Wednesday, January 30, 2008

194 By 2194!

Sooooooooooo because I like to set fun challenges for myself but also like to give myself enough lead time to achieve them. (ahem...)

My new goal is to get at least ONE copy of On The Other Side Of The Eye in every single country on Earth.

Well, as of today, January 30th, 2008. By 2194.

That makes it: 193 or 194, depending on who you talk to.

Mind you, this isn't as easy as me just shipping a copy to every country's national library. I would consider that cheating. :)

Now, if someone else bought a copy and donated it to that country's library, then no. That would not be cheating, and it would totally count.

So far: Canada, the United States of America, Australia, and England are confirmed and covered. 190 to go, with 186 years left!

This should be easy enough! Wish me luck! :)

And just to remind us what those 194 are:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ova Saopeng

Lao American actor Ova Saopeng has been a pirate in the Pirates of the Carribean films and both the Monkey King AND the Dragon King in the Minnesota Children's Theatre Company production of Laurence Yep's Dragonwings. He also performs in Refugee Nation and his one-man play, LSL: Lao As A Second Language and many others. A key member of Theater TeAda, he has lived in Hawaii and currently LA.

I first met him during the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project's conference in Minnesota in 2001. He's always amazingly generous with his time and vision, assisting other artists and writers, including Lao, Hmong and Southeast Asian American voices. Here's a brief interview with him:

Hey, Ova! It's great to see you. So what are you working on these days, artistically?

Ova Saopeng: 1. Sculpting our play Refugee Nation to make it better and better by rewriting a few scenes since last we did it and collaborating with Tom Lee ( to create a scenic element to add to the touring show.

2. Learning to negotiate, inspire and sell the show to presenters, producers and communities and searching for more opportunities to present the performance piece nationally.

3. Keep my acting chops oiled by attending workshops and performing with We Tell Stories, a children's theater company I've been a part of for close to a decade.

4. Attending FREE screenings of films and panels taking full advantage of my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) union membership to observe and learn about the film and tv business and how I can be a bigger part of it.

What's been the biggest challenge for you, as a writer?

OS: Writing! I've realized I don't see myself as a writer because I don't put time into it as much as I'd rather perform.

BUT, I am re-realizing that I AM a writer and shit, I write good fucking stuff.

I just came upon my e-journal to friends and family during my time in Minneapolis in the production of Dragonwings in 2001 and it was a blast to re-read the text because I actually give people who read it the opportunity to live vicariously through me.

So...biggest challenge is to "see" myself as a writer. Honor that perception. Respect that perception and write mutha'fucka WRITE!

How did you first get into writing?

OS: My first memory of writing was via theater. I was in the 10th grade at Farrington High School in Honolulu, HI and was a very integral part of T-Shirt Theater, an off shoot company of ADE (Alliance for Drama Education)

T-shirt was amazing because it really uplifted, supported and encouraged a lot of my talents including writing. So I remember writing a poem about escaping from Laos and it was used as part of one the performances.

What are some of your favorite themes and ideas to work with?

OS: I love finding and discovering new ways to see things. Thematically I'm into everything Lao, Asian American, history, life, self discovery, encouragement, relationships, me.

Who's on your reading list these days?

OS: I've not made one really. I'm enjoying reading news and blogs online. Sudoku. I'll start one soon.

Do you have any advice for emerging writers?

OS: Write and don't stop. Allow time to write. Breathe. Just write and make friends. Writing can be a lonely get together with others and play. Oh...observe, question and respond.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Scenes from the Asian American Poetry Triple Header

With 85+ people in attendance from a wide cross-section of the Twin Cities community, I think it's safe to consider this a great success.

From my end of things, the set I performed included What Kills A Man, Aliens, Destroy All Monsters, Before Going Feral, Thread Between Stone and The Tuk Tuk Diaries: Part I.

I would consider this set a meditation of the alien, the mythic and the experience of adoptees and refugees. People seeking home who meet people looking to 'get away from it all.'

Sun Yung Shin and Lee Herrick also presented a magnificent selection of their pieces: some classics and some new work too. I'll hopefully be able to get some of it up on Youtube before too long, if the footage has come out properly! :)

Thanks again, everyone who came! All of your support and feedback was amazing and astounding.

Considering A Jar

I'm always interested in what can be learned from other arts.

The above is the work of Twin Cities potter Heather Wang. There are times when her work transcends in every sense of the word, and I particularly appreciate this piece of hers for its technical excellence, but also for its unique inner energy and aesthetics.

There are pieces of art in the world that can speak, and then there are those that can have complex conversations with you that last and linger with you.

For me, this is is a perfect example.

When I look at the brush strokes of this jar from different angles, there are the brush strokes, in and of themselves, without meaning or message. For me, however, like the classic Rorschach tests using ink blots, once I allow myself the imaginative liberty to connect these strokes to more familiar memories and dreams, I find it quite rewarding.

Do I see the old woman in the storms, the door of the castle opening, the Chinese junk on a quiet sea? The dogs being scolded, the descent of night?

To me, depending on the angle and the lighting, the setting and the time, there are dozens of tiny little stories like these, flickering on the surface and textures of this jar.

As an artist, to find a piece of art that can inspire other works of my own art is always a delight.

I hear the arguments of other artists and spectators. Does it matter what the creator intended? Does it matter that others might not see what you're seeing? Does it matter if not every piece the creator makes is as unique?

These questions are certainly interesting, but ultimately almost irrelevant.

We have what is before us, and that is that. Maybe I'm intrigued at this jar precisely because it was not created with the intention of being an 'immortal' work of art in the classic sense of the term, and yet, that artistic energy could not be repressed.

