Wednesday, February 28, 2007

First Shots from Equilibrium 2 / 2007

Here are some first shots from the recent Equilibrium show held at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. The February show featured the amazing work of David Mura and Beau Sia.

Even by their usual standards this was a tour de force performance that was packed with over 100 people who braved one of the worst snowstorms of Minnesota this year to hear them. The MC of the evening was Bao Phi, with music provided by DJ Thuyet Nguyen.

Among the luminaries in attendance included award-winning writer Ed Bok Lee, as well as Juliana Pegues, Shannon Gibney, May Lee, Peter Yang, Katie Vang, Robert Karimi, and many others.

A more in-depth report will come soon, but in the meatime, enjoy these pictures!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Preparing for Oz in Augtember

I'm traveling through Australia at the end of August and the beginning of September for research purposes and to promote my new book, On The Other Side of the Eye, coming out this year.

Will definitely be traveling through Sydney and Melbourne and additional stops along the way. 

For my Australian readers, are there any bookstores, libraries or other institutions that you'd recommend for visiting poets? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Good restaurants for Lao/Southeast Asian cooking are also appreciated as well!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2 New Readings In Spring 2007

Coreopsis Poetry Collective
presents an evening of poetry
Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

Steve Burt, Kathleen Heideman and Bryan Thao Worra
Black Dog Café, 308 Prince Street, lower town St. Paul

Stephen Burt is the author of the collections of poems, Parallel Play and Popular Music, which won the 1999 Colorado Prize. He is also the author of Randall Jarrell and His Age, which won the Warren-Brooks Award for Literary Criticism in 2002, and the co-editor of Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden. His essays and reviews have appeared in the Believer, the London Review of Books, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, Poetry Review (UK), Slate, Thumbscrew, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other newspapers and journals. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and now teaches at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Kathleen M. Heideman works as Developer of the MCAD Distance Learning Initiative at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and creates/teaches experimental online courses: The E(c)lectric Muse (poetry), Building the Visual Journal (artists' sketchbooks), and The Leap: Reading and Writing Creative Hypertext (creative writing hypermedia).

She has received fellowships from the Bush Foundation, Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.  Her publications include the anthology 33 Minnesota Poets (Nodin Press), and The Cream City Review (Vol 24 #2). She has two chapbooks, Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare (Traffic Street Press) and She Used to Have Some Cows (La Vacas Press).

And on June 24th, I'll be reading as part of the Prism Poetry Series at the Coffee Gallery of the Open Book Center in Minneapolis at 1011 Washington Ave. N. from 1-3 P.M.

This time, I'll be reading with Betsy Andrews, coming from out of town with her new book of poetry in hand.

Betsy Andrews is the author of She-Devil and In Trouble. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in publications ranging from PRACTICE to the Yemeni newspaper Culture.


Both of these are free, so if you're in town and looking for something to do, come on by!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's or Thao Worra Day?

For those of you in my network who are happily married, in love, or making love (and if so, why are you reading this post now), good for you, and I wish you all the very happiest of Valentine's Days, and a reasonably cheap bill for all the flowers, cards, chocolate or whatever nights out on the town that you take.

For those of you who do not fall into the above category, or who do fall into the above category but just hate celebrating Valentine's anyway, this post is for you as we offer you some other alternatives:

You can always celebrate the anniversary of:

1929: The St Valentines Day Massacre, in Chicago, between rival gansters.

1950: USSR and China sign peace treaty. Imagine how nasty that fight would have been.

1963: First successful kidney transplant. Millions of people are alive today because of it and all of the related scientific advances it paved the way for.

February 14th is also the birthday for the following people:

1766: Thomas Malthus, British philosopher. His misanthropic philosophy is a hoot, if you can make your way through the dated language.

1817: Frederick Douglass, African-American abolitionist.

1819: Christopher Sholes, American inventor of the typewriter. Where would we be without it?

On the other hand, if none of these strike your fancy, I hereby endorse the celebration of Thao Worra Day.

