Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Hallaoween! 5 Flavors at Little Laos on the Prairie

To celebrate the day, my Rhysling-nominated poem "5 Flavors" was selected by the editors at Little Laos on the Prairie, with art by Vongduane Manivong! It originally appeared in 2013 in the magazine Expanded Horizons.
The title refers to the five basic flavors in Lao cooking and the poem itself was inspired by a trip to my favorite Lao restaurant in Sacramento, the Sabaidee Thai Grille at 8055 Elk Grove Florin Road. A number of traditional spirits from Laos make their appearance in this poem.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A case for horror poetry

It's October, so that means it's the time most horror poetry is read for the year. Obviously, my fellow horror poets might wish we were read year round. You don't have to wait until October to read Toby Barlow's prose poem novel of lycanthropy, Sharp Teeth, for example. The month of May might be a good one for Sharp Teeth, since it's National Dog Bite Prevention Month, after all. 

I think it would be nice to read more of H.P. Lovecraft's poetry in August, since that's his birth month. Similarly, September is the great month to read the poetry of Stephen King. February is Women in Horror Month, so you might look at the poetry of Helen Marshall, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Jeanine Hall Gailey, Marge Simon or Roz Kaveney. There's more than plenty of reasons to read horror poetry year-round.

Overall, horror poetry often gets a short shrift in this modern age, shoved aside in favor of horror films, video games, short stories and novels, among other mediums. I think that's a pity considering that the roots of really distinctive American literature and the modern horror genre can be traced in large part to the work of Edgar Allan Poe. 

Where would the state of US poetry be today if we didn't have "The Raven"?  I think it's important that we not take for granted Poe's contribution towards creating a unique American cadence and grammatical aesthetic through his work. Certainly, he's not the first nor the terminus, but his role in popularizing interesting approaches American poetry and employing the macabre should not be denied.

I feel it's also important to remind poetry fans of other great writers from America who have written horror poetry so that we understand the form includes more than just Edgar Allan Poe. 

Take the creator of Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, for example. Robert E. Howard left behind a good many horror poems such as "Cimmeria." To be fair, some verged on doggerel, but he had many bright flashes as a poet, and did not shy away from dark and tragic subject matter.

James Weldon Johnson was an early African American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. He's perhaps best known for God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, but he also has horror poems such as "The White Witch."

Of course, H.P. Lovecraft has an impressive corpus of poetry, such as his cycle, "The Fungi from Yuggoth," which helped pave the way towards creations who would appear in his later prose such as the Mi-Go from "The Whisperer in Darkness." 

The poet Ogden Nash is mostly known for his light poetry, but he had horror poems in his body of work such as "The Wendigo." Some might say we shouldn't consider horror poetry anything with a comedic flair, but by that logic, a film such as the Evil Dead or the Nightmare on Elm Street series would also be disqualified from the genre.

One of my other favorite authors of Weird literature, Clark Ashton Smith was also a prolific poet. You can take a look at poems of his such as "In Thessaly" and see how he approached the dark and supernatural in verse.

Of course, a discussion of horror poetry should also note Stephen King's ventures into the form. His poem "The Dark Man," eventually led to the creation of the character Randall Flagg who plays a role in at least nine of King's novels including "The Stand" and other works.

This conversation could obviously span an entire book. But I hope this brief post inspires you to look at horror poetry again and challenge those who think we should let horror poetry wilt by the roadside.

Aqus Halloween Takeover!

A big thanks to everyone who came to see us at the Halloween Takeover Literary Speakeasy in Petaluma at the Aqus Cafe. It was an amazing night with some great talents.

My personal advice to my fellow Lao writers and artists is: Keep an eye out for them if they're ever in your area. You can learn a LOT from all of their work and their sense of showmanship, whether dealing with the classics or their own material. Absolutely inspired stuff!

The setting was particularly evocative with the art of Peter Perez from his series "Circles of Life and Circles of Death," with works such as "El Santo Muerto and the Last Book of Names" and "Los Enamorados Reunited."

