Governor Neil Abercrombie on Thursday announced the state’s first official Poet Laureate, the award-winning slam poet, Steven Kealohapau’ole Hong-Ming Wong, who is commonly known by the name Kealoha.
Kealoha was pressed into service in the ceremonial position immediately, when he performed the dedication of the Hawai’I State Art Museum’s Sculpture Garden.
Kealoha explained in a March, 2011 interview that “slam poetry” is basically performance poetry…following in the tradition of storytelling, sitting around the campfire telling stories, that kind of thing. The term “slam” is similar to a grand “slam” in tennis, the big competitions.
Kealoha will occasionally perform as Hawai’i Poet Laureate at official state events and represent the Hawai’i at similar ceremonial events held nationally and internationally. Kealoha is an internationally acclaimed poet and storyteller who has performed throughout the world from the White House to ‘Iolani Palace and including hundreds of live venues.
Kealoha was the first poet to perform at a Hawai’i governor?s inauguration on December 6, 2010.
Kealoha has a Hawaii Island connection, in that he has worked with the students at Waimea Middle School under a grant from the State Foundation of Culture and the Arts. Kealoha helped the students learn to express themselves both in writing and orally, in the classroom and then in performance venues. Kealoha said his goal is to help students at Waimea Middle School and other schools with which he’s worked with their language, performance, and thinking skills.
He said that right away he works on helping them create a poem, before they get any sense that they cannot do it, or that poetry is somehow “uncool.” He uses a combination of performance, games, then writing, analysis, and working on the students’ performance skills. Waimea Middle School then Principal John Colson said he felt the work was helping the students develop their life skills, as well.