Friday, January 23, 2009

My NEA Poems

The poems that were part of my NEA Fellowship in Literature Application this year were a number of well-known pieces of mine, as well as some lesser known examples of my writing:

Burning Eden One Branch At A Time appears in my first book, On the Other Side of the Eye and elsewhere, and it was the opening poem in my sample set. For me, this is one that's always raised a particular number of controversies as a visual poem and as an Asian American poem among many other reasons. 

Illumination of Toxins is a bilingual poem that's also been one discussed in some circles but not widely published in its current form, although it has circulated informally among many of my readers and students.

Japonisme, Laoisme was included. This version is significantly different from the one originally featured in the Asian Pacific American Journal several years ago but could be considered in many ways one of my key ars poetica poems next to Anthology.

The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: Part I was one I included that debuted in my chapbook, The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: My Dinner with Cluster Bombs. It was another selection that was easy to rationalize for consideration. In fact, several poems from this collection were included for my NEA application. The others were Our Dinner With Cluster Bombs and Khop Jai For Nothing, Farangs.  Moon Crossing Bone and E Pluribus Unum closed out my sample, and these have been widely available in several texts of mine.

In all, I used 8 poems to meet my portfolio requirements and I'm honored the judges for this year saw the quality of my writing and awarded me a Fellowship in Literature for this. I'll post the full work sample set up later this season.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Karen Lyu: Jan. 25th at Cafe Coco

Karen Lyu is singing with Anthony Belfiglio and the Jazz Jam band
Sun, Jan 25th 4:30pm-7:30pm

Cafe Coco
210 Louise, Nashville, TN 37203
(2 blocks N of West End Ave, 2 blocks E of Centennial Park)
(615) 321-2626

Karen HeaChung Lyu loves to singsoulful, soaring and swinging songs. She's performed with musicians like Soli Hughes (Sounds of Blackness), Devon Evans (Bob Marley), and Mankwe Ndosi (Atmosphere). Cafe Coco Jazz Jam guest host, Anthony Belfiglio, is a jazz pianist and Belmont University professor who has performed with acclaimed artists such as Branford MarsalisDelfeayo Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Dave Douglas, Kenny Garrett, Kevin Mahogany, Steve Turre, and Eddie Gomez.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reading in Tennessee!

Thanks to the wonderful Laotian American community organizers of Laotian American Outreach (L.A.O.), Middle Tennessee State University and the generosity of the Peck Fund, I'll be reading for the first time ever in Tennessee:

February 3rd from 7 to 8PM
MTSU-State Farm Room, BAS Building
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN

The title of this reading is:
A Heart At Home In Many Places: Laotian American Experiences

I'll be sharing work from many of my books including Winter InkOn The Other Side of the EyeTouching DetonationsThe Tuk-Tuk Diaries: My Dinner with Cluster BombsBarrow and many other special projects from over 17 years of my writing. 

It's a free reading, and I look forward to seeing you there! 

Article in The Bridge!

A nice article discussing Winter Ink was featured in the Bridge.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Influences: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Papa Won't Leave You, Henry

Around the same time that I was starting to discover the work of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, I also came upon Henry's Dream, by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and it was one of the collections that changed my life. "Papa Won't Leave You, Henry" was a particularly pivotal song where I had to listen to it again and again, learning from its dark stylings, tempo, and lyrical technique to evoke a phantasmagorical landscape that was everywhere and nowhere at once. We had a story and a world in just under 6 minutes. It does things so few songs or stories can do today. Many of the other songs in this album achieved the same effect, and I was hooked for life.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

On the Web and In the News

This year is starting off well with an article in AsianWeek and Asian Pages which both feature recent interviews with me. Check them out if you get a chance!

L.A.O.S.,  an acronym for Lao Association of Students.  This site is specifically geared toward the Lao student, young and old who believes in using education as a stepping stone to a better future. It's just started but has a promising goal and will hopefully be regularly updated over the years ahead. I believe it can be part of an important oral history project of documenting our progress and perspective as a community in pursuing college goals.

The Celadon Review promises to be a forum in which to discuss and examine the issues and experiences of contemporary Asian American communities in this country and abroad. Through the publication of poetry, stories, visual art, and academic essays, they hope to further advance Asian American concerns to the forefront of the American consciousness.

On the other hand, we've lost a number of publications recently including East West Magazine and AsianWeek, although AsianWeek still intends to publish articles online and special editions. Asian American Press has largely been an online-only paper for several months now, but we're hoping to see a change in the coming months ahead. 

