Sunday, March 18, 2007

On the Other Side of the Eye: The Book!

My first full-length book of poetry, On The Other Side of the Eye, is arriving this August from Sam's Dot Publishing.

My new book comes out this August!

Naturally, I'm excited about this! So what's it about?

This is the largest assembly of my work from the last 17 years, outside of my two prior chapbooks, Touching Detonations by Sphinx House Press, and The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: My Dinner With Clusterbombs by Unarmed.

On the Other Side of the Eye collects poems of mine from over 60 different journals, projects and publications from around the world, and all-new pieces.

Together, we'll roam the secret wars of the CIA in Laos to the secret edges of the human soul and the universe. Exploring the streets of St. Paul and the ghosts and demons of the past, we'll challenge 'perspective' and assumptions of what is true, what is not.

I'll be discussing more details later, but I want to take the time to thank you, my friends, family and readers, for all of your support and the many inspiring moments between us!

And here's to many more!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Notable things in history this week.

The battle of Dien Bien Phu begins.
How can you not like the French? ;)

The Ides of March.


Magellan reaches the Phillipines.
Magellan. Explorer. Fashion Statement.

Saint Patrick's Day.
Let's oppress some pagans!

The start of the Bachannalia.

Liu Bei, declares himself emperor of Shu-Han, claiming his legitimate succession to the Han dynasty.

And the discovery of 90377 Sedna, the farthest natural object in the Solar system so far observed.

Somewhere in there, I'm sure there's quite a bit of poetry to be found.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My March Schedule!

The next two weeks are packed with lots of good stuff, so I hope to see you there if you can make it!

First up:

The Southeast Asian American Poetry Table
Tuesday, March 20th from 6-8 PM
The J & S Bean Factory,
1342 Thomas Avenue
St. Paul, MN
We'll discuss the whys, hows and fun of writing Southeast Asian American poetry in a down-to-earth conversation! Space is limited to ca. 15 to 20 people.

This discussion will include great places to send poems, techniques and other opportunities and news that's coming up. We're holding it at the J & S Bean Factory because it's where much of my upcoming book, On The Other Side of the Eye, was written.

Depending on your response, we may make this a regular event!

On Friday, the 23rd, I'm presenting a workshop at Macalester College during the 2007 National Student Conference on the Mixed Race Experience:

"Expressing Experience: Poetry and Polycultural Perspectives"
Our experiences with one another can be difficult to express, but poetry is a significant means to help examine our lives in meaningful ways. Transcultural adoptee Bryan Thao Worra will demonstrate his techniques and provide you easy, usable ways to talk about your experience with your family and friends through the literary arts.

I've covered this already, but remember to swing by the Bloomington Art Center Writers' Festival and Book Fair. It's Sat. March 24, 2007 – 11:30 AM –3:30 PM at the Bloomington Art Center 1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd.

I'm giving my first official reading with Northography at
Cahoots Coffee on Saturday, March 24, 7:00 p.m.
Cahoots Coffee is located at 1562 Selby Ave. in St. Paul.
Writers reading include: LouAnn Muhm, Dylan Garcia-Wahl, Cassandra Labairon, Diana Lundell, Bryan Thao Worra and Britt Fleming.

Finally, if you're near the Normandale Community College, you have a chance to see:

Tripmasters: Hmong and Lao Writers on a More Global Minnesota

Reading and panel discussion

Wednesday, March 28th

10-11:50 a.m. in the Normandale Auditorium


May Lee, Shoua Lee, Bryan Thao Worra and Katie Ka Vang.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Demons and Dogs

There's an old Chinese story:

The emperor asked the court painter, "What's easy and what's difficult to paint?"

The painter responded, "Demons are easy, dogs are difficult."

Before I get too far ahead, I'll mention some things closely related to this story, and why it all ties into writing, art and living.

A dog in Xieng Khouang, Laos.

I recently finished recommending Khalil Gibran's lesser known classic, The Madman to some friends, because it demonstrates just how powerful truly tight language gets.

One of my favorite stories from The Madman:

The Two Cages:

In my father's garden there are two cages. In one is a lion, which my father's slaves brought from the desert of Nineveh; in the other is a songless sparrow.

