Poetry, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and culture from a Lao American perspective.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
My Year In Review!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
In the News
I also have a new poem featured in the latest issue of Whistling Shade.
Northography also has a nice blurb about my recent NEA Fellowship.
Over 1,000 New Species Found in the Mekong
519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad have been found so far. They're finding new species almost at a rate of 2 per week, but even as we make new discoveries, some are disappearing thanks to human development and destruction of their habitats.
We can only hope that more is done to proactively protect these fascinating creatures and our region's heritage of unique biodiversity. Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to highlight other creatures in the near future on this blog.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Katie Ka Vang Chapbook Release!
She has amazing opening acts and a possible eggroll fundraiser her niece might be doing. There are several reasons to attend this event including:
* Awesome opening acts: May Lee Yang, Victoria Vang and The Dirty Darlings (all whom are youtubeable)
* Get eggrolls
* Support Katie by buying her first chapbook, "Never Said" !!!
Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong-American Performance artist and writer. She was a 2007 recipient of the Jerome Naked Stages grant where she created a one woman show called 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening, and is a 2008 recipient of Artist Initiative grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board.
She has performed in different theater companies, schools, open mics, etc. She was in two productions this fall, Sia(b) by May Lee yang; and Asiamnesia by Sunmee Chomet and ensemble.
For more information please check out her website on www.myspace.com/emptyyks
A Letter from Intermedia Arts
- For over 35 years, Intermedia Arts has served as a resource for our community. The work that we do supports hundreds of artists, arts participants and arts organizations each year. Intermedia Arts is a vital part of our culture and our community: we cannot—we must not—allow this work to disappear.
So, What Are We Going to Do About It?
We are going to act, and we need you to act with us. Intermedia Arts can survive this economy. We can even come out on the other side stronger and more sustainable than ever before. But in order to do that, we have to make huge changes in the way we operate, and we have to make them immediately:
•In January 2009, Intermedia Arts will be moving our five full-time staff members to contract or hourly positions. The work that we do as an organization will be done by our Executive/Artistic Director, Theresa Sweetland; our board of directors; current staff members working as independent contractors, and community volunteers.
•As of January 9th, we will open only for scheduled events, mostly in the evenings. We will be closing our gallery and eliminating our gallery and poetry library hours but will be expanding our rental programming in our theater, gallery and classrooms. Our building is a valuable asset to the arts community, and we encourage you to look to us for your upcoming rental needs.
•We are currently working with other local arts groups and organizations to discuss ideas for sharing resources and sustaining our programs. We will also discuss the ways in which our building could be most valuable to the arts community as Intermedia Arts re-structures our operations and rebuilds our capacity.
•Intermedia Arts has organized a meeting of small and mid-sized arts groups—SOTA: State of the Arts. None of us can do this alone.
I know. It’s huge. It’s fast. It’s dramatic. But we—our staff, our board, our artists, partners, and funders—all of us, are absolutely committed to ensuring the future of Intermedia Arts. I know you are too.
Calling On Our Community (This Part is About You)
We can’t do this without you. Really and truly, whether Intermedia Arts closes its doors or not depends on you. Over the past three years, Intermedia Arts has taken on SASE's literary programs, and together we have developed something truly amazing. This is what I'm asking you to do:
1. RSVP now. I need you here at Intermedia Arts’ Community Townhall: Rally the People! at 5:30PM on Friday, December 19th. I am asking you to make it a priority to be here, in person. You are our community; we need you to rally with us as we design our future together.
2. Make a donation. Supporting Intermedia Arts is critical right now, and every dollar counts. We need your support to help us with our general operating expenses as we implement our plan for long-term sustainability. This isn’t about keeping Intermedia Arts open for another month; this is about keeping Intermedia Arts in our community for the long-term. Right now, that future depends on you. Don't wait: make your donation today.
3: Email us. We need to hear your thoughts, your ideas, your commitment of support, your encouragement, your suggestions and feelings. Send us your questions, tell us what you think, and look to our website for updates, responses, community FAQs, and news each and every step of the way. Email: Community@intermediaarts.org.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Winter Ink Book Release Party: Dec. 13th, 2008
Here are some initial photos from the Winter Ink release party on Dec. 13th at Open Book! A big thanks to everyone who came out to support all of us during the evening. It was a magical night. :)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Mythic creatures of Laos and SE Asia!
It's not every day that we get a big break and come across a rare text like this. While visiting my colleague Phouninh today, she showed me a tattered but largely intact volume of art studying the traditional creatures of myth and legend from Laos and Southeast Asia.