My fellow performers included Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Spike Marlowe, Christopher Reynaga, Jennifer Quinlan, Ross E. Lockhart and Andrew Goldfarb/The Slow Poisoner. A very special thanks goes to Ransom Stephens for asking us to convene the Halloween Takeover!

As can be expected, we touched on the Lovecraftian and the weird, the bizarre and the unexpected.

Christopher Reynaga shared his riveting short story 'I Only Am Escaped Alone to Tell Thee' that goes toe-to-tentacle with the legend of Moby Dick and did a wondrous reading of "The Raven". Andrew Goldfarb/The Slow Poisoner is an electrifying live performer who handily answered the question, "Can you set the phrase "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" to music?"

The enigmatic Spike Marlowe took time off from her crime-fighting to surprise and astound us, while Constance Ann Fitzgerald presented a short tale of laundry, entrails and quick thinking.  Ross E. Lockhart took us to a support group before the rise of the Great Old Ones, and Jennifer Quinlan shared a haunting excerpt from Byron's "The Giaour".

As for me, I did a reading of several of my poems from DEMONSTRA, including "Idle Fears," "A Fragment of a Dream of Atlantean Yellows," "The Deep Ones," "The Robo Sutra," an excerpt from "The Dream Highway of Ms. Mannivongsa," and "The Terror in Teak."

A big thanks to everyone who helped spread the word, and hopefully it won't be too long before we're back in Petaluma! :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interviewed at Laos in the House in Philadelphia!

As we get ready to close out October, the Laos in the House project took time out to interview me about a variety of things including the National Endowment for the Arts, ancient Lao myths, adoption, and the importance of preserving our heritage. And Heinekens vs. BeerLao.

A big thanks to everyone there. I hope to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lao Diaspora with them in May, 2015 when their massive 5-year effort to bring Lao art, culture and heritage to Philadelphia comes together! Be sure to check them out at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

[Poem] Prelude to Laomerica

It's been a while since I shared a new poem. Here's a newer piece about the harder years.

Prelude to Laomerica

Buddha help you, if you're pretty in this camp.
What you have to trade must be given, or it will be beaten.
If you're ugly, no one gives a shit and you'll be left behind.
Sometimes, some will try to make you a beauty
To do the unspeakable, and call it a duty "for your family."

Buddha help you, if you're charming,
You'll have so many to take care of, who leave you when you can't.
If you have no friends, you'll be crawling bones for a burning ditch.

If you can only follow orders, you'll never be safe.
If you try to take charge, someone will teach you your true place.

Buddha help you, if you're useful.
Everyone will want you to be useful to them.
If you're useless, they'll abandon you by the river
Like a nameless beggar's corpse.

Buddha help you, if you weep.

Buddha help you, if you've got secrets,
They'll just crack your head open if they're too expensive.
If you don't know a thing, you're no good to anyone.
If you know just enough to be dangerous,
You'll never get a good night's sleep.

If one side likes you, you're a puppet.
If the other side likes you, you're a collaborator.
The smart ones suspect someone's a snitch.
The dumb ones are the last to know, to their regret.

Buddha help you, if you're righteous and proud.
You'll starve clinging to old ways that don't apply.
If you're a wretch, you'll always have to watch
Your back, a shadow among atrocity.
If you're just trying to survive, welcome to the club,
But that doesn't get you anything special.

Buddha help you, if you dare to smile here.

Buddha help you, if you're strong.
They'll work you, until you break.
If you're frail, you won't last long
In these squalid camps of inhumane nothing.
If you're only average, you become a statistic,
A burden of maggots and rice to unload,
A muddy road to close and forget.

Buddha help you, if you're wise.
You'll be miserable and you'll have hope.
If you're a fool, it's the end of the world.
You'll never learn a way out, or notice, when you leave.

God help you, if you think you're home.

For those we remember, for those who were forgotten, for those in-between.

Lao Diaspora submissions due this Saturday!

