Friday, April 28, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Neil Aitken

Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga 2008), which won the Philip Levine Prize, and Babbage’s Dream (Sundress 2017), as well as a chapbook of poetry, Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press 2016).

He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review and his own poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, American Literary Review, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Poetry Review, and many other literary journals

Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Lo Kwa Mai-En

Lo Kwa Mei-en is the author of Yearling (Alice James Books, 2015), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks, The Romances (The Lettered Streets Press) and Two Tales (Bloom Books). Her 2016 book was Bees Make Money In The Lion. She lives and works in Cincinnati.

Our Shared Futures coming to Fresno!

Thanks to Tamejavi-PVI and the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center, this Friday night, I'll be doing my final event for the 21st National Poetry Month, presenting a selection of my award-winning science fiction poems from over the years and discussing the importance of science fiction and fantasy for Southeast Asian American communities rebuilding their lives in the US.

As the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, this will also serve as a good lead-in to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May.

The event is free with doors opening at 6:30 PM. Please feel free to invite friends, families, and anyone who is interested in writing. I'd love to meet them! I'll have books for sale there and will be signing them.

As a heads up, based on my upcoming commitments this is the last time I will be in the Central Valley for several months and possibly the rest of the year, so I do hope you can make it!

Meanwhile, from earlier this week, here's abig thanks to Ignacio López-Calvo, Director of the UC Merced Center for the Humanities for a wonderful introduction as I began my brownbag conversation "Why the Lao Imagination Mattered."

We were looking at the 40 years journey of bringing diverse voices forward, challenging both internalized racism and external dismissal, systems of censorship and the lack of resources for cultural production and expression. To create culture shift is never something that can be taken for granted, but it is possible. And it has often begun in colleges very much like the UC Merced with youth very much like the ones I spoke to this month.

While no one can guarantee the future, it is my hope that in my time here, at least one of them heard my message I have been trying so hard to share: "It's possible."

And ten years from now, we may just see something really amazing from them, if not sooner.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Hai-Dang Phan

Hai-Dang Phan’s poetry has been published in The New Yorker, POETRY Magazine, Best American Poetry 2016, jubilat, Prelude, and New England Review. A recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the American Literary Translators Association, and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, Phan holds degrees in creative writing from the University of Florida (MFA) and English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD). Born in Vietnam and raised in Wisconsin, he currently lives in Des Moines and teaches at Grinnell College.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Rajiv Mohabir

Selected by Brenda Shaughnessy for the 2014 Intro Prize in Poetry by Four Way Books for his book entitled The Taxidermistʻs Cut (Spring 2016), Rajiv Mohabir received fellowships from Voices of Our Nationʻs Artist foundation, Kundiman, The Home School (where he was the Kundiman Fellow), and the American Institute of Indian Studies language program.

His second manuscript The Cowherd’s Son won the 2015 Kundiman Prize. He was also awarded a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of Lalbihari Sharma’s Holi Songs of Demerara, published originally in 1916. His translations of this text is forthcoming from Kaya Press in 2018.

His poem "Ancestor" was chosen by Philip Metres for the 2015 AWP Intro Journal Award. His poems also recieved the 2015 Editor's Choice Award from Bamboo Ridge Journaland the 2014 Academy of American Poet’s Prize for the University of Hawai‘i. His poem "Dove" appears in Best American Poetry 2015. Other poems and translations appear in journals such as Quarterly West, Guernica, The Collagist, The Journal, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Drunken Boat, small axe, The Asian American Literary Review, Great River Review, and PANK. He has received several Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations.

Winner of the inaugural chapbook prize by Ghostbird Press for Acoustic Trauma, he is the author of three other multilingual chapbooks: Thunder in the Courtyad: Kajari Poems, A Veil You’ll Cast Aside, na mash me bone, and na bad-eye me.