Much as in the spirit of Festivus, the festival for the rest of us, you too may engage in the following activities to mark Thao Worra Day in good spirits and much amusement:

  • Send a nice note to someone you have just met or haven't talked to in a while.
  • Declare yourself Emperor of the World (or Empress) and see if anyone notices. But you have to give back everyone's stuff by the end of the day. Or before the cops come.
  • Treat yourself to a nice meal with someone you genuinely like, but in a completely non-romantic way. I totally approve.
  • Make sure all your electronic equipment is fully recharged, that it may go well for you.
  • Read a short poem out loud, even if no one is looking. No, it doesn't have to be one of mine.
  • Leave a chair for me at your desk or table. For I may come by. But don't hold it against me if I don't. I do have a busy schedule, you know.

And yea, though Thao Worra Day is not for everyone, it is free for all to choose and participate in.

And if you do so choose to mark it, let me know how it goes.

Have a great one!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wild Men of Asia and Poets

Yu Zhenhuan and his sister by Eastphoto. Featured in the Science Digest, August 1981 Article: Wild Men of China by Audrey Topping

Because Barbara Jane Reyes is a big peeker ;) and spotted my photos on, we're going to do this post a little earlier than I planned:

Years ago, one of the earliest images from a magazine that captured my attention was from the 1981 Science Digest about the Wild Men of China, by Audrey Topping.

It was a really interesting piece that tried to discuss different theories about the sightings of wild men in the remote regions of the country.

According to Topping, Chinese folklore is filled with stories of hairy creatures who wandered the primeval forests of the Qinling-Bashan-Shennongija mountain region, home to giant pandas and other rare creatures found nowhere else in the world.

The first references were made over 2,000 years ago by the statesman poet Qu Yuan, who frequently mentioned 'mountain ogres' in his poems.

Topping also mentions the Tang historian Li Yanshou talking of hairy men in Hubei, and in the late-1700s, the poet Yuan Mei wrote of "monkeylike, yet not a monkey" creatures in Shaanxi.

Oh, those poets and their wild imaginations!

Official efforts have never really been officially very succesful to track them down. Some have speculated they might by similar to the Gigantopithecus.

Illustration by Howard S. Friedman for the Science Digest, August 1981 article: Wild Men of China by Audrey Topping.

Another theory is that they may have emerged from early accounts of people like Yu Zhenhuan at the top, who was born in 1978. Hair covers 96% of his body. In 1981, at least 19 other cases had been found in nine other provinces that were similar to Yu Zhenhuan.

Yu Zhenhuan by Eastphoto.  Featured in the Science Digest, August 1981 Article: Wild Men of China by Audrey Topping.

Yu Zhenhuan's older sister and his parents are perfectly healthy, as is Yu Zhenhuan, who lives a perfectly regular life in China today, and for a time was pursuing a career as a rockstar, threatening to give the other 'hair bands' a run for their money.

From the article at Lupiga.Com

You can find a number of articles on him at the moment with a simple websearch. All accounts seem to indicate he's a really nice guy.

I should say as a matter of disclosure that I still have that 1981 issue of Science Digest, which, a little over 20 years later is probably a good indication of how much interest this story had for me. Or an indicator that I'm really quite a packrat. Probably guilty as charged on both accounts.

What initially sent me through my boxes looking for the issue was preparing for my presentations at Diversicon last year when I was discussing mythological and cryptozoological creatures from Southeast Asia, most notably, the Nguoi Rung of Vietnam.

From a post on  Cryptomundo.Com

I first came across the story of the Nguoi Rung in a short oral history from Kregg Jorgensons' "Very Crazy, G.I.!: Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War" about a squad that encountered a 'rock ape'. It was one of several strange encounters that people in Southeast Asia had during the war, but never really had the means or opportunity to follow up on.

Worth picking up. And it's cheap.