I was unfortunately unable to get better shots at the moment, and want to make sure we get proper credit to the monk who gathered these together, and a larger history of the book, but I also couldn't resist showing you a sample of where we're going to be going in the coming years ahead now...
Clearly, many of the creatures and scenes are from the Ramayana and similar texts, however, others may not be. More research is clearly needed. :) But I'm very excited about coming across this text.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
2009 NEA Poetry Fellows
Lol. And how do I feel?
In the News and Blogosphere
- On The Other Side Of The Eye by Bryan Thao Worra (Sam’s Dot Publishing); an enlightening and whimsical poetry collection that tells the devastating effect of the civil war in Laos, the Kingdom of a Million Elephants, on the human spirit: past, present and future. ‘What Kills A Man’ is a gentle list: Always small things / A round. / Holes…A motion. An emotion. Worra fills these pages with poetic fables using the wonders of Laos myth and world history in the song of aliens, immortality, moon and stars; from “The Deep Ones”: We grow with uncertain immortality/At the edge not made for man.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Officially Announcing: I'm an NEA Fellow in Literature
The NEA was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, and the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts.
This year, out of over 1,000 applications received from across the country, only 42 were awarded after being judged by 10 of the country's leading poets. The award for poetry comes only once every 2 years.
The award also comes with $25,000 for me to continue my work to study and advance awareness of Laotian American poetry. This is both a great personal victory and a community victory.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Influences: A Quick List
- Franz Kafka. The Basic Kafka.
- Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths.
- Samuel Beckett. Endgame. Worstward Ho. Company.
- H.P. Lovecraft. Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre
- Yusef Komunyakaa. Dien Cai Dau. Talking Dirty to The Gods
- Heather McHugh. Hinge and Sign
- Tadeusz Borowski. This Way for The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.
- Adrienne Su. Middle Kingdom.
- Leonard Cohen. I'm Your Man.
- Tom Waits. Bone Machine.
- Khalil Gibran. The Madman.
- Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myth.
- Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha. Steppenwolfe.
- Shuntaro Tanikawa. Selected Poems.
- Yevgeny Yevtushenko. The Face Behind The Face.
- Graham Greene. The Captain And The Enemy.
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Gift From The Sea.
Monday, November 24, 2008
"The Beehive Buddha" of Rochester.
Over the weekend I had the chance to go visit the Buddhist Support Society in Rochester to see an interesting case of pareidolia at the Khmer wat.
There, residents spotted a wasp or bee's nest that looks like an image of a sitting Buddha in monk's robes. The locals see it as a sign of good luck and fortune. The monks see it as a message for everyone to seek peace and serenity in their lives. They're having a celebration on December 6th and 7th. The Rochester Post has an article.
It took an hour to get over there, but it was clear everyone was very excited and in good spirits with the approaching holiday season and the end of the year.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
MN Center For Book Arts Winter Book: Winter Ink
OTOSOTE for the Holidays!
Boston Progress Radio and Bryan Thao Worra!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A look at Winter Ink
At the November Book Roundtable at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, we finally got to see a look at this year's Winter Book, Winter Ink, which features a 10-poem set of original work by me and highlights the best work of Minnesota's master printers and artisans.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Remarks on Outhine Bounyavong's "Mother's Beloved"
Interviewed in Tales of the Unanticipated #29
Milwaukee In November
During this time I also had a chance to complete Barrow and it's now in a final stage of editing at Sam's Dot Publishing. The text was finally finished at the Harry Schwartz Bookstore in Milwaukee.
Monday, November 10, 2008
A Laotian American Writer's Festival?
This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder what books and writers would be part of a Laotain American Writer's festival.
Abroad, a short-list of Lao writers to consider includes:
Dr Thongkham Onemanisone is the founder of the Lao Writer’s Association. He is the first Lao writer to receive the prestigious SEAWrite Award in 1998 for his work Pheua Hak Pheua Nang ('For Love for Her'). Dr Thongkham's numerous other works include Phoum Pannya Sisawat ('Sisawat's Wisdom', 1997), Nithan Suphasit ('39 Moral Tales', 1997), Dhamma's Path Poems (2000), The Memory of SEAWrite Award Poems (2003) and Sharp, Decisive, Hot and Salty Poems (2004); the Lao Language Dictionary (1992) and Lao Language: Terms and Meanings (1997) and numerous poems and articles for daily newspapers and magazines.
The novelists Phieu Lavanh (b 1954), Bounseun Songmany (b 1956) and Damdouane Pomdouangsi (b 1958) are also frequently acknowledged as key writers, but curiously there are few extended details about their lives and work.
