Joe Balaz

Link to home pageLink to current issueLink to back issuesLink to information about the magazineLink to submission guidelinesSend email to

Writing in Pidgin (HIP), he honors the beauty, strength, and complexity of Hawaiʻi and the voices of its peoples. Balaz's philosophical lyricism tightly weaves history and humor, aloha ʻāina and protest, the spiritual and the everyday. Together, these poems envision a world in which-like Pidgin-"everyting deserves to fly."Joe Balaz, born and raised in Wahiawa on the island of Oʻahu, is of Hawaiian, Slovakian, and Irish ancestry. He is the author of multiple books of poetry in Standard English and Pidgin (Hawaiʻi Creole English), as well as the editor of Hoʻomānoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature. His writing, visual poetry, and artwork have been published in national and international journals and anthologies. Throughout his career, he has passionately advocated for Hawaiian and Pidgin literature.

Treasured Gift

My faddah

wuz wun sergeant
in da U.S Army.

He latah became
wun shipyard workah

and wun eventual
shop foreman.

He wuz wun hard, tough,
and determined man,

an immigrant,

dat wuz raised and forged
in The Depression.

I write poetry

such wun seemingly
different ting

in relation
to my faddah’s life

but den again
General George Patton

who wuz wun
pretty rough guy too

wuz wun poet as well.

Throughout my time
living in Hawai’i

wen I shared
my poems wit my faddah

he would read
wat I had written

but he would nevah
really comment

wit any deep assessment.

He wuz
dat kind of person


and somewat inward
in certain ways.

Aftah my maddah died

I would visit him
moa frequently

wen he wuz oldah
and he lived by himself.


he would share tings
dat I nevah heard before

and da revelations

came forth like abrupt
and spontaneous pearls

handed ovah to me.


He told me
as if out of nowheah

dat wen he wuz
in high school in Buffalo

he sent wun story
dat he had written

to da local newspaper deah

and it wuz impressive enough
to be featured and published.

It wuz so surprising to hear

aftah all
of our passed time togettah

some kine of literary insight

coming from da mind
of wun old man.

So all da while

through da years
dat I shared my poems wit him

my faddah wuz seeing
someting of his past self in me

but he nevah let on
while it wuz happening.

One day
wen I visited him again

aftah settling down
in da living room

he said
he had someting foa me.


He got up from his recliner,
went into his bedroom,

and came back
into da living room

holding someting large
in his two hands.

He passed it ovah to me
and said,

“I guess you’re a writer,
so I bought this for you.”

It wuz wun brand new
dark blue dictionary.

I had him jot down
in his own handwriting

on da white inside cover

wat I now realize
and turned out to be

wun personal confirmation—

To Puna from Dad.

Now as wun oldah man
living in da city of Cleveland

on da same great lake
as da city of Buffalo

da dark blue dictionary

is one
of my most treasured gifts.


Joe Balaz writes in HIP and in American English. He has also created works in visual poetry and music poetry.  He is the author of Pidgin Eye, a book of poetry.  Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian IslandsPidgin writing and art in the expanding context of World literature.  He presentlylives in Cleveland, Ohio.