Happy birthday to Bao Phi, who's been a wonderful friend and figure with tremendous impact on my life since I first met him at a reading at Macalester College in Minnesota shortly at the beginning of the century.
A Vietnamese American performance poet since 1991, Bao Phi has been a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, and appeared on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. With an extensive background in Asian American activism, his work has been featured in Screaming Monkeys, and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. His poetry on CD includes Refugeography and The Nguyens EP.
Bao Phi was pivotal in making the first National Lao American Writers Summit possible as well as many other historic readings and gatherings of the Lao and Hmong American poets and writers in Minnesota, and I hope one day the literary histories of our community remember this.
He was particularly pivotal in introducing me to my now long-time collaborator and mentee Catzie Vilayphonh of Yellow Rage, and together he and I met figures such as Li-Young Lee, Gene Luen Yang and Frank Chin, and I deeply appreciate his support throughout the years.
He turns 42 this year, which I always think is a year for deep reflection of Life, the Universe and Everything, and I hope he finds answers as well as questions, going forward. His voice is needed now, more than ever.