Rajiv holds a BA from the University of Florida in religious studies, an MSEd in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Long Island University, Brooklyn when he was a New York City Teaching Fellow, and an MFA in poetry and literary translation from Queens College, CUNY where he was Editor in Chief of Ozone Park Literary Journal. While in New York working as a public school teacher, Rajiv also produced the nationally broadcast radio show KAVIhouse on JusPunjabi (2012-2013). Currently a PhD candidate at the University of Hawai’i where he writes about colonial era anti-sodomy laws, plastic, and humpback whales

Imagining Merced: A Recap

My time as a Visiting Artist with the UC Merced Center for the Humanities is almost at a conclusion, with the final reading and open mic this Thursday, but here's a look back at the outreach and work I was able to do with the community across the Central Valley region, including Merced, Fresno, Modesto, Ceres, and even San Jose to address the importance of the imagination, sharing your stories and considering not only what has Merced and the Central Valley been, but what can it become? A big thanks to everyone who was a part of this.

Science Fiction for Everyone: A Multicultural Discussion at LA Harbor College

I'll be on a panel at LA Harbor College on Tuesday at 2:30 PM! discussing the importance of multicultural representation in speculative literature, particularly poetry! See you there at Tech 110! I'll be presenting with Stephanie Borwn, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Jaymee Goh, Gregg Castro and Steven Barnes! It's a great line-up

Monday, April 24, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Mia You

Mia You was born in Seoul, South Korea, grew up in Northern California, and now lives in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Her first full-length collection, I, Too, Dislike It, was released by 1913 Press.

Her poems also have appeared as a chapbook, Objective Practice (Achiote Press, 2007), and an artist’s book, YOU (created by Thorsten Kiefer, 2004).

She is collaborating on a book of hours and movements with Lyn Hejinian. You was central editor of Poetry International Rotterdam, a partner to the Poetry Foundation, and completing a doctoral dissertation on Gertrude Stein at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes essays and book reviews and has published them with Bookforum, the Boston Review, The Hairpin, Jacket2, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Volta.

[Poem] Her Body, My Monuments

"Her Body, My Monuments," first appeared in my first book of Lao American speculative poetry, On The Other Side Of The Eye, inspired in part by a visit to the That Dam stupa in Laos, where a legendary Nak is said to slumber, waiting for the time it is needed again. And a few other stories for a different day.

Why the Lao Imagination Mattered: A Brownbag conversation at UC Merced

Today, on Monday, April 24th I'm speaking at the University of California Merced for a brownbag discussion on Lao American science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and why it mattered so much to me for 26 years of my work as a writer to build and expand this tradition for our community. What it means to rebuild, to remember, to imagine.

I'll be reflecting on the resistance and pushback we faced (and in some cases, continue to face) but also the lessons we've learned on strengthening our communities and creating a sense of the possible. If you're in Merced, join me at noon at COB2 Room 290! This is my penultimate public discussion as part of the UC Merced Center for the Humanities Visiting Artist program.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Well, this made for a very cool day.

Recently at Silicon Valley Comic Con, we had a nice, albeit brief conversation about how I've been teaching about the significance of her work and what it meant for civil rights and social change to my students and mentees over the decades, even talking about her just last week during a presentation for DREAMers in the Central Valley during my time as a Visiting Artist with the UC Merced Center for the Humanities. It was an interesting way of things coming full circle. 

For those of you who've been at my workshops and classroom conversations this month in Merced, you may remember I quizzed you on how many ways even the simple image of the bridge crew was, for its time, such an incredibly radical proposition, let alone the entire premise of the show. Today we take so much of this premise for granted, but there was a time where, anywhere outside of science fiction, this was absolutely inconceivable.

Nichelle Nichols played a pivotal role in opening those doorways for us at the encouragement of no less a figure than Martin Luther King, Jr. who saw the importance of her keeping this role to show others what futures were possible, were worth reaching for.

I also had a very nice conversation with Tom Wilson who played Biff in Back to the Future about his art and what he was doing to explore those question of what art was. A very pleasant fellow, as was Robert O'Reilly who played Gowron in the Next Generation and other later series. But more notes to follow.

Friday, April 21, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Tony Innouvong

Tony Innouvong is a higher education professional and occasional event planner. By night, he is an emcee (alias is Illaphant), poet, and aspiring fashion designer. His music and poetry have allowed him to perform and collaborate with artists nationally.

