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

The Minnesota Center For Book Arts has a great page about the upcoming book Winter Ink that I created with them. It's an amazing book, and I hope you can join us for the book release party on Saturday, December 13th at the Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis! 

The party is free for all to come help us celebrate this wonderful project! 

OTOSOTE for the Holidays!

As a quick heads-up, the holidays are fast approaching, and I know many of you are hoping to order On The Other Side Of The Eye for friends and family, and I really appreciate it! 

As the first full-length book of Laotian American poetry with a Midwestern, science fiction bent, your reception of it has been really affirming, and I'm looking forward to the next followups coming out soon: Winter Ink and Barrow

Many of you already know that when you order directly from me, I can sign and personalize your copy of On The Other Side Of The Eye, and you'll get bonus goodies included, including, depending on the number left over, a copy of my very rare chapbook: The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: My Dinner With Cluster Bombs

And as always, this year, On The Other Side Of The Eye comes in a very distinctive and unforgettable envelope. :)

However, for it to reach you by December 24th, I'll need to have received orders by December 10th to guarantee delivery!  Thanks again for all of your support, and have a wonderful holiday season! 

Boston Progress Radio and Bryan Thao Worra!

 I was just featured on Boston Progress Radio's popular Shuffled feature!

Boston Progress Radio is a community-based online radio station and blog focusing on independent Asian American music and art. Their goal is to build a space for Asian American artists to share their work, to offer their perspectives and to reflect on what connects us, what moves us, what powers us. It's worth checking out. 

Shuffled is a weekly column appearing every Thursday here on BPRLive. Each week, we welcome someone from the APA community to share some thoughts about the music they listen to. My five songs that emerged from a random shuffle of my mp3 player were pretty eclectic, with a special appearance by Anthem Salgado, whose Time and Money remains one of my favorite Asian American tracks of the 21st century.

Stop by and tell them I said hello!

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.

The members of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts really broke new ground in many ways for this, the 20th anniversary Winter Book and it's been a delight to collaborate with them. Having seen these in person, I can say that I'm deeply honored and impressed by the craftsmanship that has gone into the art and printing of these books. This is a preview of some of the work inside the Chapbook edition. The Standard and Deluxe Editions are even more amazing: 

Under the direction of MCBA Artistic Director Jeff Rathermel, Winter Ink is available in three editions, each letterpress printed under the supervision of master printer Paulette Myers-Rich. The frontice illustration of each edition is by Cathy Ryan, with additional illustrations by Georgia A. Greeley, Scott Helmes, Harriet C. Lievan, Sara Parr, Elizabeth A. Riggle and Patrick Vincent.

The Chapbook Edition ($30) is limited to 150 copies. It's composed of French-folded kozo paper pages between linen cardstock covers. Indigo Moriki and Navy Orgura Lace papers serve as end sheets. The Chapbook Edition was designed by Paulette Myers Rich and Jeff Rathermel and bound by MCBA staff and volunteers under their supervision.

The Standard Edition ($150) is limited to 50 copies and signed by me, and designed and bound by Sue Bjerke. It is composed of French-folded kozo paper pages stab-bound between soft Chiyogami covers. Cover art and end sheets incorporating original sumi brushwork are by Georgia A. Greeley. The illustrations are augmented by slip-sheets of olive Ogura Lace paper. The Standard Edition is presented in a tri-fold case covered in Indigo Asahi bookcloth and lined with Indigo Moriki paper.

The Deluxe Edition ($475) is lettered A through Z and signed by me, and designed and bound by Jana Pullman. It is composed of French-folded kozo paper pages with tipped in frontice illustration on gampi paper, bound in green silk and presented in a threefold wraparound case covered in poppy Asahi bookcloth. A suite of three additional prints by Cathy Ryan and Original sumi ink work by Michael Waltz are presented in a similar case. An additional poem of mine, the classic, "Wisdom" is presented with accompanying illustrations by Michael Waltz. The two components of the Deluxe Edition are presented in a green Asahi bookcloth-covered slipcase.

The release party is scheduled for Saturday, December 13th, from 6 to 9 PM with a reading at 7:30 PM at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts at 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN. Everyone is invited to come!

