Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On The Other Side Of The Eye as Wordle Cloud

As per Wordle, a really fun representation of the words most commonly found in On The Other Side Of The Eye, the book. Thanks to Barbara Jane Reyes for pointing this out. So what does it mean, what does it mean? ;)

Two Quotes by Matisse

Rather banal merely on their own, but read together, I find them quite engaging:

"One can have no smaller or greater mastery
than mastery of oneself."

"Poor is the pupil who does not
surpass their master."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Roger Pao reviews Language For A New Century.

Roger Pao has a review up for Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond, which came out this year (and features one of my poems!) It's a good assessment. Hopefully you'll pick it up and see for yourself what an interesting collection this is.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

MN Boun Lao, June 2008

In Farmington, Minnesota.


When does one transition from being an artist to a great artist?

I might study the arc of Michael LaFosse's life.

He has been practicing the art of Origami for over 40 years, and has been teaching it for over 30 years. He is easily and readily recognized internationally as one of the top origami masters in the world today.

And when you see his work, you understand why. The photos from his website at are amazing:

Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, LaFosse studied to become a biologist. This is evident in his works - which have been shown in the Louvre, and the Art & Nature Center's Idea Studios at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

LaFosse began when he first read a magazine article about origami master Akira Yoshizawa of Tokyo, whose work was genuine art and not merely the sculptures of hobbyists most get from books.

In one interview, LaFosse spoke about how Yoshizawa had made an origami self-portrait, as evocative and masterful as a Rembrandt, and that Yoshizawa's animals were so animated they looked as if they could get up and walk around.
And LaFosse was inspired ever since.

It reminds me deeply of the classic quote of Hokusai on his 75th birthday:
From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of 70 is not worth bothering with. At 75 I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At a 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'
LaFosse's training in Biology took him to Tampa, and he has done studies Everglades animals and plants that he re-created in folded handmade paper.
This intrigues me that as an artist we might take our craft to the point that we build the very tools of expression.

His exhibits have traveled to the Morikami Museum in Del Ray Beach, Florida and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, which was a spectacular show attended by over 40,000 people.
Many of his works from that show are displayed in his book, "ORIGAMIDO - Masterworks of Folded Paper".

LaFosse contends that Origami techniques are unlike those in any other art process, "and as a result, the final sculpture will have a unique style and aesthetic. Part of a model's charm is its ability to display the qualities of the paper; a well-executed origami is a marvel of architectural design and poetry in paper form."
And I would easily recognize LaFosse as a fellow poet for his work. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, I'm also wondering if an element of origamido could be integrated into puppoetics and puppets, but that may be years down the road.

Liquid Atlas: The War Bar

One of the upcoming projects I hope to finish in the coming months ahead is Liquid Atlas, or a project I also refer to as the War Bar, which will be a chapbook examining the relationship of drink and particularly alcohol to different conflicts around the world, and hopefully, to peace as well.

I'll need to collect cocktails and drink recipes from a number of conflicts and see what stories people connect to them. Never ones to be politically correct, Tripmaster Monkey has a number of cocktail recipes worth checking out in the meantime.

Whether or not this particular book wins a prize or not, the book release party should at least be quite spirited.


One of the performing groups I'm consistently intrigued by are the Mummenschanz from Switzerland, who were quite popular in the 1970s and 80s and gained widespread appearance on the famous puppet show, the Muppets.

Transcending language, they still provoke an intense and intriguing encounter with art and concept.

They also were a prominent part of the Double video, Devil's Ball:

Here's another interesting demonstration of their art in action.

It speaks volumes, and I'm considering many more elements in the presentation of work, especially across cultures.

World Refugee Day, June 20th

In 2000, the United Nations declared June 20th World Refugee Day. This year I had the chance to enjoy the Twin Cities celebration at Minnehaha Park with approximately 1,000 other residents, although for a city that has such a large mix of refugees from almost every continent, I wish there could have been a larger turnout for such a wonderful cause.

World Refugee Day is a celebration and a time to honor the world's nearly 10 million refugees.

In the Twin Cities, we celebrated with dancers, singers, bands, drummers, artisans, storytellers, speakers, and more.

There was great food for sale from local vendors and an Immigrant Resource Fair with information from over fifty different organizations on education, employment, housing, legal and immigration services, health and wellness.

For my part, I'm celebrating by recording a number of classic and newer poems for youtube and the usual places to recognize my own roots and continued ties within the refugee experience.

I hope you enjoy them, but more importantly, I encourage you all to take a moment in your own lives to consider the amazing impact refugees have on our community and how we might continue to make a difference in the lives of those still unable to call anyplace home.

