Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Year In Review!

Where does a year go? 

Considering my year began by getting rear-ended by a 7-year veteran of the FBI's Violent Crimes Division in Minneapolis, it's all turned out all right, even after also getting laid off by work after Labor Day following 3 years with them.

I thank everyone who's been a part of a truly wonderful 2008. So what did we get done this year?

Travels: I traveled widely this year including Chicago, Colorado, Iowa, all over Wisconsin, Michigan and California. One of the big highlights was wat-hopping with some great photostudies of Lao American temples in the Midwest as a result. 

Publications: The biggest achievement of course this year was the release of my second book, Winter Ink, the 20th anniversary Winter Book of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts under the direction of award-winning master printer, Paulette Myers-Rich.  

I got the greenlight for my new book of speculative poetry, Barrow, which will come out in 2009. New poems of mine were published in Whistling Shade, the upcoming Grinding Up Stones, and the new anthology, Language for a New Century.  

A poet asked to translate my work into Bengali, my poetry was included in a Canadian college textbook about Laos, and On the Other Side of the Eye is taught in several classrooms across the US now, including California. 

In the meantime, I also got some great work done interviewing some amazing Asian American writers and artists, and continued my research on puppoetics and the creatures of Laos (mythological and cryptozoological) and my haiku reviews project.

Reviews, interviews and shoutouts for 2008: Lao Roots, Bakka Magazine, 2.1.5. Magazine, Write On! Radio, 3 Minute Egg, the Star Tribune, Whistling Shade, Hyphen Magazine, Northography, Boston Progress Radio, Angry Asian Man, Asian American Press, Tales of the Unanticipated, The Adventures of Johnny Northside, Slant Eye for the Round Eye, Towers Magazine, the Carl Brandon Society, Dark Parables,  Minority Militant, the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Thanks, everyone!

Events: Hardly a month went by without doing a reading somewhere. 

This year opened with the historic Asian American Poetry Triple Header featuring the work of Lee Herrick, Sun Yung Shin and myself at the Loft Literary Center.  

Another major reading was in July with Ed Lin and Saymoukda Vongsay for the popular Eye The Other Bust!: Crime and Love reading where Saymoukda debuted her very first chapbook, No Regrets.  

Ed just won the Member's Choice award from the Asian American Literary Awards for his new novel, This Is A Bust, so that made this reading all the more special. 

In August, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of On the Other Side of the Eye on 08-08-08 at the Amazon Bookstore with Katie Ka Vang, Brandon Lacy Campos and Saymoukda Vongsay reading with me.

In addition, I had key readings at UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara, Viterbo, UW Green Bay, the Association for Asian American Studies conference, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Diversicon with the award-winning Dr. Nnedi Okorafor, Patrick Henry High School, and Common Good Books. 

Another highlight was a reading with the MOSAIC Asian Story Telling Alliance at Java Jack's Coffee Cafe with David Zander, Kao Kaliya Yang among many others.

There were also some very nice panel presentations at the Loft Poetry Festival, the Arcana horror convention and Asian Pacific Heritage Day at the Minnesota State Capitol. 

Awards: Although On the Other Side of the Eye was passed over for the Rhyslings (which is ok, because they don't do book-length collections of speculative poetry) and a few other minor awards, it all works out. 

As most of you heard, my year's highlights are receiving the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant at the beginning of the year and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature at the end to continue my work with all of you.

And what's on the schedule for 2009? 

It's gonna amaze you.  :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the News

Three Minute Egg has a great interview with me about Winter Ink!

I also have a new poem featured in the latest issue of Whistling Shade.

Northography also has a nice blurb about my recent NEA Fellowship.

I also have a new interview up at the Minority Militant!  Thanks, everyone!

Over 1,000 New Species Found in the Mekong

A recent CNN article discussed the findings of a report outlining over 1,000 species found along the Mekong river including the Laotian rock rat, a spider with foot-long legs, and a hot pink dragon millipede that produces cyanide. 

519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad have been found so far. They're finding new species almost at a rate of 2 per week, but even as we make new discoveries, some are disappearing thanks to human development and destruction of their habitats. 

For example, a bovine found in 1991 living in the Annamite Mountains of Laos has not been seen in recent years. Local cultural beliefs also endanger several of the species: The more exotic the animal, the more status it often bestows on the one who consumes it.

