Joe Balaz was born and raised in Hawaii and is of Hawaiian, Slovakian, and Irish heritage. He writes in both American English and Pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English) and often composes concrete poetry with elements of visual art. His album of pidgin poetry, Electric Laulau (1998), is considered a foundational text in Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) literature. Of the importance of oral traditions to his work, Balaz has said, “Spoken word and amplified poetry or music poetry are dynamic avenues that enhance the communal aspect of literature in general. It’s like a chant that reaches out to you. With the oral traditions of Pacific Island cultures, one can feel a kind of continuum with these modern art forms that harken back to an older vibe.”

Balaz’s work appears in Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (2003) and journals such as Bamboo Ridge. He edited Ho‘oma¯noa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature (1989) and is the former editor of O‘ahu Review. Balaz currently lives in Ohio.

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