Friday, June 29, 2007

Reading At My Book Launch

As a sneak preview, here are some of the great writers who will be reading, in additon to myself, during my book release party in August:

Bao Phi, award-winning Vietnamese American spoken word artist, writer, cultural critic, creator of Refugeography and Surviving the Translation. Frequent partner in crime in Minnesota.

Robert Karimi, Iranian interdisciplinary artist/ Guatemalan educator, playwwright, travieso, and performance poet. All-around great guy.

Katie Vang, a Hmong American spoken word artist, writer and performer, she's got very distinctive work.

Barbara Jane Reyes, the amazing Filipina American poet, cultural critic and educator, the author of Gravities of Center and Poeta en San Francisco. And she wrote the great foreword to my book.

And, last, but certainly not least, Juliana Pegues will be our MC for this unique evening.
It's packing a lot into one night, but it will be an exceptionally unique gathering of voices in the Twin Cities, and one not to be missed.

My peers at who rescheduled an entire reading just so they could attend our reading!

A Photopoetic Index to OTOSOTE

A non-linear photopoetic index of the poems included in four sections of On The Other Side of the Eye.

I. Must A World Sleep To Dream

II. A History of Water and Memory

III. Ghosts of Earth and Knowledge

IV. Miscellaneous Rumors Of My Time

Haiku Movie Reviews

It's been a while since I've done the Haiku Movie Reviews, using the ancient Japanese poetry form of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 pattern. So, let's catch up with some in the theater and some available on DVD right now:

Children of Men
Planet without kids,
So kooks go crazy and kill.
Dark and quite British.

Day Watch
"Russians can make films?"
Action, violence and laughs.
Top-notch fantasy.

28 Weeks Later
Kids equal trouble.
Even if they are not "zombies,"
You should run away.

This hotel? Awful.
Some spooks, but not worth watching.

Hills Have Eyes
Nuke mutants hate you.
Remake teaches "Stay at home.
Avoid the deserts."

Epic Movie
How much SUCK can be packed

Into one movie.

Shrek 3
The real monster?
Studio executives
Who greenlit this crap.

Hostel Part 2
Tourists get killed.
But better than the first film?
Not saying that much.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3
Davy Jones? He rocks.
Second one is still better.
Asians get shafted.

Rest Stop
Why did I watch this?
Your brain cells will shrivel up.
Pure idiocy.

Wolf Creek
Lousy example
Of Australian horror.
Nothing redeeming.

They shot his good dog
So sniper wants his revenge.
Yawn. Lots of folks die.

This remake has none.
Based on a really good film
You should see instead.

"Hotel room from hell."
King recycles some parts here.
But it is still good.

What can I say. Most of the films this month were based on travel themes. Or why not to go out of the house.

[Travel] Avoid Free Wi-Fi Scams at Airports

Having personally run into a number of both legitimate and 'suspect' networks at airports across the US while speaking this year, I strongly suggest keeping this article from Asian American Press in mind, whether you're an artist, student, tourist or on business.

It seems a lot of fake 'free wi-fi' networks are being set up in airports. As many of my readers travel frequently I say: Pay attention and don't get scammed!

Key tips to remember from the Better Business Bureau:
Never connect to an unfamiliar ad-hoc network—even if the name sounds genuine. Hackers can change the name of their network to anything they want, including the name of the legitimate Internet connection offered by the airport.

Just because it has the same name as the Wi-Fi advertised in the airport, don't believe it. Double-check!

• Make sure your computer is not set up to automatically connect to non-preferred networks. Otherwise your computer could automatically connect to the hacker's network without your knowledge.

Turn off file sharing when you're on the road to prevent hackers from stealing entire documents, files and unencrypted e-mail from your computer.

Stay safe out there!

Lao and Hmong writing opportunities

Some opportunities for our radar this month that are particularly good for Lao and Hmong writers:

Of course there are always many, many others out there, but hopefully this will give many of you some ideas of places to submit work to. I know the editors would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Myspace And Poetry Technology.

Now, the poet Barbara Jane Reyes and I often trade quips over myspace and most of these social networking sites from friendster, and any number of other up-and-comers who swear they're the next big thing.

If enough people sign onto it.

Having tried it for about a year now, I'm left of the opinion that Myspace probably works best for musicians, movies, visual artists, and would-be models and people writing within niche markets.
There's opportunities for poets, but at a smaller scale.