Here's the opening poem that helped me organize the rest of the poems in this collection, Ink: A Recipe, that makes its debut in Winter Ink.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Remarks on Outhine Bounyavong's "Mother's Beloved"

Outhine Bounyavong was one of the first Laotian writers translated into English since the end of the war for Laos in 1975. His most widely available collection is Phaeng Mae, or Mother's Beloved, a collection of 14 stories that emphasized Laotian virtues of simplicity, compassion, respect for the elders and other village beliefs. 

These short stories examined his own memories and how to behave with compassion and as part of the great chain of being.  He positions most of his stories as discussions on the lives of ordinary people, which allowed him a lens to examine the subtle textures of Lao culture. It was published in 1999 by the University of Washington Press. 

It also includes an interesting essay by Peter Koret that is essential for anyone starting to understand the current scope of contemporary Laotian literature around the world.

Bounyavong's story "A Voice From The Plain of Jars," covers familiar territory for those of us engaged with issues of UXO and leftover munitions from the War For Laos, but should be recognized as one of the first short stories to actively present the plight of Laotians who face the problem on unexploded bombs over 40 years since the end of the war.

In the coming months ahead, I hope to discuss more of these stories in greater detail and what we can learn from them and expect of ourselves in our own writing.

Interviewed in Tales of the Unanticipated #29

I'm interviewed by the amazing Catherine Lundhoff in Tales of the Unanticipated #29 this season. It's a good interview. Check it out if you can!

Milwaukee In November

A very special thanks to all of my readers and fans who made the trip to Milwaukee this month so exciting and enjoyable! 

We had an audience of nearly 50 who came to hear me present and I deeply appreciated meeting all of you at Wisconsin Lutheran College for my first public reading there. 

Milwaukee and I go a long way back, but this was a very special occasion.

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. 

Later this month, we'll be getting a sneak preview of Winter Ink in its final stages just before its December release from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. 

I've got to express my thanks to Sam's Dot Publishing for being a great and patient press with my process. For those of you who've seen earlier drafts of Barrow I think you'll be even more amazed at the ambition of the new text.

I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum this month, and had the opportunity to see a great new exhibit of interactive art that really inspires me for some future projects in mind, and reminds me of the joys of 3 dimensional work. The exhibit runs until January, 2009 and I highly recommend it for anyone.

Time for me to get back to Minnesota, but thanks again everyone, and I hope it's not too long before I get to see you all once more!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Laotian American Writer's Festival?

For 10 years, the Chicano and Latino Writers Festival featured local and national writers through support from the Friends of the St. Paul Public Libraries in Minnesota and others in the Twin Cities.

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder what books and writers would be part of a Laotain American Writer's festival. 

There are several in the US who would certainly be good candidates, ranging from current figures such as Phayvanh Luekhamhan, Catzie Vilayphonh, Saymoukda Vongsay,Dr. Bounsang Khamkeo, Soudary Kittivong-Greenbaum, TC Huo, Kongkeo Saycocie, Ova Saopeng and other writers from the SatJaDham network. Khampheng Manirath, a traditional story teller from Laos currently lives in Iowa, and would potentially bring much to a festival.

Abroad, a short-list of Lao writers to consider includes: 

Douangdeuane Viravongs, the daughter of the late Maha Sila Viravongs and widow of short story writer Outhine Bounyavong. She has published various poems and novels and transcribed numerous traditional stories, of which the best-known is Kam Pha Phi Noi ('The Little Orphan and the Spirit’). She runs the family bookshop/publishing house Dokked Publishing in Vientiane and maintains the Maha Sila Viravongs Library, an important repository of rare books and documents.

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. 

Dr. Dia Cha author of Folk Tales of the Hmong and Dia's Story Cloth, Dr. Gary Yia Lee, author of Dust of Life,  and Houa Vue Moua, the author of Trails Through The Mist also deserve strong consideration. Dr. Lue Vang's Grandmother's Path, Grandfather's Way is also a particular classic. I'd also certainly enjoy a festival featuring Soul Vang and Pos Moua, the author of Where the Torches Are Burning.

Of course, no list is going to be complete and comprehensive. But I'd love to hear your suggestions about who would make great writers to add to a festival of Laotian American writers. It's promising that in the last few years we've seen a particular upswing in the number of books available where we could consider such festivals viable.