Apparently, during the Vietnam War, reports of the Nguoi Rung became so prominent that the North Vietnamese general Hoang Minh Thao had an expedition organized to find a live Nguoi Rung, the results of which were officially pretty unsuccesful, although the team did return with some other things like elephants for their circus.

Over the years, I've also run into some curious accounts by Hmong families who whisper, jokingly, that there were distant branches of their family who were married to "monkeys" centuries ago. In light of Yu Zhenhuan's case, I think those stories need to be re-evaluated, most likely as an unfortunate case of prejudice and a lack of scientific understanding during those times.

I should note in most discussions on the matter, that a lot of accounts protest that they know the difference between a monkey and a really hairy human, and insist the wild men who are being sighted don't fall into those categories.

A painting by Greg Scott for the Science Digest, August 1981. Article: Wild Men of China by Audrey Topping, illustrating an encounter with a Wild Man.

A side note is that near the borders of Laos, there are curious reports of a creature known as a 'Khi Trau, literally 'buffalo monkey' or 'big monkey'.

Given how many strange and unusual things we discover each month, I'm personally of the mind that we shouldn't be dismissive of accounts of "Wild Men", despite a high number of frauds and hoaxes out there, and I imagine as the years go on that we may see many more interesting reports.

But bringing this all back to poetry, here's a quick bio on Yuan Mei and Qu Yuan, whose life we celebrate with Dragon Boat Festivals.

(Why we don't mark Qu Yuan's life with poetry readings I'll never know, but hey, go figure.)

And now, we sorta know. :)

Hmong and Lao Writers: Feb. Opportunities

This is by no means a complete list, but some opportunities that should be on your radar this month include:

Hmong and Laotian Magazines
Accepting fiction/non-fiction short stories, poetry, essays and op-eds, photography, visual art submissions, letters to the editor. Bakka Magazine is a monthly magazine for anyone with a connection to Laos.
They're currently fielding submissions for Unplug, a new bi-monthly Hmong magazine.
18xeem is another Hmong magazine looking for writers, artists and other contributors. It's presently being produced bimonthly.
Hmong Passion Magazine is looking for contributors. They have a strong youth and education focus. It's scheduled to be published quarterly (every 3 months).
Hmong Is You magazine is a biyearly magazine printed in May and November with a youth focus.

Asian American Magazines

The following Asian American magazines and websites could also always use new writers and contributors:
Still going strong, Hyphen Magazine is always looking to give opportunities to freelancers, writers and artists. is a daily news / culture site with a strong, humorous Asian American editorial bend. (But you don't have to necessarily be Asian American to write for them).
Altra just launched, so now is as good a time as any to pitch ideas and stories to them.
Alterasian is also looking for freelance writers and contributors.
Colorlines is a more serious bimonthly magazine, and is billed as the leading national, multi-racial magazine devoted to the creativity and complexity of communities of color. ColorLines features the best writing on the issues that affect these communities.

Important: It goes without saying that most of these journals and magazines presently don't pay, except perhaps in contributor's copies, but they will qualify as full publication credits and can be cited in your writing or artistic portfolios over the long run, and there's a reasonably high likelihood of your work being read by someone who will enjoy it.

As always, however, you should do your research when submitting to these magazines and journals and ask questions to make certain that you understand all of your rights as a writer/artist and that the publication in question can present your work in a way that will be satisfying to you.

NEA Literature Fellowships

This year, the NEA Literature Fellowships are for Fiction / Creative Non-Fiction and the deadline is March 1st, which means: Get going fast.

It's not an easy application, and you won't find out until at least December, to start a project no earlier than January 2008. But the sum is $25,000 if you get it.

You are eligible to apply in Fiction if, between January 1, 2000, and March 1, 2007, you have had published:

* At least 5 different short stories, works of short fiction, or excerpts from novels in two or more literary journals, anthologies, or publications which regularly include fiction as a portion of their format;

* or: A volume of short fiction or a collection of short stories;

* or: A novel or novella.