He’s currently working on the second installment of his first acclaimed project, “Sticky Rice & Mangos.”

In addition to the music, he’s working on a fashion start-up that fuses Lao culture with modern menswear. The line is a combined celebration and testament to the culture, history, and struggle of Lao people. His "music, poetry, and fashion work serve not only as creative canals for self-expression, but tools for continuing a legacy his family started when they immigrated to the US."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Adrian M. Sayaphet

Adrian M. Sayaphet, better known to many as Buddha LuvJonz, is a poet, a DJ, an actor and  a designer. Born and raised in Bridgeport, CT, he is a graduate of Central Magnet HS and a UCONN graduate with a degree in Communications and Marketing.

 As a DJ, versatility has always been his ability to provide a great level of enjoyment for people searching to escape the norm. He was recognized as one of the top 10 DJ's for Jay-Z's 2009 NYC 40/40 club DJ Competition.

Adrian has "used that experience as a motivational push towards the top, Thinking outside of the box, finding ways to diversify and unify people through his creative approach, Adrian has been able to remarkably use his talent to help coordinate many great events, being able to cater to any crowd, a true valuable asset to help elevate the meaning of success for any event."

"Life is a musical scale, as we compose a beautiful note, hoping to discover harmony in humanity one day."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Peuo Tuy

Peuo Tuy is a Cambodian-American spoken word poet, storyteller, motivational speaker, and an artist/educator.

She lives in New York but travels nationwide to share her poetry and stories and help people heal and overcome their personal challenges through writing and self-empowerment. She believes that "words evoke our spirits and that our spirits guide us to personal liberation."

She is the author of the book of poetry, Khmer Girl.

You can visit her online at

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Comicpalooza and the Stately Thunderdome

Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas is fast approaching and we now have a much better picture of who made the cut and will be part of the literature track for that weekend. Be sure to check it out. In the meantime, I'm also getting ready with my fellow members of the SFPA to present our literary deathmatch of speculative poetry. A big thanks to Holly Lyn Walrath, Deborah Davitt and Michelle Muenzler for putting all of this together, especially as this is my very first time reading and presenting in Texas in 26 years of my work as a writer. I'm very excited for it all! We'll see you there!

[Poet Spotlight] linSUN

linSUN is "a lifelong student at heart, an educator on Purpose, she is an energetic firefly who holds creative space and energetic healing for others and the world. linSUN encourages and inspires people to be who they really are, and is fueled by her love for children, her family, cultures, and the Earth. A lover of creative expression, storytelling, movement explorations, and speaking one’s Truth… she is honored to create, reflect, and share space with you!"

linSUN is the creatress of School of Jai, an education and healing movement.

Monday, April 17, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Kanya Lai

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.

Here's a 2009 performance she gave of some of her poetry in Tennessee as part of the L.A.O. culture night:

[Poem] Leuk Lao

My poem "Leuk Lao" appeared in my collection of Lao American poetry, Tanon Sai Jai in 2009. It was inspired by my first trip to Laos in 30 years in 2003.

Visiting Artist: UC Merced, Wrapping Up Soon

First, I want to give a very big shoutout to all of my friends and colleagues at the University of California Merced and the local community who’ve been very supportive of my efforts here to work in the Central Valley this April. In 26 years of writing, this is only the second time I’ve ever had a chance to work with your students and artists in Merced, and this year is all the more special as the 10th anniversary of my very first full-length book of poetry On The Other Side Of The Eye. We’re now down to just ten days left together.

It’s been a tremendously generative month with the opportunity to speak to the students, teachers, and administrators here on the importance of the humanities, particularly through intersectional lenses of speculative literature and refugee and immigrant histories.

There have been some great workshops, readings, formal and informal conversations, and other community activities that have been deeply meaningful. I hope with tremendous confidence that they will yield extraordinary results in the decade ahead for many communities. I wish I could say when I’ll have a chance to come back to the Central Valley. My upcoming schedule already has me traveling next to Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Lowell, Massachusetts. But we still have much ahead in the next two weeks to be excited for!

