Thursday, April 26, 2007

Free Within Ourselves.

There's a beautiful passage by Langston Hughes that comes to mind as I think about my work and the writing of other Asian American artists:

"...We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves. "

And I think these are important words to bear in mind.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pre-Order On The Other Side of the Eye!

The pre-order form for On The Other Side of the Eye is now online!

Pre-ordering is the easiest way to get your copy as soon as On The Other Side of the Eye comes out.

To get your copy, just print out the form (black and white is fine!) and fill it out, along with a check or money order for $10 + $2.50 shipping and handling per copy. Please make your payment payable to Sam's Dot Publishing.

(No cash or credit cards for pre-orders. Sorry!)

You'll be sending the form and your payment to:

Sam's Dot Publishing
P.O. Box 782
Cedar Rapids, IA, 52406-0782

As soon as On The Other Side of the Eye is printed in August, your copy will be mailed to you and should arrive shortly!

In the meantime, if you know an independent bookstore or vendor who would be interested in selling On The Other Side of the Eye, let us know. We'll be happy to talk with you!

Thanks again, everybody, for all of your support!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poetry Form of the Day: The Decima

We recently discussed the Cinquain and the great and very cool poet Oscar Bermeo has thrown together in an outline of the Decima, which is a really fun poem style as well. Thanks, Oscar!

In the short version, the Decima is a poem that's one of the most complex forms of popular poetry.

The Decima is most effective when written in Spanish, where specific rules apply to vowels and accented words. (Yeah, Oscar, let's not intimidate folks here...) :)

The Decima follows this rhyme pattern:


It's ten lines of 8 syllables.
80 total, but there's a catch we'll go into later.
Like a certain boardgame, it takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.

Let's first take a look at an example from George Santayana:

Silent daisies out of reach,
Maidens of the starry grass,
Gazing on me as I pass
With a look too wise for speech,
Teach me resignation,-teach
Patience to the barren clod,
As, above your happier sod,
Bending to the wind's caress,
You-unplucked, alas!-no less
Sweetly manifest the god.

George Santayana!
As an aside, George Santayana is often remembered for:
'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

But back to the Decima: If you can pull it off, it can be really magnificent.

Now, the Decima has extra rules to it:

* When a line or verse ends in with a word with an emphasized syllable, this counts as an extra syllable.

* When a verse or line ends with a word with its emphasized syllable being the antepenultimate one, one syllable is subtracted from the count for the line.

* When a word ends with a vowel and is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, in the Spanish language these flow together, so it counts as only one syllable.

* When a strong vowel (a, o, e) is combined in a word with a weak vowel (i or u) and the emphasis is on the weak vowel, an accent is placed over the weak vowel and it is counted as a separate syllable.

I'd recommend beginners just try getting the basic form down first: 10 lines of 8, with the ABBAACCDDC pattern. Then tweak it accordingly.

So, if you're feeling up for a challenge, try the Decima! :)

Have a great one!

A tray full of money is not worth a mind full of knowledge.
-Lao Proverb.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

April Lao and Hmong Writing Opportunities

From the Editors of Bakka Magazine:

Currently, we are working on our sixth issue!

For the May issue, we have the following topics in mind and are looking for article submissions in the areas of:

* Boun Bang Fai(Fire Rocket Festival)

* Buddhism
-relevance in our globalized modern world?
-is it in a crisis in terms of waning attendance, relevance, and as effective moral leader?

*Giving money to family and relatives in Laos, a good idea?

* Whatever happened to the expat, anti-communist groups that were so active in the '80s? Where are they now?

*(and your favorite) Laotian guys who go back to Laos to get a wife, a good thing?

Currently, we can pay you $25 per article if we decide to post your work.

Visit Bakka Magazine online at

Paj Ntaub Voice, the longest running literary journal of the Hmong community now has a myspace at . If you're on myspace, check it out, and add them as a friend! :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

New Issue of Illumen Out!

Illumen's Spring 2007 issue (#6) has a lot going for it, but some particular highlights to me is the large number of Asian American voices in it that is sure to make it a collector's item in the future.

The cover features the work of Sri Lankan American artist Chamindika Wanduragala, whose art experiments with a visual response to Audre Lorde's concept of Biomythography, an intertwining of personal experience, history and myth.