Several years ago, poet Thongbay Photisane visited the US as part of the University of Iowa's International Writer's Program. At the time, he directed and edited the only monthly literary magazine in Laos, and served as second secretary of the Lao Writer's Association, editing its newsletter. He was the author of the short stories "The Life of Love," "The Love of the Luang Prabang Song," "Life and Family" and "Song of Man," which have appeared in Vannasin magazine, the monthly publication of the Lao Ministry of Information and Culture; these were also published as a book.
From the Hmong community, prominent writers would include Kao Kaliya Yang, author of The Latehomecomer, Mai Neng Moua, the editor of Bamboo Among the Oaks, writer May Lee Yang, Katie Ka Vang, Pacyinz Lyfoung and the members of the Fresno-based Hmong American Writer's Circle or contributors to the Paj Ntaub Voice Hmoob literary journal.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Reading at Wisconsin Lutheran College: November 11th!
I'll be reading from my book On The Other Side Of The Eye and my newer books coming out this year, Winter Ink and Barrow.
As a side note, this is my very first reading in Milwaukee. Many of my early years were spent there as a child in the Shorewood neighborhood, so this is a very interesting moment for me.
I've read and presented my work in other cities in Wisconsin, but Wisconsin Lutheran College is the first college to bring me to Milwaukee. I appreciate them bringing me in to see their students.
In addition, I'm very interested in meeting writers and artists interested in contributing to a number of emerging projects for Bakka Magazine and others while I'm in Milwaukee!
Here is the campus map. I'll be reading in Building 2. Here are the directions to the campus: http://www.wlc.edu/directions/
LAO Talent Showcase 2008: Nov. 1st
Featuring some great and amazing talent! You don't want to miss this!
3rd Annual Lao Educational Conference: Sacramento
Two speakers include Dr. Phoumy Sayavong and an artist and inspirational speaker from Chicago - Chanthala :
For more information, you can check out ALEC: Annual Laotian Educational Conference
Thai Horror films to watch for?
Granted, the titles some are citing leave a lot to be desired. Hollywood seems to have bought the remake rights to: Street Racing Grasue, Ghost Dorm, My Boss Is a Hobgoblin, Flying Gnome's Drain Pipe and Zombie Mule-Deer, so this may not exactly be a report to take absolutely seriously.
But here's a clip from the 2004 film Garuda.
Reviews suggest that by many contemporary horror and kaiju standards this one could have been a lot better, but in the wake of films like Shutter and films on the story of Nang Nak, there is a potential there that is worth keeping an eye on.
Creatures of Myth and Legend 2008 Roundup.
From Tanzania, we have the Popobawa of the island of Pemba. First identified in the 1970s, he can be identified by his odor, and is a one-eyed flying ogre with a giant penis and a penchant for buggery. He attacks only men, for up to an hour. Seriously, I'm not making this up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popo_Bawa
From the Philippines, the Manananggal is beautiful older woman, and one of the more repellent types of Aswang. One with leathery wings and a detachable torso that flies away legless. Manananggals are reported near the Visayan islands. They feed on pregnant women, using a proboscii to suck out the hearts of fetuses. Legends also say manananggals reproduce by spitting a black chick into another person's mouth.
The Tiyanak is a Phillipine creature that imitates a child, usually a newborn baby who cries in the jungle to attract unwary travelers. Once it is picked up by someone, it reverts to its true form and attacks. Aside from slashing people, the tianak love leading travelers astray, or in kidnapping children. Some say it is the spirit of a baby whose mother died before childbirth. You can apparently counter a Tiyanak by turning your clothes inside out. The tianak finds the method humorous enough to let you go and leave you alone.
The Bakunawa is a Filipino deity depicted as a serpentine creature with two sets of wings, whiskers, a red tongue, and a mouth ‘the size of a lake.’ Bakunawa lived in the sea at a time when the world had seven moons. Being fascinated by their light, it would rise out of the sky into the sky and consume the moons. Thus, they were the cause of eclipses. To prevent the world from becoming dark, the people would run out of their homes, taking their pots and pans, to make the most noise they could in order to scare the Bakunawa so they would stop eating the moons and give them the moonlight back.
The Tikbalang is another Filipino creature that lurks in the mountains and forests. A tall, bony humanoid with limbs so long that its knees reach above its head when it sits down. It has the head and feet of an animal, usually a horse. It may be a transformation of an aborted fetus which has arrived on earth from limbo. The Tikbalang apparently enjoys slapping people, or hoof-stomping its poor victim while smoking a huge cigar. All sources agree that the Tikbalang can perfectly mimic the appearance of people familiar to you, and this transformation is heralded by the strong smell of tobacco.