Every day at dawn, the sparrow calls to the lion, "Good morrow to thee, brother prisoner."

The language is so exceptionally tight it demands a close reading, but speaks volumes- that in cages, lions and birds are one and the same.

All humanity, too might see the same lessons for itself, from the slaves of the narrator's father to the son and father themselves...

One can contemplate the issue of the songless sparrow being a particular kind of prisoner, and well, there are many stories like this within Gibran's book. Well worth seeking out.

Sadly, stories like this are extraordinarily difficult to write and find, while we have countless long-winded novels that achieve so much less for all their pages, festooning the shelves of humanity.

So, it's interesting when I see the story of demons and dogs.

Is this anecdote just a remark that the fantastic and the imaginary are easy to paint because no one knows what they look like, while people know what a dog is 'supposed to look like' and so artists are held to greater scrutiny?

Or is it a comment that people just recognize demons you're depicting more easily, or even:

Our inner demons and evils are sadly more ample, more willing and readily available subjects for portraits than the simple creatures of the earth?

There are so many different iterations to ponder, and as it snows outside, I'm thinking of these.

I first came across the story of demons and dogs in a throwaway quote on a book by Alex Kerr, who was analyzing particular 'failures' of Japanese economic policies and practices. From his point of view.

I couldn't really get into his book, whose premise really struck me as quite arrogant, and as it was, I was rather put off by the use of a Chinese story to open a discussion on Japan. I'm not even going to go into this, other than to say:

The overall paradox and irony of the situation doesn't escape me.

And so, coming back full circle, this was ALL the premise for a line from a section of my poem Oni, a few years back:

"Am I a dog in Demon State
Or a demon in Dog City?
Easy to say, difficult to believe
I can show you the way, in either case."

In closing, my parting thought is: I wonder whether or not the demons or dogs can recognize themselves in the pictures.

Have a great day!

Two Dogs in Laos.

Asian American Anthology: Call for Submissions

Please Forward to All AAS Faculty, Scholars and Writers,
Asian American Veterans and others affected by US wars in Asia


Not Forgotten: Asian Americans Remember US Wars in Asia (working title)
Call for Submissions

Abstract: This anthology is a collection of Asian American voices speaking out through academic, creative, and personal explorations of US wars in Asia: the US war in the Philippines (1898-1902), World War II (1940-1945), the US war in Korea (1950-1953), the US war in Vietnam (1956-1975), the US war in the Persian Gulf (1990-1991), the US war in Afghanistan (2001-present), and the US war in Iraq (2003-present).

Asian faces have been depicted as the face of the enemy in theater, film, television, and print media for over a century, such that even when some Asians were US allies, the primary image of Asians in the US was not just of passive immigrants, but rather of aggressive invaders­the yellow peril.

Responding to the angry yell, “go back where you came from,” Asian American activists said, “we’re here because you were there” in recognition of the deep connection between Asian migration patterns and US wars and colonialism in Asia.

Thus, no understanding of Asian American identities is complete without a reflection upon how these histories of war have shaped our communities, our families and our personal identities.

Deadline: 500 word abstract due March 15th


Final submission due June 15, 2007.

You may submit in up to two categories (scholarly, creative, 1st person); no more than three submissions total.


Scholarly: Includes historical, sociological, literary or cultural critical, pedagogical or other scholarly approaches. You may focus on one war/period, or explore themes across several wars/ periods.

Creative: Includes poetry, short fiction, drama, and performance art (text only) or two dimensional visual art (must be originally two dimensional; submit print ready .jpgs or other electronic image format).

1st person narrative: May be from Asian American veterans of US wars in Asia or their children or partners; or any Asian American whose family has been directly impacted by a US war in Asia.

1. 10-20 pages, one article; include page numbers and number of total pages. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with 1 inch margins. Do include name & email on every page. Use MLA format.

1. Poems: Five pages total, no more than three poems. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with 1 inch margins. Do include name & email on every page.

2. Short fiction: Ten pages total, one short story. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with 1 inch margins. Do include name & email on every page.

3. Plays or performance art: Ten pages total, one piece. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with 1 inch margins. Do include name & email on every page.