My myspace brought me into good contact with some new friends, but not so many I feel I couldn't have met them on my own.
This week, Myspace deleted my account under as-yet undertermined causes: technical glitch, hacker, or some nutter with a crazy-mad hate-on for Bryan Thao Worra, etc.
This left me reconstructing a rudimentary build of the old site, but also confirms my overall *$!#! with the place.

Losing a year's worth of good blog posts because of the idiotic technical infrastructure there just leaves me... p!$$ed.
Posts covering everything from good soup recipes to Giacometti and Rodin, the meaning of ancient chinese texts to the famous Nak Roll... all gone, poof, no backup. %^$#!
So, while we'll keep doing things over at myspace for a little while longer, I'm going to say: You can expect far more of my regular content to be appearing here, where things are a lot more stable. *knock on wood.
Still, this is where BJR would wheedle me and we must ask: What does this technology mean for poets?
Is it really on opportunity, or a distraction?
Can it help poets realize or recognize the possibility of becoming 'rock dieties' at last within our culture? Will we become the new Bonos thanks to myspace and youtube-style technologies? :P

And should that even be a goal of poets?

I hear some who more or less argue for a deeper intimacy, less flash and flamboyance, that we are more or less monks in our craft working at a more discrete level.
Who needs audiences of thousands or millions in the world?

And then again, for better or worse, mass media culture is creating zones of poetry, such as Def Poetry Jam, and the question is, if 'serious' poets don't take advantage or participate in the technology emerging around them, can they expect serious longevity?
Which of course, presupposes that 'serious poets' should be concerned with 'serious longevity...' and that there are 'unserious poets' in the world who aren't concerned with such issues. But that's probably a discussion for another time.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Watt Munisotaram Temple

After a recent article in the Star Tribune we decided to go visit the new Cambodian Wat which will be one of the largest in the United States. You can visit the website at

Constructed at a cost of $1.5 million, the wat rests on a Dakota County hilltop just outside Hampton, a town of 434 people and is 30 miles south of Minneapolis amid lush farmland.

So far, the reaction from the locals has been wonderfully tolerant and curious. July 5-8th is the main consecration ceremony, which is immensely important to many of the local Buddhists, because it's not often that a wat is completed, and within the tradition, this is a moment of great and auspicious significance.

It's not quite completed- they're still finishing the painting when we went, but hopefully these pictures demonstrate that it will all be quite impressive and a fine treasure for the community for generations to come.

Over the weekend

Over the weekend I had a chance to go to the boun at the Wat Lao Minnesota. It was quite fun seeing so many Lao (and the great food and entertainment as well).

Here are a few quick shots.

The next major festival is supposed to be August 25th. The wat is located at 22605 Cedar Ave. S. in Farmington.

A Quick Thanks

Thanks to everyone who came to support me on Sunday at the Prism Poetry series reading. It was a wonderful afternoon with unique energy and presentation. It's not often I read with a poet with such influences from the Southwest persperctive.

If only more poetry readings were as fun as this one! I'm looking forward to the next time.


According to a recent Forbes article, foreign language and foreign literature teachers in postsecondary environments can make over $100,000 if you're one of the top 10%. The figure includes both teachers primarily engaged in teaching and those who do a combination of both teaching and research. Sadly, no mention of those who just teach English literature....

The Top 10% Wage: $100,790
Median Wage: $51,900

Downshot? The total no. of jobs in the country are: 24,680. And I don't think the ones in the top 10% are planning on giving up their spot any time soon. :/ Go figure. The best paying are Junior colleges, interestingly enough. Especially in certain sections of California.

Area, ethnic and cultural studies teachers also do pretty well, especially in Columbus:

Top 10% Wage: $106,080
Median Wage: $56,380
Not surprisingly, the total no. of jobs in this area are lower: 7,350.

Hmm... Hamster wheel spinning. But for my readers and peers who are teachers, I hope this is encouraging! Or at least helps you justify a raise sometime soon...

On the other hand, you really don't want to know who falls under the 25 worst paying jobs...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Remembering Vincent Chin Today

Today is the 25th anniversary of the day Vincent Chin, died after he was attacked on June 19th in Detroit by two laid-off auto workers who mistook him for being Japanese.

Longtime readers of mine know that as an Asian American living in Michigan then, this case affected me deeply.

It was one of the first moments as a young boy that I understood the dangers of racism and ignorance, and the threat of violence against Asian Americans in the United States.

Eventually, this case was one of the key turning points in the pan-Asian American movement that crossed long-standing culture lines.

