Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Welcome to April

Welcome once again to April, which is, among many other things, National Poetry Month, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month, and includes such wonderful days as Phi Mai Lao, Tax Day and April Fool's.

I'm starting the month by celebrating with my peers and colleagues in Lincoln, Nebraska. A very special thanks to the Asian World Alliance, OASIS, the UNL Libraries, the department of English and Ethnic Studies, the Asian Studies Program.

They've been exceptional hosts and I've had a chance to see some fine collections of materials and programs here at the University of Nebraska.

There are nearly 1,000 Laotians in Nebraska and over 7,000 Vietnamese. There are approximately 100 Hmong and 100 Khmer if Census figures are accurate.

Nebraska is an interesting state. It is illegal to go whale fishing here, but it also home to Elephant Hall, the largest collection of prehistoric and modern elephant skeletons in the world.

I've had a chance to examine the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden including Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Torn Notebook and a 1927 Gaston Lachaise sculpture.

The reading at the University Bookstore went well. I read a wide selection of my work spanning 17 years including pieces from my upcoming book BARROW and from On The Other Side Of The Eye, The Tuk-Tuk Diaries and my current manuscript-in-progress some of you know as When Dreams Loved Memory.

We had a fine discussion on the relationship of writing to community activism, the muse and poets and how we find inspiration.

Tomorrow, I'll be giving the keynote lecture during the Asian Heritage Celebration in the Centennial Room of the Nebraska Union.

My topic will be Changing Cultures and Preserving Asian Traditions in the Midwest.

Among the things I'll be addressing include the Japanese American Internment during World War II, misperceptions of the Midwest as essentially 'flyover country' within many Asian American narratives, the murders of Han Pak and Vincent Chin, the birth of the Hmong literary tradition, and the Japanese American 522nd Field Artillery Battalion who were the first to liberate the survivors of the Nazi’s Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.

It's going to be a wild ride through history and the future. For those of you who can't make it, I appreciate your support in spirit.

And of course, here are some fun shots from my recent travels:

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