It was 14 years ago that I discovered how close my ties to the Central Valley are when I discovered my long-lost family after 30 years was living in Modesto. Although I’ve been writing and performing across the country for 26 years, my very first visit to the University of California Merced was only 2 years ago.

I first came here in 2015 as we marked four decades of the Southeast Asian Diaspora for the Vietnamese, Hmong, Lao, and Cambodian communities, as well as the Khmu, Tai Dam, and Iu Mien, among so many others rebuilding their lives here in the US. This is the very first year the University of Merced Center for the Humanities has had a Visiting Artist program, and I’m honored to be a part of this project and to share my knowledge with everyone here, both on campus and off.

I’m thankful to have had the chance to meet and collaborate with many extraordinary scholars here, as well as the film-maker Sanjay Barnela, local entrepreneurs, and the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. I’ve had the opportunity to see the work of Latina punk rock elder Alice Bag, as well as philanthropic efforts among the local Lao community organizers in Merced, and the local Merced writers group. I also had a chance to participate in Dwight Wigley’s ambitious participatory art project to try my own hand at painting and creating with the Merced community.

I was particularly honored to have the privilege to attend the launch of Mai Der Vang’s historic award-wnning book Afterland. A little over a decade ago, I met with a small group of emerging Hmong writers who’d come to visit me in Modesto, driving all of the way from Fresno to talk for the very first time. I encouraged them to pursue their love and interest in the literary arts, and they went on to form the Hmong American Writers Circle. Their members today are actively publishing some truly amazing and imaginative books across the country. I mention this because I know it might well take another ten years to see what will happen from my time here.

It makes me think of the words of Ed Buell, a retired farmer with USAID nicknamed “Mr. Pop” who worked with the Hmong and Laotian refugees during the Lao Secret War in the 20th century: "Everything turns in time, and it'll turn again in Laos, some day," he said. "Maybe it's turnin' now, maybe it'll be ten years or fifty years before there's peace. But when that day comes, these people is gonna remember what Tan Pop stood for, whether they remember me or not. They'll be just a little better off for my bein' there, and that's the only thing that keeps me goin'. No man is big enough or brave enough to go on workin' like this without some kind of purpose. I'm sowin' seeds that, by God, someday is gonna grow."

There are still some challenges encouraging many of our students, who are among the first in their families to take the time to explore why poetry, memory and the imagination matters in their education and in helping their communities over the long-term. We’ve known this going in, and I appreciate all of you who’ve helped to bring students to my attention. There are only a handful of public events left before my time here concludes.

Here's a recap of just a few of the key themes I've been discussing with the students, with more to come soon in this conversation. In the next workshops I'll be expanding upon these principles even further with more advanced discussions on the topic, but first-timers coming to my sessions are always welcome and can contact me before and afterwards with their questions.

If you can join me for any of these, I welcome you, and encourage you to bring your friends and family as well:

Monday, April 17th
4PM-5:30PM: Science Fiction Writing Workshop, COB2 Room 290

April 19th
10AM-Noon: Office Hours to discuss your manuscripts or questions about writing 4:00-5:30PM: Poetry Writing Workshop, Merced Multicultural Arts Center

Saturday, April 22nd:

12:30-1:30 Expanding Horizons: Southeast Asia in Comics, Silicon Valley Comic Con. (This is not an official part of the UC Merced Center for the Humanities Visiting Artist program, but for any of my students who are also going up to San Jose that weekend, you can catch me there, along with award-winning Lao American artist and author Nor Sanavongsay and artist Samouro Baccam. This will be the very first time all three of us present together on this exciting topic.)

Monday, April 24th Noon-1:30PM: Brownbag conversation on Horror, Sci Fi, and Laotian American writing, COB 2, Room 290.

Tuesday, April 25th
Afternoon: “Science Fiction Is For Everyone,” Los Angeles Harbor College Panel.(This is not an official part of the UC Merced Center for the Humanities Visiting Artist program, but if you’re in Los Angeles that day, it’d be great to see you at this panel conversation.)