His Dark Materials On Stage

While I wasn't terribly impressed with the film adaptation of The Golden Compass, I have been deeply impressed with the footage I've seen of the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials.
The integration of puppetry here definitely piques my curiosity, as does the use of digital, visual effects.

As these effects come more within the production budget of smaller companies, might we see even more intriguing applications?
I can only imagine how a puppet, poetry and stage might effectively combine, but I also think the presentation could be quite daring and daunting for the technical challenge.
I'd mentioned this briefly to some colleagues during the Fantasy Matters conference that when we see the daemons presented, the execution is so much more convincing and profound in demonstrating the connection between animal and human than any CGI could hope to convey.
It's one of the few instances where I find myself thinking a work might work best on page and stage, but not film. Intriguing.

Thingumajig Theater and the puppetry of Andrew Kim

London-based Korean American puppeteer Andrew Kim's work impresses me for its aesthetic and technical execution. Working with Kathy Bradley and, he has consistently created vivid and imaginative works, notably The Vertigo of Sheep. The official synopsis was:

A well-meaning but unreliable clown attempts to explain the Book of Genesis.
Were Adam and Eve set up to fail? Did Abraham truly intend to sacrifice his son? Why did Lot's wife really turn into a pillar of salt? Through household objects, puppets, physical theater
and live music, Thingumajig Theatre creates a world where profane objects are sacred and the sacred is hilarious.

I once saw a performance at the Center for Independent Artists along with Heart of the Beast's Masanari Kawahara, who did a stunning puppetry interpretation of Gojira(Godzilla).
This was one of the key performances that affected my current thoughts on the potential of puppetry and poetics, particularly for the Southeast Asian American community.
Throughout its many peaks, Vertigo of Sheep is stunning, literary and imaginative, accessible and deep, transcending the form in many ways.
It's a wonderful bar for contemporary Southeast Asian puppetry to consider. How might we address contemporary social issues and beliefs, true to tradition but also changing our sense of things from the encounter?

Looking at Rain Bear in video performance, above, for example, I wonder what levels the art could be taken to.

It intrigues me because of the deep need for community input and its multidisciplinary engagement for performances such as this to truly succeed.

James Bond Haikus

Quantum of Solace:
Next Bond film arriving soon.
Here then, some reviews.

Never Say Never Again
Train, rest, find trouble.
Spectres fade like thunderballs.
Quit with a beauty.

Die Another Day
Capture frigid hearts
Change your face but not the soul:
Deadly borders meet.

Tomorrow Never Dies
News for Destiny:
Remembering costs you,
No one can cheat death.

Live And Let Die
Stacking decks your way
Kisses cost more lives than guns
When found in wrong arms.

You Only Live Twice
Walking in these boots,
Dreams for many are simple.
For some? Quite changing.

A View To A Kill
Leap. Risk for control
By flame, flood, sand, snow or fault.
Races will surprise.

The World Is Not Enough
What is your true price?
Claim: "Orbis non sufficit."
Search. Explode. Atone.

On Puppoetics

It's been some time since I discussed puppoetics at length- the integration of puppetry with poetics.

My chief concern is particularly from the 'Southeast Asian American perspective.'

And maybe the 'Southeast Asian American speculative poet's perspective,' but let's keep it a little simple.

The concept is easy enough, no?

But it is in the execution more complicated issues emerge.

In a best case scenario, puppoetics opens unique expressive opportunities drawing from the best strengths of both forms.

There are very unique challenges for a viable performance. But part of the joy of any artform is in challenges like these.

To note:

Today, traditional puppetry in Southeast Asia is used predominantly for the retelling of traditional folk tales or public service narratives against particular social dangers facing the community.

There are few documented cases where puppetry is used for contemporary, original narratives like adaptations of short stories, novels or dramatic plays, particularly in politically sensitive regions.

Puppetry involving contemporary poetics in Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian Americans is even more rare.

I've not seen instances of this, personally, but this doesn't necessarily there isn't prior precedent.

But it is an area in which my curiosity has steadily grown. has begun gathering performances of other cultures and communities bridging poetry and puppetry.

For me, the issue must be the same as for graphopoetics: engagement should create new form.

The point is not to make a puppet merely reciting poems, or to recite poems while holding a puppet.

Quality engagement with puppoetics must allow new entry points into the material that would not otherwise be possible merely as a puppet performance alone, or a poetry recital alone.

I'm very intrigued by Blanco y Dorado as an expression of what might be possible for Lao American poetics.

With the current directions puppetry is taking in both traditional and avant garde practice, this creates additional options for expression.

The work at Heart of the Beast Theater and Andrew Kim utterly fascinate me.

When I see Andrew's images of the famous Rain Bear, I admit: the wheels in my head start turning about how a Lao American puppet, and one engaged with poetic expression, might be executed.