This Saturday is the final deadline for the amazing Lao Diaspora project being organized by Little Laos on the Prairie, Laos in the House and Chantala Kommanivanh! They're turning it into a national project including exhibitions, an online gallery, and a number of special paintings dedicated to remembering our journey of the last 40 years. 

Please spread the word and learn more at:

Rhysling Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry released!

A quick note to my colleagues in the Science Fiction Poetry Association, Elizabeth R. McClellan and Ashley Brown finished the 2014 Rhysling Anthology editing and you should all have received the link to the .pdf by now, while those of you who are getting the print edition should see it arriving in your mailboxes soon. Be sure to vote!

This year is an exciting collection of some amazing works. It's an edition to remember.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Reminder: Reading this week in Petaluma

A last reminder, I'll be reading this Wednesday in Petaluma at the Aqus Cafe at 189 H. Street starting at 7 PM with other horror luminaries including Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Spike Marlowe, Christoper Reynaga, and Andrew Goldfarb, the Slow Poisoner, thanks to the madness of Ross E. Lockhart, the editor of The Book of Cthulhu.  It's free and the only Halloween reading I'm doing this year!

I'll be sharing a few poems from DEMONSTRA and BARROW for the occasion!
Constance Ann Fitzgerald lives in the Bay Area where she works in an adult shop, collecting stories about creeps. She can often be found talking to dogs and scribbling in notebooks.

Spike Marlowe and her Siamese twin sister were born to academics in Provo, Utah during the region's speculative fiction renaissance. Since her teenage years, when Spike's parents and sister entered the Federal Witness Protection Program--which necessitated the surgical separation of Spike from her sister (if you buy her a couple drinks and ask nicely, Spike may show you the scars)--she has held a variety of odd jobs, including a performer in a wild west show, detective, Bigfoot researcher and writer for an Internet content farm. Recently she found her calling as a Bizarro author. When she's not writing fiction she works as a street busker in San Francisco. At night she fights crime.

Christopher Reynaga is a storyteller. In this day and age that translates as novelist, raconteur, and your humble narrator. He is a recipient of the Bazanella Literary Award and Writers of the Future Award, and has stories appearing in such diverse places as The American River Literary Review, Cemetery Dance, The Book of Cthulhu 2, The Drabblecast, and Giganotosaurus. Strange or magical things have a tendency to happen in his reality.

Reminiscent of Edward Gorey and Jim Woodring, A. Goldfarb writes bizarro comic books and illustrated novels. currently suffers from acute myopia and an inflammation of the olfactory organs. He is reputed to be buried in San Francisco, with occasional resurrections in New Orleans. He performs as a one man surrealistic rock and roll band under the moniker “The Slow Poisoner,” singing songs of will-o-the-wisps and woebegone wretches.

Be sure to catch us all this evening as we regale you with tales of the bizarre and horrifying...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Laos in the House wants scary stories

It's October and the organizers of Laos in the House want to hear your scariest stories!

Submit "the most frightening moments, or maybe just tell them a really good ghost story, or perhaps that weird eerie thing that happened to you that one time you couldn't explain."

Don't be scared, all stories welcomed.

Submit here:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Apolitical Intellectuals, a poem by the Guatemalan poet Otto Rene Castillo (1934-1967)

Apolitical Intellectuals

One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with "the idea
of the nothing"
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.

They won't be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death.

They'll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total lie.

On that day
the simple men will come.

Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they'll ask:

"What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?"

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.

Your own misery
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.

-Otto Rene Castillo, (1934-1967)

Born to the middle class family in Quetzaltenango, Otto Rene Castillo wrote 2 volumes of poetry in his lifetime. In 1967, he was interrogated, tortured, and burned alive by the Guatemalan government.

Sahtu Press to publish Dance Among Elephants, a Lao American poetry collection

Sahtu Press announced Dance Among Elephants, by Krysada Binly Panusith Phounsiri will be released before the end of the year, and hopefully by the holiday season.