For Southeast Asian American refugeess just starting to arrive in the 1980s, it was a very sobering message about justice in this country:

Vincent Chin's killers never spent a day in jail and were only fined $3,000, less than the cost of a used car back then.

As many commentators have said in the past, it was essentially a license to kill Asians.

We've made some progress since then, but across the country there's still work to be done.

Kundiman is holding their Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Competition with a deadline for June 30th (Coming up fast) Visit Kundiman for more details.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Racism In Saline, Michigan

It pains me deeply to write this post, but my old hometown of Saline, Michigan made the news recently (and even with the report that three Saline teens are charged with ethnic intimidation and vandalism.

One of the victims in particular discovered a painted ethnic slur and other vandalism on their driveway, including lines of spray paint, and a combination of sugar, mayonnaise, ketchup and glue were found on 3 vehicles parked in the driveway.

The family believes their 14-year-old son, who is of Asian-Pacific American descent, was targeted by classmates at Saline High School. The trio, two 15-year olds and one 16-year old, will have their hearing later in Washtenaw County Juvenile Court.

As a graduate from Saline High School, I'm personally deeply disappointed by this news and I hope justice is served, but I also hope a deeper dialogue will begin about the issues Asian Pacific Americans face in the Midwest, and particularly Michigan.

Considering that June 23rd is the 25th anniversary of the death of Vincent Chin in Detroit, and given recent incidents over the last few years in Ann Arbor and elsewhere in Michigan, these attacks are at once unfortunate and telling of how much further we have to go in having Asian Pacific American issues taken seriously.

To my friends and peers still in Saline: Hang in there. Stay proud, and keep up the good fight.

Pre-Order On The Other Side of the Eye!

You can now pre-order On The Other Side of the Eye!

Pre-order by July 4th to get your copy by August 1st!

If you'd like an autographed copy, just include a quick note on the front of your order form. Thanks for all of your support, everyone!

Reading This Sunday at the Loft!

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 Wendy Brown:

A performance poet who's read widely from Berkeley to Albany, Santa Fe to Puerto Vallarta, she has performed in cafes, bars, bookstores, galleries, peace centers, and private homes, solo and in collaborations.

She is the creator of Writing Circles for Healing, a writing support group to write through trauma, loss, grief, and life-altering experiences. She released Longing for Home, a poetry CD, in 2004 and has a novel forth-coming in spring 2008.

To find out more:

NAPAWF Seeks Executive Director

The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum seeks an Executive Director. Applications are due by August 10th, but it presents an exciting opportunity for anyone interested or involved in Asian Pacific American women's issues.

New Listserv for Southeast Asian Adult Adoptees

A quick plug for a new list-serv for my fellow Southeast Asian adoptees out there:

Adult Adoptees of Southeast Asia (AASEA) is a listserv for adult adoptees from Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

These countries share much in the way of culture and history. Many of today’s Southeast Asian adult adoptees were adopted as a direct result of war and poverty.

This is a listserv run by and for adult adoptees. International adoption is increasingly becoming the preferred choice for many wishing to expand their families. It is our wish that AASEA will provide a safe space for adult adoptees from Southeast Asia to connect with one another and discuss openly and honestly their adoption experiences and concerns.

Thanks to the organizers who've set this up.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oppose HR 997, the English Language Unity Act

The Inhofe Amendment's companion bill is now trying to get through the House under the English Language Unity Act, H.R. 997, to make English the official language of the United States.

The language of HR 997, the English Language Unity Act, is a little better than that found in the Inhofe Amendment.

HR 997 allows some flexibility in the execution of this policy, but the potential of these clauses being amended, excised or revised to language that works against refugees, immigrants and others makes it too difficult to support in good conscience.

There is enough within these bills to require opposition from those of us working in Southeast Asian refugee resettlement and other communities from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

You can examine the text of the English Language Unity Act yourself:

Opposing this bill continues to remain in the best interests of everyone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Oppose the Inhofe Amendment!

It's rare that I'm so deeply disappointed in BOTH of my Senators from Minnesota at the same time, but there's a first time for everything.

Shamefully, Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman voted “Yea” on the Inhofe Amendment to declare English the official language of the U.S.

This bill will deny people the right to have the US government and its representatives to “act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English.”

We must understand that Inhofe’s amendment has significant implications for refugees in the US who fled war, torture and terror, from support for materials printed in other languages to cuts in programs to support bilingual and multilingual education.