You can check out her work at

Among the amazing writers who are featured in this issue are:

Burlee Vang, Recipient of the Paj Ntaub Voice 2006 Prize In Poetry. Published in several issues of Paj Ntaub Voice literary journal, Random House’s "20 Something Essays by 20 Something Writers: Best New Voices of 2006", and Heyday Book’s forthcoming update of "Highway 99".

Vietnamese American writer Linh Dinh, is the author of 2 collections of stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press 2000) and Blood and Soap (Seven Stories Press 2004), and 4 books of poems, All Around What Empties Out (Tinfish 2003), American Tatts (Chax 2005), Borderless Bodies (Factory School 2006) and Jam Alerts (Chax 2007). Blood and Soap was chosen by the Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004.

This issue of Illumen also features Hmong American writer Samy Elisabeth Yang, a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in Creative Writing. She's also the literary editor for Unplug Magazine.

Another Vietnamese American writer, Bao Phi, is also featured. A nationally recognized poet, his work appears in the 2006 Best American Poetry, chosen by Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States.

I've also got some new pieces in this issue of Illumen as well.

So, between Linh Dinh, Bao Phi, Samy Yang, Burlee Vang, Bryan Thao Worra and the art of Chamindika Wanduragala, as well as the many other writers included in this issue, it's really a unique issue.

It's quite possibly the first to gather so many Asian American artists and writers together around speculative poetry- a genre that draws as much upon traditional poetry as mythology, folklore, science fiction, fantasy and horror.

I'm biased, but I seriously think you should pick this one up.

It's available for purchase at

Check it out!

Poetry Form Of The Moment: Cinquain

As part of our on-going celebration of National
Poetry Month, say hello to the Cinquain:


A Cinquain is basically a five-line poem,
with the syllable count of 2, 4, 6, 8, 2.

A total of 22 syllables.
This makes it a little more generous than the
17 syllables of the Haiku, but lots of fun
still to be had here.

Here's an example:

These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow... the hour
Before the dawn... the mouth of one
Just dead.

The above Cinquain is "Triad" by the American Adelaide Crapsey, who innovated the modern form.

She was being influenced by Japanese poetry as she developed this approach, and the first examples were first published in 1915, after her death.

But to make it a little tougher, a formal modern cinquain can have the following additional constraints:

line 1 - one word (noun) a title or name of the subject
line 2 - two words (adjectives) describing the title
line 3 - three words (verbs) describing an action related to the title
line 4 - four words on a feeling about the title. A complete sentence.
line 5 - one word referring back to the title of the poem.

But this is OPTIONAL. Even Crapsey didn't always follow this formula. So, we see the Cinquain is not as hard as it seems, and can in fact be quite fun.

If you want to know more, here's the link to AMAZE, the Journal of the Cinquain form:

Just for the heck of it, here's mine as a very fast impromptu example:

Cycles, unseen
Circling, holding, keeps
A curious heart in place in space.

Now you give it a whirl! And have a great day! :)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Coreopsis Poetry Reading: April 10!

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

One of my first poetry readings for this month is Tuesday, April 10th as the Coreopsis Poetry Collective presents an exciting free evening of poetry at the Black Dog Cafe Tuesday, starting at 7:00 p.m.

Here's the formal stuff:
This reading features Minnesota-based poets Steve Burt, Kathleen Heideman and Bryan Thao Worra. The Coreopsis Poetry Collective was established to cultivate a community of diverse local artists and poets which integrates all arts forms centered around poetry.

Award-winning poet Stephen Burt grew up in Washington, D.C., and teaches at Macalester College in Saint Paul.

Burt is the author of the collections of poems, Parallel Play and Popular Music, which won the 1999 Colorado Prize. His essays and reviews have appeared in the Believer, the London Review of Books, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, Poetry Review (UK), Slate, Thumbscrew, and the Times Literary Supplement.

Kathleen M. Heideman is the author of two chapbooks, Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare (Traffic Street Press) and She Used to Have Some Cows (La Vacas Press).

She works as the Developer of the MCAD Distance Learning Initiative at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She has received fellowships from the Bush Foundation, Jerome Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Laotian American writer Bryan Thao Worra is the literary editor for and Bakka Magazine, and an advisor to AsianAmericanPoetry.Com.

His work appears widely, and his first full-length book of poetry, On The Other Side of the Eye, will be released this August by Sam’s Dot Publishing.

Black Dog Café is located at 308 Prince Street, lower town St. Paul. Hope to see you there!