But not all of the fun creatures come from Asia and the Pacific. Here's one from Europe.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
November Book Arts Roundtable: Winter Ink Preview!
The book 'Winter Ink' features my poetry and the work of several of Minnesota's finest visual artists.
The roundtable is at 7 pm on Tuesday November 18 and free!
It's a special opportunity to get an advanced look at this amazing book and hear an explaination of some of the techniques involved in it's production. It is also an opportunity for people to meet those who have been involved!
If you can make it to the presentation, that would be great. No matter what, it will be informal and fun!
This will take place at 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis at the MNCBA building.
E-Books and Poets
AZW (Amazon): If you set up an account and then eMail your content to YourKindleName@free.kindle.com it's converted and a link to the converted file is eMailed to your registered eMail address at no charge. You can then download it and use your PC's USB connection to transfer the content to the Kindle. However, the free MobiPocket v4.2 Creator will convert many formats -- HTML, MS Word Docs, Text, and Adobe PDF into .PRC files -- nicely compressed and encrypted if you wish -- which, when transferred into the Kindle are directly readable.
MOBI (MobiPocket): Mobipocket is a company that makes Reader software called MobiPocket Reader and MOBI format eBooks. You can create books in the Mobi format here.
LIT (Microsoft): Any Microsoft Word 2000 or greater has a feature that lets you convert to this format for their Microsoft Reader also known as MS Reader, an eBook reader that is shipped with most installations of Pocket PC.
PNPd (Palm eReader): E-Reader is the new name for Palm Reader or Peanut. It is a viewer for electronic documents on PalmOS and other platforms and devices. You can create eBooks for this format using the Dropbook program.
BBeB (Sony): Printer for LIBRIe allows the user to print data stored on a pc in word, excel or pdf format into a file readable by the Librie. Possible usages include proof reading, text checking, or paperless document carrying.Unfortunately you cannot search or zoom books created by it!
Now, digital rights management is a whole different game, and so is the question of distribution and sales. But for those of us who are DIY this is an important step.
October: Filipino American Heritage Month
With that in mind, it seems appropriate to take time to note the passing this year of Robert Aspirin, a Filipino-Irish American science fiction and fantasy author who was born in Michigan and raised in Ann Arbor (where I spent much of my formative years in the 1980s) and the author of the Myth Adventures and Thieves' World series, among numerous other projects.
His work with Phil Foglio was a deep influence on me, and I'm sorry I never got to meet him in person. But that's how the arts are, sometimes, you get only fleeting meetings with the creators, but the work leaves you changed over a lifetime.
Of course, this is also a good time to give a quick shout out to my good colleagues Barbara Jane Reyes, Anthem Selgado, Patrick Rosal, Marlin Esguerra, Dr. Penelope Flores, Marlon Unas Esguerra and many others who've helped me in one way or another on my journey as a writer. Keep energized, keep creative!
Important Deadlines for MN Writers
Script Works, Literary Arts
Deadline: November 7, 2008
Performance-Based Work, Music Composition, Traditional & Ethnic Performing Arts
Deadline: November 14, 2008
Don't miss out! Also, the SASE/Jerome Grants for Emerging Writers are due on November 10th.
(Thanks to readers who noted an earlier goof in the deadline)
Asian American literary journal: Kartika Review
Kartika Review publishes literary fiction, poetry, and essays that endeavor to expand and enhance the mainstream perception of Asian American creative writing. The journal also publishes book reviews, literary criticism, author interviews, and artwork.
They turn their focus on works relevant to the Asian Diaspora or authored by individuals of Asian descent.
Kartika plans to sponsor readings, panel discussions, writing contests, and other creative activities for the Asian American community in Boston, New York City and the Bay Area.
Check them out!
Space Cowboys, Matchstick City: Anime & I
Even as I grew up with the Robotech series and the imagery of other cartoons from Japan such as Battle of the Planets (aka Gatchaman) and Voltron (originally called Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV) Akira changed my sense of how much social commentary, plot and characterization could be embedded into a 'cartoon' even as admittedly, it is also one of the few films where I think it makes less and less sense the MORE I view it. But the imagery remains spectacular and evocative. It's a great, trippy story that laid critical groundwork for anime in the United States.
