Laurel Nakanishi was born and raised in Alewa, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Her family is Japanese-American and White-American from Montana. Laurel is the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship to Nicaragua. She is the author of the award-winning chapbook, Manoa|Makai, and her poetry and essays have appeared in national magazines, such as: Orion, Gulf Coast, Fourth Genre, Black Warrior Review, Bayou, and the Montana Natural History Magazine, among others. She has received grants from the Japan-US Friendship Commission/National Endowment for the Arts, Wells Fargo, the US embassy in Nicaragua, the Carreno Memorial Fund, O, Miami poetry festival, and the Greta Wrolstad Foundation.
Laurel has taught poetry writing to children in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Montana, and Miami. In 2012, she founded a community arts organization in Nicaragua, NicaArts, which she continues to direct. In 2015, she founded O, Miami’s Sunroom community poetry program, where she now serves as program coordinator.
Laurel has presented her writing at the International Poetry Festival in Granada, Barry University, Montana Festival of the Book, Reading Queer Miami, and the University of British Columbia.
Laurel received her B.A. at Lewis & Clark College, M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Montana, and her M.F.A in creative non-fiction from Florida International University.