If you swing over to and contact Ms. Wang, you might find a similar piece, or you might not. But I think it's worth stopping by for a look.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lao Roots Magazine Interview

A quick thanks and a shout out to Lao Roots Magazine, who just printed a very nice interview about me by April Phomtavong in their new issue.

It really highlights some of the issues I've faced as a writer and artist over the years, and this issue profiles some other really great people in our community that makes it well worth buying a copy if you can.

I'm looking forward to seeing future issues by them!

Catz Out The Bag at magazine

A fun shout out this week to my fellow Lao American writer Catzie V. of Yellow Rage out in PA who does a fun regular column for magazine interviewing different folks, including an upcoming interview with Ed Lin.

Catzie and I met a few years back during her visit to Minnesota and we've had a fun feud about who coined "Laos In The House" first. Currently it looks like I did, but she's gotten more people to say it. And now, I'm sure someone's gonna come along and prove us both wrong. But that's just the way of the world, yo. :)

Anyway, check out her column and her creative work too, when you can!

She's one of our top Lao American voices in the country, representing! :)

Monday, January 07, 2008

2008 MN Book Award Nominees: Poetry

They're going to be announcing the final nominees later this month, and I'm really keeping my fingers crossed but here are the current nominees as of January 7th:


Calvin Benson – Dakota Boy (Calyx Press Duluth)

Kristen Dierking – Northern Oracle (Spout Press)

Larry Gavin – Least Resistance (Red Dragonfly Press)

Maureen Gibbon – Magdalena: Prose Poems (White Pine Press)

Betty Jane Gove – Song from the Dancing Doll (Line Publishing)

Ann Iverson – Definite Space (Holy Cow! Press)

Diane Jarvenpa – The Tender Wild Things (New Rivers Press)

Louis Jenkins – North of the Cities (Will o' the Wisp Books)

Deborah Keenan – Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems (Milkweed Editions)

Susan Deborah King – One-Breasted Woman (Holy Cow! Press)

James P. Lenfestey – A Cartload of Scrolls: 100 Poems in the Manner of T’Ang Dynasty Poet Han-shan (Holy Cow! Press)

√Čireann Lorsung – music for landing planes by (Milkweed Editions)

Leslie Adrienne Miller – The Resurrection Trade (Graywolf Press)

C. Mikal Oness – Oracle Bones (Lewis Clark Press)

Sheila Packa – The Mother Tongue (Clayx Press Duluth)

Joe Paddock – A Sort of Honey (Red Dragonfly Press)

William Reichard – The Brightness: Poems (Mid-List Press)

Edith Rylander – Hive Dancer (Red Dragonfly Press)

Sun Yung Shin – Skirt Full of Black (Coffee House Press)

Thomas R. Smith – Waking before Dawn (Red Dragonfly Press)

Francine Marie Tolf – Blue-Flowered Sundress (Pudding House Publications)

Bryan Thao Worra – On the Other Side of the Eye (Sam's Dot Publishing)

Thanks for all of your support, everyone! It's great to make it even this far!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

2007 In Review

Besides meeting many wonderful new people for the first time and the publication of On The Other Side Of The Eye by Sam's Dot Publishing, I kept a little busy, thanks to you and all of your support!

This year I added at least 9 new publications to my credits list and successfully placed over 23 different and orginal poems around the world. It's been a positive experience!

The furthest away was in the Hong Kong-based journal Cha, and the closest would probably be a tie between Northography, Paj Ntaub Voice and the St. Paul Almanac. But here's the 2007 rundown:

Bakka Magazine, April 07: Stairways In Luang Prabang, Nam, and Sai Lao.

Budget Travel's popular book The Smart Traveler's Passport: 399 Tips from Seasoned Travelers features a small tip from me. The other 398 are very good too! :)

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal: Zelkova Tree

Eye.D Magazine: Two essays: A View Askew and Changers.

Illumen #6: The Deep Ones and Before Going Feral. As a side note, this issue also features Bao Phi, Linh Dinh, Samy Yang, Burlee Vang and the cover art is by Chamindika Wanduragala. It's highly recommended if you can find a copy.

In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself: five fragments (#5)

Journal of Southeast Asian Education and Advancement:Snakehead Fish, Departures, Capital, and Preparations for Southeast Asia.

Northography.Com: 6 poems in 2007: Men, Scales, Whatever Comes To Mind, Lurking Jove, The Fifth Wheel.

Tales of The Unanticipated #28: Heresies of Thread, Flint And Stone.

Unplug Magazine (June/July 07) featured 4 poems: Dreams, Rebellion, Zaj, Ntsuag Sings The Blues

Paj Ntaub Voice Humor(Less) 07: I keep seeing reports I have poems in here, but I haven't seen the actual issue myself yet. I'll update this once I have.

2008 St. Paul Almanac: Riding The 16, Modern Life

In all, I hope this serves as an encouragement to all of my fellow writers and artists out there.

As I've said before, I see this not just as a personal victory for me, but it is a victory for all our all of us, that our voices do count and our voices do make a difference. :)

I couldn't have done this without you!

Bryan Thao Worra Receives Artist Initiative Grant

Just announced by the Minnesota State Arts Board:

Bryan Thao Worra, Saint Paul

$6,000 — to promote and build new audiences for his first book of poetry and his recent work, especially among historically underserved audiences, and to complete his second book of Laotian American speculative poetry.

A special thanks goes obviously to all of the judges but more importantly to my publisher, Sam's Dot Publishing and all of my very, very supportive friends and readers who believe in my work! :)