Wednesday, April 26th
10AM-Noon: Office Hours to discuss your manuscripts or questions about writing. Note: FINAL OFFICE HOURS.

Thursday, April 27th
6PM: Imagining Merced: An open mic of science fiction poetry, flash fiction, and art considering the question of a future we can see ourselves in in Merced, with work from many of my new students here. This is my final event in the city of Merced.

Friday, April 28th
7PM-8:30PM: Imagining Our Shared Tomorrows. Holistic Cultural and Educational Wellness Center, in Fresno. Convened by Tamejavi-PVI. A conversation on Southeast Asian myths, memories, and the importance of the imagination in rebuilding refugee communities, as seen through the experience of the Lao, Hmong, and Cambodian communities. Free and open to the public. (This is not an official part of the UC Merced Center for the Humanities Visiting Artist program, but may be of interest to many of you.)

And a very special thank you to Ignacio López-Calvo, Ma Vang, Kit Myers, Christina Lux, Austyn Smith, Dawn Trook, Holley Moyes, Kim De Wolff, Rina Faletti, Chandra Mukerji, Paul Gibbons, AliSak Tuy Sanavongsay, Nana Sanavongsay, Leigh Bernacchi, Anne Zanzucchi, Paula DeBoard, Yu-Han Chao, Violet Barton, Andrea Mele, Oscar Torres, the student workers at the UC Merced Center for the Humanities, and so many others for your hospitality and hard work in making this month possible.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sabaidee Phi Mai!

Or whatever ghost-free version you prefer. Meanwhile, here are nine of my favorite moments from the Fresno Lao New Year this year!

Friday, April 14, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Wang Ping

Wang Ping was born in China and came to the U.S. in 1986. Her publications of poetry and prose include American Visa, Foreign Devil, Of Flesh and Spirit, New Generation: Poetry from China Today, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, The Magic Whip, The Dragon Emperor, The Last Communist Virgin, and Flashcards: Poems by Yu Jian.

Her books have been translated in Japanese, German, Danish, and other languages. She’s also a photographer, film maker, public performance and installation artist.

Her multi-media exhibitions include “Behind the Gate: After the Flood of the Three Gorges”, “All Roads to Lhasa: The Qinghai-Tibet Railroad”, “We Are Water: Kinship of Rivers” at schools, colleges, galleries, museums, lock and dams, and confluences along the Mississippi River and Yangtze.

She is professor of English at Macalester College, founder and director of Kinship of Rivers project:

Alice Bag in Merced

As the Visiting Artist with the University of California Merced's Center for the Humanities this month, I had a chance to catch Alice Bag in concert in Merced at the Multicultural Arts Center where she put on an exceptional performance and demonstrating what's still possible even at 58.

She is "an acclaimed punk rock singer, musician, author, educator and feminist archivist. She is the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first wave of punk bands to form in the mid-1970s in LA. Her first book Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage is the story of her upbringing in East Los Angeles, her eventual migration to Hollywood and the euphoria and aftermath of the first punk wave. This former bilingual elementary school teacher continues as an author, outspoken activist, feminist and a self-proclaimed troublemaker. Bag has remained active in music since the late 1970s and will release her second book in 2015. Bag released Alice Bag, her debut solo album on Don Giovanni Records in June, 2016"

I'm particularly drawn to the way she incoporated elements of punk performances and ranchera ones, creating the “punk-chera,” genre. There's much Lao Americans and others in diaspora might consider as we continue to go forward musically. She'll be coming to UC Merced on the 25th to do a book signing and to discuss her work in greater detail. Be sure to catch it!

Mai Der Vang's Afterland released in Fresno

Mai Der Vang received the prestigious Walt Whitman Award from the national Academy of American Poets for Afterland, her very first full-length book of poetry from Graywolf Press.

They held a book launch in Fresno on Thursday, April 13th, 2017 at the John W. Dodson Theater. The reading was a very personal one for me, having known Mai Der's work for over a decade now, watching her grow by leaps and tiger bounds. I had the honor of performing with her at the University of California Merced during the Southeast Asian American Symposium in 2015, and I'm excited to see where her poetry takes her over the years ahead. This was a historic reading and a genuine milestone for the community that can be seen as a victory and an inspiration for all Hmong writers around the world, an evening marked by joy, memory, and a portent of good fortunes yet ahead for all.

