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HPU hosts award-winning poet Brandy McDougal
by Yonie K. Espitiru, associate editor

Every year, HPU awards a poet the prestigous James M. Vaughan award. On Sept. 6, in the Penthouse Auditorium of the Library building, HPU hosted its 2001-2002 recipient— Brandy Nalani McDougall.

Attendees of the presentation were able to hear from the poet, in her own voice, the award-winning poem “Waiting for Sunrise at Haleakala.” McDougall also shared her most recent poems with the audience as well as some of her earliest works.

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Her main inspirations are her friends and family and the Hawaiian culture. “I hope my work can contribute to Hawaiian literature,” said McDougall. “Sometimes Hawaiians feel uncomfortable saying things in English—I hope I can change that.”

A ’94 graduate of Kamehameha schools, McDougall was originally from upcountry Maui but spent most of her school days on O‘ahu. According to one of her darker poems— “When we Lived with Ghost”— she lived in a Kapiolani boarding home that was haunted.

McDougall attributes her development as a writer to the time she spent in the mainland at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. McDougall shared a poem about how her family made it a point to ship her poi. Many of her poems touch issues faced by locals. One provocative poem spoke about early times when her father, who died when she was only in seventh grade. He was at one time an alcoholic, and he tried to go back to school. The poem depicted a man who had years of experience in the ways life but too little experience in the classroom to make up for lost time.

McDougall most recent poem speaks of a woman (herself) who has a love affair with the rain in Hana, Maui, entitled “Tutu’s Speaking of Rain.” This poem showed how McDougall evolved from a naive seventh grader to a mature woman.

“I judge about a 1,000 poems a year,” said Patrice Wilson, HPU writing instructor and one of the James M. Vaughan judges. “When I read McDougall’s poem—the other ones just didn’t seem to measure up.”

McDougall is now studying in New Zealand in hopes to understand the indigenous Polynesian life of the Maori culture. She would like, someday, to use her studies to create the framework for a Polynesian creative writing class.

“In Hawai‘i people identify with their ancestral culture,” said McDougall. “In New Zealand Moari is both ancestral and indeginous.” They don’t have to make an effort to identify who they are— they just are.

The James M. Vaughan award is named after an HPU alumnus who established a fund to enhance the literature and poetry programs at HPU.



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