Robot Carnival was another personal favorite of mine for the sheer depth and variety of anime styles it hinted we could encounter. Fist Of The North Star was basically shoved down our throats during the early 1990s and its hyperviolence was a portent of the schlock to come that made it difficult to wade through much of the early anime offerings in the US with a focus on outrageous gore and melodrama with nonsensical plots. I'm probably particularly hard on Fist Of The North Star because I just can't get over the fact that I sit through 2 hours of searching for some character's sister, who then never once appears in the remainder of the movie after she's found. (!!!)
For my money, I deeply appreciate the depth and variety within the anime series, Cowboy Bebop, where, in addition to the progressive narrative, we found each episode exploring a different musical and literary theme/genre. One episode might look at the mythos of the cowboy western, another might be an homage to the world of Batman. It remains a classic series to me.
Another notable film I enjoyed was the re-envisioned Metropolis, that in recent years reminded me of the stunning, sweeping visionary heights Akira promised we were capable of. It diverges heavily from the Fritz Lang classic it's inspired by, but that in a way is what also makes it engaging, because it is faithful to many of the themes and motif's of Lang's opus.
A trailer for Lang's original work with a 1980s soundtrack for a restored 1984 version:
A standout series I continue to enjoy viewing was the retro Giant Robo series. Giant Robo was inspired by Mitsuteru Yokoyama's manga series and was an homage to Yokoyama's career.
The series featured great characters and plotlines from the manga artist's entire canon of work, effectively creating an all-new story. Set in the near future, ten years after the third energy revolution, you follows the master of Robo, Daisaku Kusama, and the Experts of Justice, an international police organization locked in battle with the Big Fire Group, a secret society bent on world domination. (aren't they all)
In 1999 I had the great fortune to be part of the Minneapolis Asian Children's Film Festival and to show a 10-film retrospective of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, from well-known classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service to Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle In The Sky and many others.
All of them were great. But for personal reasons, my favorite is really always going to be Porco Rosso.
Porco Rosso is the story of an anti-fascist aviator transformed into an anthropomorphic pig in 1920s Italy. Porco is a bounty hunter who fights air pirates and an American soldier of fortune. The film is a fascinating meditation the tension between selfishness and duty, and ever an abstract self-portrait of Miyazaki himself.
But the long and the short of it is, while far from comprehensive, these would be among the first I'd recommend to others with an interest in manga and anime. And now you know! :)
Northography.Com Reading: November 14th.
For several years now, one of my favorite websites for Minnesota writers has been Northography.Com, which gathers together novice and experienced writers alike to respond to a weekly stimulus, many often selected from the artistic offerings of other Minnesota artists, or items with a more timeless and universal quality.
I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in connecting with other Minnesota writers. Several writers who've met through Northography have gone on to collaborate together on their own projects and readings, to great success.
The Laotian American writer Saymoukda Vongsay and I are regular contributors, and you find many talented figures here. Whistling Shade, one of my favorite Minnesota publications, has been a longtime supporter of Northography since it first launched.
It's still a rare thing to see a full, official Northography reading in the Twin Cities, which makes Friday, November 14th exciting!
Doors open at 6:30pm and from 7 to 10 PM to feature 13 of Northography's contributors, reading for just 5 minutes each:
The performance is at the acclaimed Intermedia Arts at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408. We'd love for you to join us!
Don't Forget: The SASE/Jerome Grants for Emerging Writers are due November 10th, and if you're eligible your should really try to apply!
Looking forward to seeing you!
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Interviewed in two.one.five
I have a great interview appearing in the popular Catz Out The Bag column in the new issue of two.one.five magazine thanks to the famously talented Catzie V. I deeply appreciate it.
It was lots of fun to do, and will hopefully give readers a few new insights into my work and process. Or at least see a few wild photos of me I don't let out too often. ;)
Myths and Legends: Southeast Asian Ghosts
As we enter into October, it seems like a good time to share a fun commercial from Thailand that provides a pretty good overview of several types of ghosts to be found in the region. A very special thanks to Soy Mountry for pointing this one out to me.
Reflections From Nina's: Oct. 1st
Thanks go to everyone who came to join us at Nina's on Oct. 1st. It was a great evening with exceptional performances by Sharon Chmielarz and Connie Wanek, and I as we read round-robin style at Nina’s Café, above Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul as part of the Nina’s Café “Verse and Converse” Series.
I think the poems from each poet interlocked nicely, with work initially touching on issues of finances, faith, time, death and life, animals and politics and other fun subjects. Todd Boss was a great MC and it was a chance to see many great poets, writers and readers gathered in the room, including Tim Nolan, Katie Leo and Joyce Sutphen, Patricia Kirkpatrick from Water-Stone Review and many others. Afterwards, a great afterparty was held at Costello's.
I'm looking forward to next month's Verse and Converse!