A debut collection of Lao American poetry,Krysada Binly Panusith Phounsiri brings a unique perspective to Lao American literature. A resident of San Diego, he came to the US with his family when he was two. A multidisciplinary artist, he is also a skilled photographer and dancer in the B-Boy tradition and competes internationally. Dance Among Elephants will feature original poetry and photos from his journey.

Based in California, Sahtu Press was established in 2013 and specializes in works by Laotian Americans.The first book they produced was the children's book A Sticky Mess, by Nor Sanavongsay, retelling one of the most beloved Lao folk tales that he grew up with.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lao Diaspora Call for Submissions

Do you have photos worth a thousand words? Does it tell a story about your family’s history? Does it reflect who you are? Does it speak of the journey of where you came from and where you are now?

Little Laos on the Prairie, in collaboration with Laos in the House and artist Chantala Kommanivanh, want to share your story, and those of friends and family! Please spread the word and learn more at:

The Lao community’s stories will help educate the public and officials about our shared journey that has been left out of mainstream history. This is a chance for your story to be honored and featured on Little Laos on the Prairie’s website, highlighted in a mini-booklet, turned into a painting, and/or shared in a public gallery, and it’s an opportunity to reflect, relate and learn from others in the Lao Diaspora.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Performing in Petaluma, October 29th!

I haven't been doing too many readings and performances this year, and this will definitely be my last one for October, where I'll be reading selections from DEMONSTRA at Aqus Cafe at 189 H Street, Petaluma. Ross E. Lockhart will be the host as I join Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Spike Marlowe, Christopher Reynaga and Andrew Goldfarb, aka The Slow Poisoner for what's sure to be an evening of horror, terror, and weirdness, one way or another. Free, but it's definitely good form to buy a drink or two at the bar while we're all at it. :) See you there!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Photostudy: Wat Lao Saophuth, Sacramento

Here are a few shots from a recent visit to the Wat Lao in Sacramento. You can see several of the classic figures of Lao mythology and folklore here, including guardian Nyak and Nak, and a Buddha guarded by the seven-headed Nak Mucalinda. It's a spacious compound off of Gerber Road in the southern quarter of Sacramento. It's worth a visit if you can make it out there.

Asian American horror poetry?

So, it's Halloween season and as good a time as any to ask: What are some of your favorite examples of Asian American horror poetry?

Personally, I'd certainly cite collections like Burlee Vang's 2010 collection "The Dead I Know: Incantation for Rebirth," from Swan Scythe Press. Bao Phi's "The Godzilla Sestina" is also another example, as is El Guante's "Haunted Studio Apartment" spoken word album from Tru Roots. El Guante's "Love In the Time of Zombies" is a well-known standout of his.

Barbara Jane Reyes has a number of pieces I think are worth considering that employ a number of elements we might find within horror poetry. I'd also look at the work of Wei-Ming Dariotis and Lee Ann Roripaugh.  Cathy Park Hong's Dance Dance Revolution is a post-apocalyptic work, so I can see some questioning whether different movements within it can be classified as a "horror poem" within the conventional sense. But I think it's worth a look.

Who else would you recommend lately?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

New short story coming in October: The Dachshunds of Tindalos.

Just in time for the season, my all-new 100-word horror short "The Dachshunds of Tindalos" was published in the collection Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2014, this month, edited by Roy C. Booth and Jorge Salgado-Reyes. Available only in e-book format it will arrive on October 15th at Amazon.

A drabble is short fiction with exactly 100 words. They do not necessarily include the title in the word count. The attraction of a drabble comes from its brevity and the challenge of creating something interesting with heavily restricted word counts, which is particularly difficult for prose writers, but not necessarily for poets.

