Kai is a kānaka ʻōiwi māhū poet and teacher from Hōnaunau. Kai earned his PhD at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2021 and is the author of the forthcoming poetic memoir, Ulu, being released on October 8th by Ho‘olana Publishing. Kai’s work has been previously published in Mauri Ola Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English / Whetu Moana II, Tinfish, Yellow Medicine Review, Hawai‘i Review and elsewhere. Hawai‘i Poet Laureate, Brandy Nālani McDougall, wrote about Kai’s poetry in her groundbreaking work Finding Meaning: Kaona and Contemporary Hawaiian Literature. McDougall has written a special introduction to Ulu. Below is an excerpt from that introduction:
“A deft imagist, Gaspar immerses you in the raw surreality of an ʻāina that is once ancestral and familiar, where the supernatural is natural and darkness provides safety, creating spaces for one to hide oneself or bury secrets. Ulu will lead you through a Hōnaunau that is both of and beyond the human, where sacrifices, large and small, consecrate the ulu, the spreading growth and abundance, of the ʻāina and moana, where refuge is found and lost and grown under (and depending on) the phases of the moon.”
Kai will be reading from Ulu at Kapi’olani Community College Lama Library Alcove on Wednesday, October 11th from 1:45PM-3PM. Special guests Donovan Kūhiō Colleps and Christy Passion will also read.
Advance Praise for Ulu:
"The poems in this rich and moving collection could only have been written by Kai, but they are also about us. We see ourselves quite multisided. The poems are Kai and us. He turns everyday life into poems that are funny and deep. The imagery is superb and vivid, descriptions of scenery and movement quite original. The collection is also very Hawaiian—Kai’s style of Hawaiian, said his way. He has created his own Hawaiian language in this collection. A magnificent addition to the body of poetry written by Kai’s people."
—Albert Wendt, author of Leaves of the Banyan Tree, Black Rainbow, The Book of the Black Star, The Mango’s Kiss, The Adventures of Vela, and From Mānoa to a Ponsonby Garden
"A kaleidoscopic collection linked by a coming-of-age poetic novella set in a small town rife with gut-punching stories of sex, drug addiction, and domestic violence. At the center is the crotch-cruising, nocturnal mattress-pissing young man who pines for “lips flushed pink like a marshland bloom.” Lyrical, brazen—a stunning debut."
—R. Zamora Linmark, author of Rolling the R’s, The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart, and Pop Verite
"Weave a lei and wear it before reading Ulu, Kai Gaspar’s pungently sensual first collection of poetry and prose. When I’m deep in this enchanting ulu of haunting narratives—broken family, queer exploration and aching love of land and culture—I’m ‘ono for ‘ulu baked in the imu, ‘ulu prepared with coconut milk that satisfies Pacific Islander hunger. Gaspar’s raw yet lyrical language channels that of Haunani-Kay Trask, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, R. Zamora Linmark and Sia Figiel. A must-read, long-awaited contribution to Pacific Literature!"
—Emelihter Kihleng, author of My Urohs and co-editor of Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia
"In this intoxicating collection, Gaspar blends Hawaiian and English into potions, remedies, talismans, and incantations that conjure restless spirits, haunting memories, and defiant desires. Line after line, Ulu blossoms and ripens, wounds and heals."
—John Zuern, Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and co-editor of Biography