Friday, January 02, 2009

2009 Journeys: Up Ahead

Much of my year is already booked, but I'm excited about it!

In 2009, among the places I'll be:
Middle Tennessee State University in February.
Marscon in March.
APALA in July.
Dragon Festival in July.
Think Galacticon in Summer.
Diversicon in August.
Legacies of War from August-September.
Arcana in October.

January, travels to North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas.
February travels to Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
April travels to Illinois and California.

Dates are still being confirmed for travel to:
  • Virginia/Washington DC 
  • New York
  • Arizona
  • Oregon
  • Colorado
But I'll keep you informed as soon as we know the details. Thank you for all of your support!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Karen HeaChung Lyu at Cafe Coco: Jan. 4th!

Karen HeaChung Lyu singing at Cafe Coco Open Jazz Jam
Sun, Jan 4th
Cafe Coco
210 Louise, Nashville, TN
My good friend Karen Lyu is a great jazz singer who lived many years up in MN and is currently down in TN. You might really enjoy her work. She's got a performance on Sunday at the Cafe Coco.

Her keyboard player Anthony Belfiglio (who has played with jazz greats including 3 of the Marsalis brothers) will be showing up around 6:30pm, so she will definitely be singing for sure when he gets there, and probably a song or two beforehand.

The host of the jazz jam, sax player Ben Graves, will be back from a national tour with the Grammy-award-winning Raul Malo, and her main bass player Daniel Hyberger will be the house bassist, so there will be great music!

More info:

SASC Summit: SEA Changes 1/9/09 to 1/11/09

The Southeast Asian Student Coalition (SASC) at the University of California, Berkeley. SASC is working collaboratively with UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, CSU Fresno, University of the Pacific, Stanford and UVSA to plan a Southeast Asian Intercollegiate Summit that would work towards the SASC mission statement:

"To unite Southeast Asian communities, particularly those bounded by the historical context of the Viet Nam War, and to address the social injustices, the economic inequalities, and political under representation that they face."

They would like to invite you, your organization, and your community to the Southeast Asian Intercollegiate Summit, "SEA Changes: Continuing the Dialogue, Igniting Action" on Friday, January 9th to Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at the UC Berkley Campus.

WHAT: A nation-wide gathering of college students and young professionals who are community leaders and activists organizing on behalf of advancing Southeast Asian communities in the United States.

WHO: College students and young professionals that will represent: various regions of the United States, various levels of educational institutions, and various Southeast Asian ethnic communities

Please register at:

For more information, questions, or opportunities to help/contribute, please email:

Never Said Release A Success!

It was one of the most important readings of 2008, and Twin Cities literary and artistic luminaries came in an outstanding show of support for Katie Ka Vang on Sunday, December 21st at the Blackdog Wine and Coffee Bar at 308 Prince Street. 

Among figures seen and spotted were the acclaimed Bao Phi, Ibe Kaba, Kathy Mouacheupao of the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, actor and writer Wa Yang and Meena Natarajan and Dipankar Mukherejee of Pangea World Theater. 

(I can also say I have the honor of having bought the first chapbook she signed that night.) 

It was a crisp winter evening at -12 degrees but people still came to see her. Her opening acts were May Lee Yang, Victoria Vang and The Dirty Darlings.

Sonic Rain, a local Hmong spoken word artist kept things entertaining as the MC for the evening, with clear enthusiasm for all of the performers who came on stage.

May Lee Yang, a frequent collaborator with Katie Ka Vang on artistic projects and performances opened the evening with a poem by special request of Katie, "I Hate Bras."  

Victoria Vang and The Dirty Darlings each provided a talented musical element to the evening, ably demonstrating the growing versatility and innovation of young Hmong artists. 

But naturally, the highlight of the show was Katie Ka Vang, whose performance demonstrated why she was selected by the Minnesota State Arts Board to undertake such a project. While her new chapbook Never Said does not include her classic Hardcore Volleyball People, her opening poem for the evening, it was still a great performance she opened with.

She debuted several new pieces and also several well-known poems of hers: This One, Poem: To: That Old Lady, Sole Jerk, Uncle's Visit, This Poem and the title poem, Never Said.

Relatives sold traditional Hmong egg rolls while the Black Dog served its famous coffees and deserts. Katie Ka Vang was later available to meet the audience and sign chapbooks. It was an event to remember- It's not every day that a Hmong artist releases their first book of poems, and it was a delight to see Katie Ka Vang take another key step in her artistic career.