Even access to emergency and civil services will potentially be affected by this bill.

Interpretations of S.A. 4064 can easily lead to a denial of funding to our public libraries, schools, public television and radio, as well as art, civic and cultural institutions who seek to reach out to communities where English is not their first language.

The US doesn't have an official language, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.

For over 200 years, the United States has risen from a bunch of pilgrims and convicts and ne'er-do-wells to become a global power armed with nuclear weapons. All, somehow, without an official language.

Making the English language more 'official' accomplishes NOTHING. Not even greater security for our nation.

From Benedict Arnold to Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, to Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber, history has proven time and again: A command of English is no greater guarantee of loyalty or dedication to this country.

Consider in contrast, the sacrifices of the Phillipine Scouts of World War II or the Hmong and Montagnards who fought on the side of the United States during the Vietnam War, most of whom spoke little to no English at the time.

Inhofe and his supporters claim that declaring English as the official language will have a unifying effect on our nation. But I don’t feel united with you because of the way you arrange your nouns, verbs and adjectives.

I feel united with my fellow Americans from our spirit of effort to create a nation based upon our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Some speak English better than I, some speak English terribly. But I respect them all for putting our differences aside to build a far better country than the one the Inhofe Amendment will create.

UXO Removal In Laos: Ask For More Aid

It's that time of month again where I pay a nod to the Legacies of War project, which does tremendous work to increase awareness of the unexploded ordnance (bombs, rockets, mines, explosives) left behind in Laos.

UXO is still deadly and one of the biggest impediments to the post-war reconstruction of Laos.

It denies families and villages access to usable agricultural land as well as other community development projects like schools and hospitals.

Even digging a simple well for drinking water can end in tragedy.

During the war for Laos in the 1960s and 70s, the United States dropped over 3 million tons of bombs on Laos.

This is more than on all of Europe during World War II.

3 out of 10 of those bombs failed to explode and continue to kill women, men, children and the elderly, even more than 30 years after the war ended.

A few years ago, Representative Betty McCollum of MN pushed forward legislature to provide $3 million to assist UXO removal in Laos.

That was wonderful news, but at the same time, that comes out to just a little over $1 for every ton of bombs that was dropped on Laos. This year, politicians attempted to cut the US commitment by almost half.

I'm contacting my senators and representatives to not only restore, but increase funding for this cause, not only for this year but in the years ahead until all UXO is removed from Laos.

And I hope you'll consider doing the same.

While I hope most of my readers already know who their politicians are, here are two handy links to find them:

Help Stop the Vang Deportation

This was brought to my attention by my colleague, Nira Ly in Washington, DC.

If you can sign the petition, and pass it on to some friends, it would be nice to get them some support.

The Hmong community in Michigan has made amazing strides there over the years in spite of a marked lack of support compared to that of many other states.

The Vang family needs your help.

At the moment, the family of Guy, Genevieve, Caroline and Melanie Vang face deportation in 3 months due to a terrible mess of the present immigration policy in the U.S.

After 18 years in this country, the Vangs have been a positive, productive part of the Michigan community- they became economically self-sufficient, private business owners and encouraged education in their children, friends and family. A full summary of the case is available at the petition site, but they need your help. It takes all of two seconds to sign it to help them out.

And in the long-term? If you can write your legislators asking for more humane immigration reform policies, this will really help us all.

(Although I have to say, is a little pushy about asking for donations, but that's par for the course these days.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Remembering Foua Hang

My longtime friend and fellow activist Foua Hang passed away on May 26th, 2007.

There are others who can speak more extensively, more eloquently about the impact Foua made in the community and in the lives of her family and friends, but I will say that I'm left deeply saddened to lose a peer of her caliber.

She remained true to her convictions and was a positive figure in progressive causes who possessed a frank, lively honesty all too rare in our jaded times. Thank you so much for everything you taught me, my friend. There will never be another like you.


What passes from the earth? Everything living.
What remains? Ordinary days

Punctuated by the rising of the sun,
the waking of souls, the roots of nightfall.

Some, we'll witness together.
Some, separated by miles, the flux of atoms, the quirks of perspective.

All lives are brief among mountains, among constellations
Who hang a million light years away.

But even the briefest life of a Hmong woman
Born among our secret wars and uncertain futures

Can spark transformations
As meaningful as the first smile of a child,
The last story of an elder who never lost hope,
Or the bright thread between friends saying goodbye.