Acclaimed poets Soul Vang, Andre Yang, and Anthony Cody read, and outgoing Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick introducing her work, putting it into context for the audience.Members of Hmong American Writers' Circle were there in attendance, with Pos Moua, Burlee Vang and others clearly there in spirit.

A Fresno poet, her verse has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, New Republic, and elsewhere. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. Mai Der’s work has also been anthologized in Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora. As an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle, she is co-editor of How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. Mai Der has received residencies from Hedgebrook and is a Kundiman fellow. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, along with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing/Poetry from Columbia University.

Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, Afterland holds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.

US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera remarked on her collection, saying "With a 'sliced and boiled tongue,' the voice drifts in and out of the 'ash oven of a forest,' from the shrapneled spirit meals of a Laos gone, quaked by forced wars and continuous fading echoes of the lost, Mai Der, nocturnal soul-smith, returns to that war-riddled sub-land and leaves us these 'dispatches.' I am astounded at how this poet accomplishes these tellings of war, of the Hmong peoples, of escape, exile, of never-leaving, of always-returning—of retracing the life-particles of the dead in various forms of disappearance and presence. In a language of 'torn jackets' and fruit, of insects and mothers, of humpbacks and shamans, Mai Der Vang comes back at us as the 'carved edge of a claw.' The mastery of image, the leap, the dislodging of our perceptions, fluid as 'humming of rain against a woman's bare neck.' A major, almost impossible, groundbreaking collection."

Andre Yang lives in Fresno, California. He is a founding member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC), where he actively conducts and participates in public writing workshops. He received his MFA degree from Fresno State where he was a Provost Scholar and a Philip Levine Scholar. There, he divides his time between teaching freshman composition and poetry. Andre is a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellow and has attended to the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and the UCross Foundation residency. His poetry has appeared in Paj Ntaub Voice, Hyphen Magazine, Kweli: Journal, the chapbook anthology Here is a Pen (Achiote Press), and the anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press).

Soul Vang’s poetry is anthologized in Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing, How Much Earth: An Anthology of Fresno Poets, Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans. His poetry also appears in the publications; In the Grove, The Packinghouse Review, Central California Poetry Journal, and Paj Ntaub Voice. He was born in Laos, came to the U.S. as a refugee child, and has served in the U.S. Army. He was graduated with an MFA in Poetry from California State University, Fresno. He holds the distinction of being the first Hmong American to publish a full-length poetry collection with To Live Here by winning the Imaginary Friends Press poetry contest in 2014. His second collection, Song of the Cluster Bomblet is forthcoming from Blue Oak Press. Find him at

Soul also read the poetry of Pos Moua, who unfortunately could not attend that night due to health reasons. A graduate of the University of California at Davis, Pos Moua has studied with Gary Snyder, Alan Williamson, and Sandra McPherson. Pos Moua lives in Merced, California, with his wife, two sons, and two daughters, and teaches English and Hmong full-time at Merced High School and part-time at Merced Community College. His work is represented in Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing, How Do I Begin, and his chapbook, Where the Torches Are Burning.

Anthony Cody is a CantoMundo fellow and an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. He was born in Fresno, California with roots in both the Dust Bowl and Bracero Program. His poetry has appeared in U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971–2007 (City Lights), How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday), in which he also served as co-editor, Prairie Schooner, ToeGood Poetry Journal, Gentromancer - a collaborative cross-genre art project with artist Josue Rojas in El Tecolote. New work is forthcoming in Tinderbox Journal and TriQuarterly Review. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing - Poetry at Fresno State. Find him at

Founded in 2004, the Hmong American Writers’ Circle organizes literary workshops to foster creative writing in the Hmong community and in the California Central Valley. Hmong-American literature is nearly non-existent in the Asian American literary canon, let alone the national landscape. With the knowledge that no definitive accounts of Hmong literature exists, many Hmong writers often write from a place of absence while struggling to create literary traditions in a culture that could face extinction.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Mai Neng Moua

Mai Neng Moua was born in Laos in 1973. Her family immigrated to the U.S. in 1981 when she was 8 years old. She speaks the White Hmong dialect although her father’s family was Blue Hmong. Among her most well-known poems is "My Mother is a Coffee Table," and she is a pivotal figure in the modern Hmong literary movement. If she is not the mother of Hmong literature, she is at least its big sister.