The contributors to Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2014 include: Chris Acevedo, Allan B. Anderson, R.L. Andrew, Ashraf A. Abbas, Colleen Aune, Timothy Bateson, Tabitha Baumander, David Beard, Mitch Berntson, Kerry E.B. Black, Rose Blackthorn, Cynthia Booth, Revelin Booth, Rex Booth, Roy C. Booth, Robert Breen, Raven Brun, Rebecca Brun, William Brun, Carol Caputo, Peggy Christie, Duane E. Coffill, Stryder Dancewolffe, TL Decay, Anna M Dobritt, Doug Draa, Deb Elliot, Terry Faust, Scott Forst, Elaine Frei, R.A.M. Graham, Terrance Griep, Morgan Griffith, Kristen Gruber, Jay Hartlove, William Hiles, Steve Hopstaken, Rose Johnson, Zachary Kapsch, Aletha Kenney, Robert Kirk, Thomas Kleaton, Axel Kohagen, Debbie Manber Kupfer, Cyndi Lord, Ken McGregor, Kayleigh McKenzie, John F. Mollard, Kate Monroe, R.J. Davies Mornix, Jaime Munt, Victori Pickett, Melissa Prusi, Dyfedd Rex, R. Thomas Riley, Jo-Anne Russell, M.M. Schill, Mike Schoenberg, Genta Sebastian, Maggie Secera, Jorge Salgado-Reyes, MontiLee Stormer, Janni Styles, Tyler Tork, Sophie Tynan, Justin Wagenberg, Robert Ward, Kirsten Weiss, Chuck West, Donna Marie West. Ben Westlie, Jason D. Wittman, Brian Woods, Tom Woolery, Maig Worel, Conrad Zero and myself.

So that's a lot of value for 99 cents.

Editor Roy C. Booth was born in Bemidji, MN on August 26, 1965, and is a 1983 graduate of Pillager High School. Roy holds college degrees from Brainerd Community College (AA, 1986) and Bemidji State University (BA EnglishSpeech-Theatre, 1989 MA English, 1998), and student taught scriptwriting for the English and Theatre Departments while attending BSU.

Roy is also a published author, poet, journalist, essayist, and scriptwriter with 47 plays published with 615 productions worldwide in such cities as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Houston, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Louisville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton (Bermuda), Edinburgh, Manchester, London, Paris, Nice, Milan, Bern, Gdansk, Warsaw, Durban, Mumbai, Bangalore, Tehran, Dehra Dun, New Dehli, Dhaka, Bangkok, Tianjin, Tokyo, Quezon City, Kelapa Gading (Indonesia), Perth, Melbourne, Wellington, and Brasilia.

Roy recently had a small acting role in the film North Country and has directedacteddesigned presently 200 theatrical productions to date. Roy currently lives in Hibbing, Minnesota with his wife Cynthia (also a published playwright) and their three sons, and is the owner/manager of Roy's Comics Games of Hibbing and Bemidji, Minnesota.

Jorge Salgado-Reyes is a Chilean/British science fiction author and private investigator. Born in Temuco, Chile, Salgado-Reyes left his country of birth at age seven in 1975 due to the military coup. He was subsequently brought up in the United Kingdom. Changing residence frequently with his family as a child, Salgado-Reyes became somewhat of a lone wolf who read science fiction from a very early age. After spending his adolescence in Mozambique, he returned to the UK where he completed his further education. Having left school aged 18, he worked for various security companies as a store detective and under-cover operative until an assailant stabbed him in the course of his work. After being made redundant in 2006, he started his own detective agencies, Salgado Investigations and Allied Detectives (subsequently sold in 2013). Salgado-Reyes became a member of the Guardian Angels, London Chapter in the mid-nighties rising to the rank of Assistant Training Coordinator. Salgado-Reyes is a Fellow of the World Association of Professional Investigators. Salgado-Reyes is also an amateur photographer specializing in landscapes, night photography and glamour. In 2011, Salgado-Reyes began writing his first novel, The Smoke in Death's Eye, still in progress. It combines elements of cyberpunk and hard-boiled detective fiction.

Hmm. This seems like a long post for a collection of extremely short fiction. Ah, well. A big thanks to everyone who's been involved in this undertaking! And welcome to October!