You are eligible to apply in Creative Nonfiction if, between January 1, 2000, and March 1, 2007, you have had published:

* At least 5 different creative essays (such as personal essays, memoirs, etc.) in two or more literary journals, anthologies, or publications; or

* A volume of creative nonfiction.

Pretty steep requirments, if you ask me, but not necessarily impossible for some of you, either. Good luck, and I hope this helps!

If you know of any other legitimate opportunities that you think would be of particular interest to Hmong, Laotian or Asian American artists and writers, please feel free to let me know!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Legacies of War Positions Open

From Channapah Khamvongsa

Legacies of War is excited to announce the opening of 6 new consultant and internship positions.

They have an exciting year coming up and are looking for dynamic, creative and passionate individuals to join their team.

You can visit about upcoming events and for detailed listings of other available internship and consultant positions, including:

Development Consultant
New England Coordinator/Consultant
Arts & Cultural Coordinator/Consultant
Project Specialist – New York City
Project Assistant – Boston
Media Intern (for the Multimedia Interactive Center)

Please pass along. All applications are due FEB 15, 2007.

Best wishes,

Channapha Khamvongsa
80 Broad Street, Suite 1600
New York, NY 10004
Tel. 212-764-1508 Ext. 230
Fax 212-764-4630

Friday, February 02, 2007

MN: Scholarships for SE Asian High School Seniors

Creating Hope for Future Generations:
30 Scholarships Totaling $40,000 Available to Southeast Asian High School Seniors

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, January 29, 2007 – A number of people from the local community have come together to administer a national scholarship fund that will award $40,000 to Minnesota Southeast Asian high school seniors.

The Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative (NSRC) Fund is offering approximately 30 scholarships between $1,000 and $2,000 each to first- or second-generation Southeast Asian students from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, or Vietnam. Candidates must live and attend high school in Minnesota, plan to graduate from high school or receive their GED during the 2006-07 academic year, and be accepted to an accredited program in fall 2007.

Accredited programs include vocational and cosmetology schools, colleges and universities.

To obtain a scholarship application or to make a tax-deductible donation to the Minnesota Chapter of the NSRC Fund, visit or e-mail The scholarship application deadline is March 1, 2007, and an awards ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 2007.

A statement from the father of Chonburi Xiong

The Detroit Asian Youth Project’s website has a great statement from the father of teenager Chonburi Xiong who was killed by the police in his own home:

"My name is Pang Blia Xiong. I was born in a small farming village in Laos on December 31, 1956. I did not have much of a childhood because my country was torn apart by war. When the Americans came to Laos, they asked our people, the Hmong, to help fight the Communists. I did not know much about America, but my parents told us it was our duty to help the Americans..."

And it goes on from there. It's a touching letter, and I hope people see some resolution and closure to this issue soon.

California Hmong Poets Blogs and Websites

First, this isn't a post that's going to comprehensively and definitively discuss all of the Hmong poets and writers in California, but I do want to call some attention to some great blogs and websites out there right now.

Over the years, one of the Hmong poets whose work I've consistently and deeply respected from his appearances in the Paj Ntaub Voice and Bamboo Among the Oaks is Soul Choj Vang, who really raises the bar for our expectations of modern Hmong poetry.

He's now got a blog over at and if you've got any interest in Hmong American poetry, you should stop in. It's been a little while since he's last added some work, but hopefully he'll be updating it soon.

I personally consider Soul Vang one of the essential poets to read to get a sense of the California Hmong approach to poetry, right along with Burlee Vang at

Two other young Hmong writers from Fresno whose work I'm enjoying seeing these days include Andre Yang at, and Abel Vang at

Although Abel doesn't have a lot of his poetry up at the moment, his material that he has submitted in the past to Paj Ntaub Voice has always been distinctive and memorable, and hopefully it won't be too long before more of his poetic work becomes available. (hint, hint.)

Renee Ya at is showing some promise and tremendous enthusiasm as well with her new website, where she's sharing a number of poems and works in progress in a variety of mediums. is the homepage for the Hmong American Writer's Circle, and while they're not the only group out there, they are drawing together some great young writers and producing some very interesting material that is usually something to look forward to.