4. Visual art: must be originally two-dimensional; please submit print-ready digital files.

1st person narrative:
1. One to three pages; include page numbers and number of total pages. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with 1 inch margins. Do include name & email on every page.

Mail Submissions to:
Wei Ming Dariotis, Editor
Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave
San Francisco CA, 94321

Send submission simultaneously by email for confirmation to:

Reading This Friday

On Friday, March 9th at 7:00 PM the Loft Literary Center (1011 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis) hosts the final reading of the highly successful Hmong and Laotian American writers series.

This exciting evening will feature Noukou Thao for a one-night only live performance. This amazing performance is free, and there will be refreshments and other surprises.

The writer will present both classic examples of their work and all-new pieces.

This reading concludes the Un-named Poetry Series of Hmong and Lao writers, and is funded in part by COMPAS.

Previous writers include May Lee, Shoua Lee, Bryan Thao Worra and Pacyinz Lyfoung who have performed to packed crowds since January.

I want to take the time to give a big thanks to all of you who've been coming out so far to support this unique series.

It's been fun for all of us, and from what we're hearing, it's been fun for you too, which is what we like to hear!

See you Friday, if you can make it!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

First report from Marscon, 1 of 3

As a reminder, there's a control to make the slides move faster: +.

Here are some of the first shots from Friday at Marscon.

So far it's going well, meeting some fun and great people, although the hotel restaurant is extremely awful and gets as big a thumbs down as I can give it.

There are lots of fun characters here, and a little bit of something for everyone. People dressed in costume, gamers, artists, writers, readers and the like.

Lots of people I've met from other conventions in the Twin Cities, from Diversicon, CONvergence and others, but also some new faces as well, and everyone is quite friendly with interesting takes on all sorts of topics from movies to books and television shows.

My first panel went well.

I stayed for the next panel in the room, a discussion of the Amazons and warrior women through myth and history. It ran the gamut, from Greek myth to Wonder Woman and Xena, to lesser know characters, and even the influence of the Asian traditions of warrior women on the way the West has depicted their own heroic figures.

I also had a chance to see some of the planners of the Arcana convention, a convention for fans of horror and dark fantasy that takes place in October.

They were getting ready to show the MN premiere of The Host later this evening. Yay!

I then went to dinner with the writers Catherine Lundoff, Rebecca Marjesdatter, Jason Wittman and Matt Coes.

The service was a terrible, terrible, terrible experience, but we had good conversations in spite of the utter, impossibly bad service.

They had some great thoughts, support and advice regarding my upcoming book On The Other Side of the Eye coming out this August.

It was really wonderful hearing about everyone's latest projects and comparing notes on recent films and books that we'd been reading and seeing.

I'll be adding some new things to my reading list very shortly.

After that it was a quick look around at the rest of the Con, including the party rooms. Among the standouts this year so far were the Klingon party room and the Alien Social Services room where they were holding a raffle to adopt an alien.

Well, the ones from another planet, I should clarify.

There was even a room for karaoke where you could sing the classics or even Weird Al Yankovic tunes.

One room was also offering free massages as well. Yay!

I spent some time hanging out in the Consuite where they serve the great snacks and free drinks ranging from Starbucks frappucinos to sodas and other refreshing beverages.

The Consuite was being run by a friendly man named Chris, and we met some first time con goers who were also offering to volunteer. It was great to meet them.

Fresh fruit and vegetables were available for the health conscious, as were the requisite chips and snack food.

I also stopped in by the art gallery, and it's got a very compelling array of artists on display.

There are a few clunkers, but easily, the good outnumbered the bad here, and it's hard to resist temptation to pick up new art for the house. I think Chamindika Wanduragala really needs to get her work out here to these conventions- it would go over quite well. Actually, there are a number of artists I know who it would be great to see here, but that's just my bias.

Ultimately, I finished off the evening lounging in Krushenko's, run by Eric Heideman and friends, the famed party room of just about every MN and WI science fiction convention out here.

Now, I've got to go prepare for my main presentations tomorrow. Or catch some sleep.

Whichever comes first! See you tomorrow, if you can make it!