of books in background.
Isabella Thoulouis at the April 16 “Your Journey” event at Kilohana Academic Success Center. (Photo: Emily Thornton/UH Hilo Stories)


After Thoulouis and Hayashi performed, Assistant Professor Anderson led a poetry workshop. He encouraged everyone to participate, which made the atmosphere feel fun and creative.

Anderson started by giving a prompt that evoked memory and emotion: “I remember…” He gave everyone time to write down as many lines as they could and when the time was up Anderson had them underline two “Golden Lines” which are lines that stood out to the writer. Anderson then repeated this one more time with the prompt, “I’ve always wanted…”

After everyone was done writing Anderson encouraged each person in the group to read the poetry they had just written. He then ended with a bit of spoken word.


Logo for Kilohana the Academic Success Center.This was Kilohana’s first time sponsoring a poetry event and they plan to put on more events like this next April for National Poetry Month.

Kilohana Academic Success Center offers in-person and online tutoring in various subjects. They also offer the Kilohana space as a place where students can study on their own. Kilohana is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

At the end of National Poetry Month this April, all contributions will be transcribed and shared with the campus.

Story by Emily Thornton, an English major at UH Hilo.

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