Her tireless activism and advocacy for Hmong art and writing paved the way for many of the prominent figures in Hmong literature today, creating an international network of many of the first Hmong writers in the world, publishing many of them for the very first time. I strongly believe her example, particularly in overcoming resistance to culture shift has important implications for those interested in best practices for refugee resettlement and civic engagement.

She graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, completed her Master’s degree, and at the time of the interview was working in public affairs. Mai Neng Moua founded and published a journal of Hmong writing titled Paj Ntaub Voice since 1994, and she published Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong-Americans in 2002. Her first memoir The Bride Price came out on March 1st, 2017.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Sokunthary Svay

Sokunthary Svay is a breathtaking writer and musician from New York, and she has been a Willow Arts Alliance Fellow. Her very first book is coming in Fall, 2017, and she is pursuing her MA in Language and Literacy at City College in Harlem. Considering that as of 2010, only 14.4% of Khmer women had a bachelor's degree or higher, that she's taking steps to reach for higher education is admirable and extraordinary.

I'm exceptionally fond of her work, which has examines intersections between the traditional culture of both Cambodia and Europe, history, and our shared journeys. She is bringing a wonderful perspective and needed approach to Khmer American literature, one you easily fall in love with for the elegant and evocative imagery in both her prose and poetry. At various turns I've found her verse fierce, dark, unflinching and precise, and lingers with you long after you've read it. I'm looking forward to seeing much more of her enchanting body of work over the coming decades ahead, and she has my whole-hearted and unconditional support.

I'm delighted to see that she is already making tremendous inroads to expand the space and reach of Khmer American literature, and that she has been organizing many other writers to appreciate the opportunities to be found in writing. Among the places you can find her writing already: Lontar, Blue Lyra Review Mekong ReviewHyphen Magazine, and Flesh: A Southeast Asian Urban AnthologyHomelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time, Prairie Schooner, Women's Studies Quarterly,

She is one of the first Pushcart-nominated writers of the Khmer community in both poetry and nonfiction and a musician. She is also a recipient of the First Friday Residency at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning,  Her recent collaborations include two different settings of her poem “Morning Song” by the award-winning composers David Schober and Liliya Ugay.

Her family fled Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and relocated as refugees to the Bronx where she was raised. She lives in Queens, New York with her husband and daughter. She is the poetry editor for Newtown Review. She's one to watch.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Anchalee Joy Panigabutra-Roberts

Anchalee Panigabutra-Roberts ~ อัญชลี ปาณิกบุตร-โรเบิร์ตส์ (Joy ~ จอย) has her roots in Thailand. The U.S., mostly the Midwest, ended up being her home, after she came to the U.S. as an exchange student in 1984, with a three-year stint in Canada (2002–2005).

 It is still a mystery why she is drawn to this vast heartland with the extreme heat of the summer and the deep freeze of the winter. Perhaps it has to do with the beauty of the four seasons, the open space, and the fabulous sky.

For a time, she was a librarian at a university in the Midwest, and then Egypt, but who knows what she will become. One thing she knows for certain is that she is very passionate about social justice and human rights. She believes that peace is easier than wars, and love is easier than hatred. Poetry and dance, especially Thai dance, have been her main creative forms.

She lives with her husband and her daughter.

Featured in the Modesto Bee!

A big thanks to Deke Farrow of the Modesto Bee for coming by to Ceres to do an interview with me regarding my month-long Visiting Artist Project at the UC-Merced Center for the Humanities. Already there have been many successes in the project that I look forward to discussing more here in the coming days ahead.

