Friday, November 25, 2016

Examples of Lao American poets

There are, of course many Lao American poets out there at many stages in their literary journey right now. But here are nine of our most accomplished in our community, in terms of publication, performance, training , accolades and community leadership to start with. Some are familiar faces in the Asian American poetry community, others are relatively emerging voices. I look forward to the many more voices who will come to our attention in the decade ahead. 

Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in the Nong Khai refugee camp in Thailand, in 1978, and was raised and educated in Toronto. Her first book, Small Arguments, won the 2004 ReLit prize, and her second book, Found, was made into a short film by Paramita Nath. The film screened at festivals worldwide including TIFF, L.A. Shorts Fest, and Dok Leipzig. The Globe and Mail says of her third book, Light, winner of the 2014 Trillium Book Award, “This new collection confirms Thammavongsa’s place as one of the most interesting younger poets at work in the country.”

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao American writer. She was born in a refugee camp in Nongkhai, Thailand and immigrated to Minnesota in 1984. Because of her unique background, her work is focused on creating tools and spaces for the amplification of refugee voices through poetry, theater, and experimental cultural production. She is a teaching artist with COMPAS, Success Beyond the Classroom, East Metro Integration District, and the East Side Arts Council. Her writings can be found in such publications as Saint Paul Almanac (Arcata Press), Lessons For Our Time (MN Center for Book Arts), Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement (Purdue University Press), and The Asian American Literary Review (Binghamton University). She is best known for her award-winning play KUNG FU ZOMBIES VS CANNIBALS (Theater Mu) and is developing two more plays for the KUNG FU ZOMBIEVERSE anthology of stage works.

Phayvanh Luekhamhan was born in Champasak, Laos in 1975. Her family resettled in Brattleboro, VT as refugees in 1979. She has been writing poetry for performances and exhibits throughout New England for over ten years. Over the course of her career, Phayvanh has collaborated with Souphine Phathsoungneune, a Laotian folksinger, to create a program interweaving Lao and Lao-American language, culture, and tradition. One of their most well-known works is I Think of This Every Time I Think of Mountains. One of the first Lao American Kundiman Fellows, she has been a Juried Artist with the Vermont Arts Council and is on the New England States Touring roster.

Xaysouvanh Phengphong was born in 1950, and was a transport Pilot for Laos for six years; He was also a US Air Force-certified pilot during the Vietnam War (1970-1973). At fifteen, Xaysouvanh began to write poems in high school. Since then, hundreds of his poems and short stories appeared in public, including France, the US and Bulgaria. His novel Birds of Ten Autumns was published in Laos and in Thailand. His short story compilations, The God’s Liquor and Buffalo Passengers were published soon after. Xaysouvanh put ”Seo Swart,” the 45 Lao classic tales of the 18th Century, into contemporary poetry. Xaysouvanh has been in more than twenty countries and has resided in West Valley City, Utah since 1991.

Catzie Vilayphonh is an award-winning spoken word poet and writer. As a founding member of the group Yellow Rage she was one of the first Asian American females to appear on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Through her work, she provides an awareness not often heard, drawing from personal narrative. In 2013 she received the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Award to start “Laos In The House” a project which aims to promote story-telling in the Lao American community through the mediums of art. This culminated into her curation of a multi-disciplinary gallery exhibit and performance showcase featuring work by other Lao American artists which debuted in Philadelphia in 2015. Currently she is an Artist in Residence with the Mural Arts of Philadelphia’s Southeast by Southeast Program. Throughout her artistic career Catzie has become a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award recipient, a 2012 Creative Capital finalist and a 4-time Leeway Foundation honoree. She is a co-founding chair of the Lao American Writer Summit and an active volunteer with the Lao Family Community Organization of Philadelphia.

Kongkeo Saycocie is one of the founding members of the SatJaDham Lao literary project, one of the first artist networks of Lao writers in diaspora since the end of the conflicts in 1975. A resident of California, he has maintained a website containing many examples of his poetry and thoughts on Lao heritage and history.

Kanya Lai is an English teacher at Nashville School of the Arts. She spends her summers traveling to exciting locales, where she usually volunteers in underprivileged schools and/or orphanages. Some of her favorite things are coffee, classical music, fashion, and yoga. Her work has appeared in Little Laos on the Prairie, and Bakka Magazine.

Krysada Panusith Phounsiri is a Lao-American artist and engineer. He was born in Laos in 1988 and came to America with his family in 1989. A graduate of UC Berkeley in 2010, he holds a degree in Physics and Astrophysics Double Major and also a minor in Poetry. His debut collection is Dance Among Elephants, was published by Sahtu Press in 2015. His work has been featured in the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and the Smithsonian’s “A Day In The Life Of Asian America” digital exhibit. He recently received first place for Poem of the Year in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Bryan Thao Worra
is the president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an international literary organization celebrating the poetry of the imaginative and the fantastic. A Lao American writer, he holds over 20 awards for his work including an NEA Fellowship in Literature and was a Cultural Olympian representing Laos during the 2012 London Summer Games. The author of 6 books, his work appears internationally including Australia, Canada, Scotland, Germany, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan.

We'll profile additional poets soon!

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