As always, I'm particularly interested in hearing about new Hmong and Lao writers and their websites across the country, and if you've got any suggestions, tell us about them!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Off to Marscon!

MarsCon 2007
March 2-4,2007
Holiday Inn Select
Bloomington, MN

It's been a while since I've been to a Marscon, but I'll be giving some fun and exciting presentations next month, particularly on issues regarding the Cthulhu Mythos, and I hope to see you there if you can make it! Here's the run-down on the panels I'm specifically a part of:

Friday, 3/2 5:00-6:00 PM: Night Voices, Night Journeys
"Night Voices, Night Journeys" is a series of translated books that are essentially H.P. Lovecraft-inspired horror stories from Japan. I'll be discussing the series and its impacts/implications: What's good, what works, and what we should be looking for in the future.

Saturday, 3/3 11:00 a.m.-Noon, Panel: Your Favorite Lovecraft? (That Fresh Shiny Cylinder...)
Ed Rom, Ron Searby and I will discuss one of the 20th century's most influential horror writers, including the question: Which is your favorite story by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), and why? We'll also discuss Lovecraft's evolution away from fantasy-horror to science fiction-horror. The always entertaining Paula L. Fleming, will be our moderator!

Saturday, 3/3 2:00-3:00 p.m., Panel: J-Horror That Doesn't Suck

I'll be moderating the panel on this one. "Truth to tell, Japan is becoming a leader in the production of innovative horror cinema. What are some of your favorites, and why?" featuring S.D. Hintz and Catherine Lundoff.

Saturday 3/3 11:00 p.m.- Sun, Midnight, Panel: Guns of Sci-Fi
In what promises to be one of my more unusual discussions, I'll be teaming up with Erik D. Pakieser, Nathan Lalum, and Blair Keith to discuss: "Guns, blasters and other weapons of sci-fi & action...what's new? What's old? What do we want to see, and what are we tired of?"

Sunday, 3/4 10:00-11:00 a.m.: Free/Libre/Open Source Software for Fan Films
Rich Brown and I will be leading this fun conversation. "So you want to make a movie, little fan? How's your budget? Pro post-production software can cost a bundle. Or you can use FLOSS. What's out there? Will it do what you want?" With handouts!

And finally:
Sunday 3/4 1:00-2:00 p.m. Panel: Cthulhu Overexposed? (AKA Slimy Tentacles are so 20th Century...)
"Are Lovecraft's Elder Gods and Ancient Ones helped or harmed by their many appearances in popular culture and Cthulhu Mythos stories by other writers?" S.D. Hintz and I take on this provocative question.

A special thanks to all of the con organizers for bringing this together!

Post-Parallax Report

Thanks, everyone!

We had a packed house for our show at the Loft literary center, and I think we gave one of our strongest readings yet.

Which is good considering all of the work and time that went into it.

We had wonderful company, from fellow writers, film-makers, actors and actresses, musicians and visual artists in the audience. Hmong writers Shoua Lee, Noukou Thao, Peter Yang and May Lee were with us, providing some great backup support during this time and Katie Vang did a great job as an emcee- we would happily have her emcee for us again.

We gave away some great door prizes, including a rare reproduction of the original photograph used for the cover to Bamboo Among the Oaks, a year membership to the Loft Literary Center, as well as large prints of pictures from our travels to Laos.

We also had an art exhibition featuring the work of Hmong and Lao artists including the work of Sai Vang, Penh Lor, Vongduane Manivong and Pacyinz Lyfoung.The show ran exactly on time, starting at 7:15 and going til 8:30. We then went to Cafe BonXai on University Avenue for the after-party.

And all on a Friday evening after work!

Who could ask for anything more! :)

I'd definitely do it again.

And as a quick plug, May Lee and Shoua Lee will be doing their show at the Loft this February on Friday, 2/16! You don't want to miss it!