We can only hope that more is done to proactively protect these fascinating creatures and our region's heritage of unique biodiversity. Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to highlight other creatures in the near future on this blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Katie Ka Vang Chapbook Release!

Inviting you all to Katie Ka Vang's very first chapbook release this Sunday December 21st at 6PM at Blackdog Wine and Coffee Bar at 308 Prince Street. 

She has amazing opening acts and a possible eggroll fundraiser her niece might be doing. There are several reasons to attend this event including:

* Awesome opening acts: May Lee Yang, Victoria Vang and The Dirty Darlings (all whom are youtubeable)

* Get eggrolls

* Support Katie by buying her first chapbook, "Never Said" !!!

Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong-American Performance artist and writer. She was a 2007 recipient of the Jerome Naked Stages grant where she created a one woman show called 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening, and is a 2008 recipient of Artist Initiative grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board.

She has performed in different theater companies, schools, open mics, etc. She was in two productions this fall, Sia(b) by May Lee yang; and Asiamnesia by Sunmee Chomet and ensemble.

For more information please check out her website on www.myspace.com/emptyyks  

A Letter from Intermedia Arts

One of the great resources of the Twin Cities has been Intermedia Arts. It was a host to numerous events of great and historic significance to Laotian and Hmong artists and all communities. They've had a wonderful and magnificent vision and it's been exceptional working alongside their volunteers and staff over the years. They've recently issued an urgent request for help, however. A recent letter of theirs explains:
    For over 35 years, Intermedia Arts has served as a resource for our community. The work that we do supports hundreds of artists, arts participants and arts organizations each year. Intermedia Arts is a vital part of our culture and our community: we cannot—we must not—allow this work to disappear.

    So, What Are We Going to Do About It?
    We are going to act, and we need you to act with us. Intermedia Arts can survive this economy. We can even come out on the other side stronger and more sustainable than ever before. But in order to do that, we have to make huge changes in the way we operate, and we have to make them immediately:

    •In January 2009, Intermedia Arts will be moving our five full-time staff members to contract or hourly positions. The work that we do as an organization will be done by our Executive/Artistic Director, Theresa Sweetland; our board of directors; current staff members working as independent contractors, and community volunteers.

    •As of January 9th, we will open only for scheduled events, mostly in the evenings. We will be closing our gallery and eliminating our gallery and poetry library hours but will be expanding our rental programming in our theater, gallery and classrooms. Our building is a valuable asset to the arts community, and we encourage you to look to us for your upcoming rental needs.

    •We are currently working with other local arts groups and organizations to discuss ideas for sharing resources and sustaining our programs. We will also discuss the ways in which our building could be most valuable to the arts community as Intermedia Arts re-structures our operations and rebuilds our capacity.

    •Intermedia Arts has organized a meeting of small and mid-sized arts groups—SOTA: State of the Arts. None of us can do this alone.

    I know. It’s huge. It’s fast. It’s dramatic. But we—our staff, our board, our artists, partners, and funders—all of us, are absolutely committed to ensuring the future of Intermedia Arts. I know you are too.

    Calling On Our Community (This Part is About You)
    We can’t do this without you. Really and truly, whether Intermedia Arts closes its doors or not depends on you. Over the past three years, Intermedia Arts has taken on SASE's literary programs, and together we have developed something truly amazing. This is what I'm asking you to do:

    1. RSVP now. I need you here at Intermedia Arts’ Community Townhall: Rally the People! at 5:30PM on Friday, December 19th. I am asking you to make it a priority to be here, in person. You are our community; we need you to rally with us as we design our future together.

    2. Make a donation. Supporting Intermedia Arts is critical right now, and every dollar counts. We need your support to help us with our general operating expenses as we implement our plan for long-term sustainability. This isn’t about keeping Intermedia Arts open for another month; this is about keeping Intermedia Arts in our community for the long-term. Right now, that future depends on you. Don't wait: make your donation today.

    3: Email us. We need to hear your thoughts, your ideas, your commitment of support, your encouragement, your suggestions and feelings. Send us your questions, tell us what you think, and look to our website for updates, responses, community FAQs, and news each and every step of the way. Email: Community@intermediaarts.org.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Ink Book Release Party: Dec. 13th, 2008

Here are some initial photos from the Winter Ink release party on Dec. 13th at Open Book! A big thanks to everyone who came out to support all of us during the evening. It was a magical night. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mythic creatures of Laos and SE Asia!

