Friday, May 22, 2015

"The Last War Poem" at 40 & Forward

As mentioned earlier, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend, "The Last War Poem" is now up at the 40 & Forward: Southeast Asian Americans Rooted & Rising blog organized by the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center in Washington DC. This is an ongoing effort to look at the various ways we have responded to our journey during the Southeast Asian diaspora that begin for many in 1975.

"The Last War Poem" was featured in 2014 at the Southeast Asian Globe and was also recently performed live by the acclaimed Catzie Vilayphonh in Philadelphia in a stirring performance at the Asian Arts Initiative.

This poem is dedicated to those who served, those who fell, those who remain, and those whose duty it is to remember.

Monday, May 18, 2015

"40 Years. Countless Tears" by Mary Keovisai

Over at the 40 & Forward blog by SEARAC, this week they're highlight the art by Mary Keovisai who is a Lao American artist currently living in California and is engaged in social justice issues. This one is a meditation on the journey of the kingdom of Laos and the US secret bombing campaign that would eventually leave over 30% of Laos contaminated with unexploded cluster munitions by the end of the war.

Mary Keovisai is the author of the 2012 text, Killing Me Softly: Remembering and Reproducing Violence in Southeast Asian Refugees, which was described as a thesis that examined "the ways in which Southeast Asian refugee narratives have been produced and replicated through institutions for the purpose of supporting legitimizing and justifying U.S. imperialism and war violence. It interrogates the limitations of institutionalized modes of memorialization and seeks to offer new forms of remembering and circumventing narratives of remembering. Furthermore, it seeks to connect different forms of state violence together to yield a greater analysis and understanding of the ways in which violence affects the lives of Southeast Asian refugees through an analysis of cultural productions and narrative practices. This project serves to highlight what is forgotten when refugees and domestic violence survivors remember and the connectedness and intricacy of various forms of U.S. imperialism and state violence." I think there were definitely some interesting ideas to consider within this, even as I continue to challenge the privilege we currently give to academia to validate our mechanisms of response to the roots and consequences of our diaspora.

In the conclusion of her thesis, she asks: "Who gets to “break the silence” and under what conditions? How can we capture the story of silence? That is, I sought to question how to “break the silence” without forgetting it. " As a poet, silence is becoming an increasingly interesting question for me, as I recently addressed in my poem "A Preface To Lao Silences". She takes note of the work of Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan and many others who are also probing these questions. I don't know if all of you will agree with her conclusions, but I think they're worth taking into consideration. Her art that she shares with us and SEARAC is an important part of this continuing dialogue.

Today over 700,000 Laotians live as refugees around the world rebuilding their lives. Be sure to check out the entry at 40 & Forward this week, as well as other pieces that have been submitted since it began. Perhaps more importantly, consider adding your voice to this ongoing reflection.

MACHINE DREAMS: A Symposium of Robots, Arts, and Difference, June 11th and 12th!

I'll be presenting at MACHINE DREAMS: A Symposium of Robots, Arts, and Difference at the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library. The main symposium is June 12th, while the reading, which I'm a part of, is on June 11th. I can guarantee you at least two, maybe even three poems on the emerging field of Laobotics.

The keynote speaker is Minsoo Kang, who is an associate professor of European history at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He earned his Ph.D. in history at UCLA and is the author of Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination (Harvard University Press, 2011), and co-editor of Visions of the Industrial Age, 1830-1914: Modernity and the Anxiety of Representation in Europe (Ashgate, 2008). He is also a fiction writer who has published a collection of his short stories, Of Tales and Enigmas (Prime, 2007). He has translated works of Korean literature, including the classic novel The Story of Hong Gildong which will be published as a Penguin Classic in 2016. He is currently working on a book on the history of automata from the perspective of gender theory.

The other poets and writers I'll be performing with include Neil Aitken,  Kenji Liu,  Kima Jones,  Takeo Rivera,  Margaret Rhee,  Miyoko Conely,  Chiwan Choi, Mark Marino,  Jilly Dreadful, Isaac Shankler. Saba Ravzi, and Pablo Lopez. I look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sahtu Press Coming To Fresno, Saturday, May 30th

On Saturday, May 30th, thanks to a wonderful invitation by the Lao American Community of Fresno, Sahtu Press authors will be presenting at the Fresno County Woodward Park Regional Library, 944 E Perrin Ave, Fresno, California from 3:00 to 4:00 with a book-signing briefly afterwards.

The event is free and we'll be providing refreshments and beverages for guests.

This is the first time the three award-winning Lao American authors have appeared in California together.

Audience members will join authors Nor Sanavongsay, Krysada Binly Panusith Phounsiri and Bryan Thao Worra as they read from their latest books and discuss other exciting issues in Lao American literature coming up, particularly after the National Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit in Minneapolis this April.

Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, better known as "Binly" is a Lao-American artist and engineer. He was born in Laos in 1988 and came to America with his family in 1989. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 2010 with a Physics and Astrophysics Double Major and a Minor in Poetry. His debut collection is “Dance Among Elephants,” published by Sahtu Press. His work has been featured in the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and the Smithsonian’s “A Day In The Life Of Asian America” digital exhibit. He’s also an accomplished dancer and photographer, traveling to various regions of the world to compete in competitions and teach workshops.

Nor Sanavongsay is an award-winning Lao American writer in the San Francisco Bay area and the founder of Sahtu Press. He has been a member of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project, the National Lao American Writers Summit, the Lao Artists Festival of Elgin, among many others. He is the author of children's books inspired by Lao folktales, such as Xieng Mieng: A Sticky Mess. Some of his handiwork can be seen from companies like Encyclopaedia Britannica, Sears, Zoosk, and others.

Bryan Thao Worra is an award-winning Lao-American writer. He holds over 20 awards including a Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the author of 6 books with writing appearing in over 100 international publications. He is the first Lao American professional member of the international Horror Writer Association and is an officer of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Bryan Thao Worra’s work is on display at the Smithsonian’s national traveling exhibit, “I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story.” He represented the nation of Laos in 2012 as a Cultural Olympian during the London Summer Games. His 2013 book, DEMONSTRA, was selected as Book of the Year by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

The reading is also a historic occasion because this month is Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month and the 40th anniversary since the end of the war in 1975 and the beginning of the Lao Diaspora.

The Laotian-American Community of Fresno was founded in 2000 by concerned Laotian community members as a source of mentorship, guidance, and support for community members and their families as new lives were being established in the United States. They are the only Lao-run nonprofit in the Fresno area, and their mission is to promote and preserve Lao cultural heritage and traditions through traditional Lao dance classes and Lao literacy classes, and also to empower and encourage Lao youth to pursue college educations.