A while back, I sent a copy of the Tuk-Tuk Diaries to a team of aspiring puppeteers looking for a project to do involving poetry and puppetry.

Unfortunately, of the many entries they received, I wasn't accepted, but I do think the potential is still there, as well as for On The Other Side Of The Eye. But really, I'm particularly interested in adapting some of my newer work these days.

Ruminating, with more to follow in the future.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hyphen Short Story Contest

Hyphen magazine and the Asian American Writers' Workshop are taking submissions for their 2008 Short Story Competition.

The winner pockets a $1,000 prize and has his or her story published in Hyphen magazine.

Writers of short fiction are encouraged to enter the 2008 Short Story Competition jointly sponsored by Hyphen and The Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW).

The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize, publication in Hyphen magazine, a one-year subscription to Hyphen and a one-year membership to AAWW. Ten finalists shall also receive a one-year membership to AAWW and a one-year subscription to Hyphen.

The competition is open to all writers of Asian descent living in the United States and Canada.

The full guidelines are here. Be sure to read them, there are several squiggly details.

Submissions must be postmarked by Friday, July 11, 2008 and accompanied by a $10 entry fee per story. To enter, send submissions to:

The Asian American Writers' Workshop
2008 Short Story Competition
16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A
New York, NY 10001-3808

Saturday, June 14, 2008


For those of you who came to the MOSAIC Asian American Storyteller's performance at Java Jake's on June 14th.

We knocked it out of the park with an amazing tour de force of storytellers, dance and art, and this was one of the classic performances.

I'm very proud of everyone who performed with us, and all of our audience members, too.

Among the performers we had were Benjamin Aung, a Burmese storyteller, Kao Kalia Yang, author of the acclaimed Hmong memoir,"The Latehomecomer,' Phuoc Tran, Vietnamese American storyteller and librarian, dancers from the Burmese community, Karen storytellers, and Bilquis Dairkee, an Indian American grandmother who gave her first live performance ever.

I've been a part of a lot of great performances over the years, but this really was an exceptional program, free to the community, and donations were accepted to support cyclone victims in Burma.

It's easily one of my top ten favorite performances so far.

A very special thanks goes to David Zander, story teller and research analyst for the MN State Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans and Ann Reay of the Northstar Storytellers Alliance for organizing this event.

Haiku Reviews: Comic Books

With new Hulk movie
Time to review comic books
Made into movies.

Batman Returns
Living with you? Dreams.
Orphans' skills? "Rebuild" from dark,
Keep masks, lives apart.

Spider Man 2
Arm yourself wisely.
What will hold you together:
Hands, webs, hearts or self?

Strong green marvel: Heart,
You won't like me when angry.
Exploited. In love.

Walking hidden here,
At least you've chosen a "side".
Love, fear, what matters?

To see, deep, fearless:
How to escape Hell's Kitchen?
A Bullseye will cost.

Superman Returns
Adopting. Growing.
Illegal alien: Son.
Truth. Justice. A way?

We like not knowing?
Sometimes what we look for, finds.
Family, questions.

Mystery Men
Here, "the other guys":
Often the ordinary,
Dreams, misfits collide.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reading in Minneapolis: June 14th @ 7PM

On Saturday, June 14th, I'm reading for the MOSAIC Asian Story Telling Alliance at Java Jack's Coffee Cafe at 7PM with several other acclaimed Asian American readers in Minneapolis.

Looking forward to seeing all of you who can make it!

Java Jack's Coffee Cafe
818 W 46th St
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Featured readers and performers include:

Benjamin Aung, Storyteller
Bryan Thao Worra, author of "On the Other Side of the Eye"
Kao Kalia Yang, author of "The Latehomecomer'
Phuoc Tran, Storyteller
Dancers from the Burmese Community
Dancers from the Lao Cultural Center

Friday, June 06, 2008

Haiku Reviews: 10 Sci Fi Favorites

Reflecting on films.
Some classic, others less so.
In haiku format. ;)

Enemy Mine
What we can become:
Conflicts with the alien
Teaches most ending.

Blade Runner
Looking for something,
Urban, flaming brief dreaming:
Foreigness, ending?

Here, children of war.
Lives among refuse renewed.
What is it, to fail?

Enemies within,
From all sides far from home, time:
Purpose uncertain.

T2: Judgement Day
Fighting the future?
Changing faces on the road,
Transcend 'certainty'.

What do we hunt for?
Answers that skin you to soul,
To live, or pay back?

Total Recall
Flexible, our 'truth'.
We pay for our memory,
Even a good dream.

Our future emotions:
Liabilities or hope
Worth rebelling for?

Beneath our strange masks:
Looking for water, food, love.
Truly inhuman?

Wake fearless sleepers:
Our dusty souls await the rain,
Challenge, travels, worms.