I've greatly enjoyed conducting several workshops and class conversations already at the University of California-Merced, including the conference on Water: Ways of Knowing and Being, as well as at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. Hmong American poet Soul Vang invited me to speak to his students at Fresno City College, and I've been connecting with many emerging artists and writers in the Modesto area.
photo by Deke Farrow, Modesto Bee

I appreciate everyone who's taken the time to help us get the word out about this unique opportunity to meet with the community and to encourage the growth of the literary arts and particularly speculative poetry in Merced and the Central Valley region. You can visit my colleagues and I at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association at but also our ongoing blog at where we are highlighting many of our member activities.

I also had a chance to visit the Castle Air Museum where I had a chance to see many of the planes from American military history, including several of the types that were so much of a part of our journey in the years preceding the Southeast Asian diaspora.

At the heart of many of my remarks so far has been the importance of expressing a future we can see ourselves in, and of recovering and reclaiming our spaces, both internally and externally and putting them on the "literary map" of the world in order to help the next generation gain a fuller understanding of our various perspectives and narratives. To challenge monostories and instead encourage alternate views and perspectives.

Monday, April 10, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Jai Arune Ravine

Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and dance writer currently based in Philadelphia. As a mixed race, mixed gender and mixed genre artist, their work arises from the simultaneity of text and body and takes the form of video, performance, comics and handmade books. I've enjoyed interviewing Jai Arun in the past and always look forward to what they've written next.

Their second book THE ROMANCE OF SIAM (Timeless, Infinite Light 2016) is a subverted travel guide that consumes and regurgitates Orientalism, the tourist archive and white desire.

Jai Arun Ravine can be found at

[Poem] Middle Path

Happy Lao New Year this week! Sabaidee Pi Mai!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Coming to Silicon Valley Comic Con, 2017

Just confirmed, Nor Sanavongsay, Samouro Baccam and I will be at this year's Silicon Valley Comic Con, presenting the panel Expanding Horizons: Southeast Asia in Comics! See you there!

"For many, Southeast Asia is primarily presented in comics tied to the Vietnam War, and the beginning of the refugee journey for over a million people from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In this panel we look at how comics depict this journey from the pages of Iron Man, the Punisher, and G.I. Joe to G.B. Tran's award-winning Vietnamerica and the DC comics hero Katharsis. We will also examine the newer stories emerging in mainstream and independent comics."

We presented in the very first Silicon Valley Comic Con in 2016. We're honored to have one of our proposal accepted for a second year!

Friday, April 07, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Anida Youei Ali

Anida Yoeu Ali (b.1974, Battambang) is an artist whose works span performance, installation, video, images, public encounters, and political agitation. She is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago. After residing for over three decades outside of Cambodia, Ali returned to work in Phnom Penh as part of her 2011 U.S. Fulbright Fellowship. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to artmaking, her installation and performance works investigate the artistic, spiritual and political collisions of a hybrid transnational identity.

Ali’s artistic work has been the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. Ali earned her B.F.A. from University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and an M.F.A. from the Art Institute Chicago.

She is a founding collaborative partner of Studio Revolt, an independent artist run media lab in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Studio Revolt’s public performances and resulting images of Gallery X and Public Square were part of Our City Festival 2011 and 2012 (Phnom Penh). Ali’s "The Buddhist Bug," a multidisciplinary work that investigates displacement and identity through humor, absurdity and performance, has been exhibited in Phnom Penh galleries, Singapore International Photography Festival, Malaysia Heritage Centre Singapore, Southeast Asia ArtsFest London, and featured at the 5th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale where Ali participated as an artist in residence.

In 2015 "The Buddhist Bug" was featured in the Open Sea exhibition at the Musée d’art Contemporain (Lyon, France) and at the Asia Pacific Triennial 8 at the Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane, Australia) where a newly commissioned video of the series was premiered. Additionally, Ali performed a new piece, "Beheadings," at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris, France), specifically commissioned for the "Secret Archipelago" exhibition. Later she exhibited works from the "Enter" series at the international event Lille 3000 (Lille, France). Ali’s artworks are included in several private collections and the public collection of the Mainland Art Fund, Australia.