Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate

Brandy Nālani McDougall Selected New Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate

January 1, 2023, Brandy Nālani McDougall has been selected as the next Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate (HSPL) as part of the new collaborative initiative between Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities, State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System. She will be the second Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate, succeeding Kealoha (2012-2022).

She will be the Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate from 2023-2025.  Her inaugural event was on Friday, January 13, 2022, at the Hawaiʻi State Art Museum as part of the monthly jazz night, The Vibe.

As part of her term as Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate, McDougall wants to highlight the ways poetry can heal and bring connection. “Poetry really gave me a place and a way to heal, and right now, as we’re all emerging from a space where we’ve been literally isolated for two years—where we weren’t able to meet as much with other people and have genuine human to human connections, or even human to ‘āina connections, so there’s a real need for that healing in this space and time. I think poetry can be that space for a lot of people. As the Hawaiʻi Poet Laureate, I’d like to be able to share that.”

Born and raised on Maui in the ahupuaʻa of Aʻapueo in Kula, McDougall is the author of the poetry collection, The Salt-Wind, Ka Makani Paʻakai (2008). She is also a teacher and mother. Her second poetry collection, ʻĀina Hānau, Birth Land, is inspired by her daughters and is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press in Summer 2023.


Brandy Nālani McDougall performing for The Merwin Conservancy Green Room with Ada Limón at Washington Place, December 13, 2022 | photo by Douglas Carroll
Original sunrise photo by David Zawila

Click the read more link below to learn more about Brandy, her approach to poetry, and to her position as Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate.


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For enquiries regarding the Hawaiʻi State Poet Laureate Program contact Lyz Soto, director of literary and conversation programs at lsoto@hihumanities.org.

Poetry is one of those generous spaces that can give us a better understanding of ourselves. Reading it, writing it can help us connect our intellects and our hearts—revealing another way to see an experience, a belief, a world.

A poem can move us from the simple to the profound, carrying our most deeply held ideas and beliefs made manifest into art—into beauty.

So we invite you to this space for poetry, for surprising ideas, for the phrase that resonates in your bones, for the story that helps you re-see the world. Click on the images below to open a poem, a new world, an unexpected friend, a breath.

The opening of another year summons us to reflect, to imagine, to dream. This moment, or moments, is beautifully captured in “To the New Year” by W. S. Merwin, which you can read by clicking on the image below.

Original photo by Hasan Almasi, Edit by Lyz Soto

In Maʻalaea Harbor, Father’s Day, Brandy Nālani McDougall offers us a glimpse into the ways one family grapples with grief and cherishes the memory of a loved one. You can find out more about this poem in an interview with Brandy HERE. To read the poem click on the image below.

Original photo by Rosa Say, Edit by Lyz Soto


In this excerpt from  ʻĀina Hānau, inspired by the Kumulipo, Brandy Nālani McDougall gifts us with a vision of birth and creation. Click on the image below to read the full excerpt.

Original photo by Ryan Parker

In 2021, we did a poetry workshops series facilitated by twelve Hawaiʻi-based poets, as part of the Why It Matters initiative. It was a privilege to watch the ways each workshop expanded into a shared experience between all who took part. Click on the image below to read the lesson plans, which are great for anyone wanting to teach their own workshop, but also great for those of us who need a helping hand to get that next poem started.









Banner Image: Original photo by Matthew Dillon, excerpt from “Haleakalā on Google Maps (Satellite View)” by Brandy Nālani McDougall