HONOLULU ‹ Governor Neil Abercrombie on Thursday proclaimed award-winning slam poet Steven Kealohapau‘ole Hong-Ming Wong, better known by his pen name, “Kealoha” as Hawai‘i Poet Laureate.
Moments after being named the state’s official poet, Kealoha was asked by Governor Abercrombie to complete his first ceremonial duty under the new title by performing at the dedication of the Hawai‘i State Art Museum’s Sculpture Garden. Titled “Garden”, the spoken word performance complemented the occasion in both name and genre, as Kealoha has often chosen HiSAM as a venue.
“Kealoha is an inspiration to the people of Hawai‘i and is a leading force in promoting literacy and creative expression,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie. “As Hawai‘i Poet Laureate, Kealoha will highlight poetry in all its forms as enriching to our lives and giving voice to our history and way of life in the Aloha State.”
By accepting the ceremonial title, Kealoha becomes the state’s first official poet laureate, with the mission to promote the writing, reading, performance and appreciation of poetry among the people of Hawai‘i. Kealoha, at the Governor’s request, will occasionally perform as Hawai‘i Poet.
Laureate at official state events, and represent the state 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. He has performed four times on the finals stage of the annual National Poetry Slam, was ranked in the top 10 of the nation’s best poets in 2007, and was honored as a National Slam Legend in 2010.
He was also selected as a master artist for a National Endowment for the Arts program and gained national recognition at the National Storytelling Network Conference, the Bay Area Storytelling Festival, and the Honolulu Storytelling Festival.
In addition, Kealoha was the first poet to perform at a Hawai‘i governor’s inauguration on Dec. 6, 2010, when Governor Abercrombie and Lt. Governor Brian Schatz were sworn into office.
Kealoha is the founder of HawaiiSlam, two-time international champions Youth Speaks Hawai‘i, and First Thursdays, the largest registered slam poetry competition in the world with an average attendance of more than 500.
Kealoha graduated with honors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in Nuclear Physics and a minor in writing, and has also received praise while venturing into the theatrical genre as a director, playwright and actor.