It's not every day that we get a big break and come across a rare text like this. While visiting my colleague Phouninh today, she showed me a tattered but largely intact volume of art studying the traditional creatures of myth and legend from Laos and Southeast Asia.

I was unfortunately unable to get better shots at the moment, and want to make sure we get proper credit to the monk who gathered these together, and a larger history of the book, but I also couldn't resist showing you a sample of where we're going to be going in the coming years ahead now...

Clearly, many of the creatures and scenes are from the Ramayana and similar texts, however, others may not be. More research is clearly needed. :) But I'm very excited about coming across this text.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009 NEA Poetry Fellows

I'm just starting to get a full understanding of all of the great poetry fellows recognized by the NEA.

But, in addition to myself, Jason Koo, a poet and teacher at Davidson College in North Carolina, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil and C. Dale Young are also among the Asian American poets who received fellowships. They were recognized from over 1,000 applications across the country. Minnesotan poet Anna George Meek also received a poetry fellowship. Fellowships last for a year and allow the recipients to carry out individual plans they proposed. 

Hopefully, we'll hear more about each of their plans as the year goes on!

Lol. And how do I feel?

In the News and Blogosphere

On The Other Side Of The Eye is reviewed by Linda Addison in Space and Time Magazine #106:
    On The Other Side Of The Eye by Bryan Thao Worra (Sam’s Dot Publishing); an enlightening and whimsical poetry collection that tells the devastating effect of the civil war in Laos, the Kingdom of a Million Elephants, on the human spirit: past, present and future. ‘What Kills A Man’ is a gentle list: Always small things / A round. / Holes…A motion. An emotion. Worra fills these pages with poetic fables using the wonders of Laos myth and world history in the song of aliens, immortality, moon and stars; from “The Deep Ones”: We grow with uncertain immortality/At the edge not made for man.
Hyphen Magazine makes a nice mention of me on their blog, courtesy of Claire Light

Write On Radio has an interview with me, along with Todd Boss. I come on around the 30 minute mark.

Twin Cities Daily Planet has an article by Alsion Morse up about Winter Ink and the book release on December 13th at the Open Book (1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis from 6 to 9PM).

Asian American Press covered my NEA Fellowship. There's a brief nod in the Star Tribune.

I mentioned this earlier, but Tales of the Unanticipated #29 also has an interview with me by Catherine Lundhoff, and it's out now.  Boston Progress Radio also a fun feature of me. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Officially Announcing: I'm an NEA Fellow in Literature

I can now officially say that I have been selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as a 2009 Fellow in Literature for Poetry.

To put it in context, NEA Literature Fellowships are awarded to published creative writers of exceptional talent in the areas of prose and poetry to advance the goal of encouraging and supporting artistic creativity and preserving our diverse cultural heritage.

The NEA was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, and the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts.

This year, out of over 1,000 applications received from across the country, only 42 were awarded after being judged by 10 of the country's leading poets. The award for poetry comes only once every 2 years.

The award also comes with $25,000 for me to continue my work to study and advance awareness of Laotian American poetry. This is both a great personal victory and a community victory. 

I thank all of you who helped me and stood by me. And to my fellow writers who may find themselves at points of struggle, let me assure you: It's possible. Reach for it. :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Influences: A Quick List

The other day I ran across a list of influences I cited in the past. Writers and musicians who have been some of the strongest influences on my writing. Today I put together a quick list of some of the pivotal collections of their writing that I particularly enjoy, some assembled by the authors themselves, others, simply collected together well.
  • Franz Kafka. The Basic Kafka.
  • Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths
  • Samuel Beckett. Endgame. Worstward Ho. Company. 
  • H.P. Lovecraft. Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre
  • Yusef Komunyakaa. Dien Cai Dau. Talking Dirty to The Gods 
  • Heather McHugh. Hinge and Sign 
  • Tadeusz Borowski. This Way for The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.
  • Adrienne Su. Middle Kingdom. 
  • Leonard Cohen. I'm Your Man.  
  • Tom Waits. Bone Machine. 
  • Khalil Gibran. The Madman. 
  • Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myth. 
  • Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha. Steppenwolfe.
  • Shuntaro Tanikawa. Selected Poems.
  • Yevgeny Yevtushenko. The Face Behind The Face.
  • Graham Greene. The Captain And The Enemy.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Gift From The Sea.
Of course, there's always many, many more, but these are some that come with my highest recommendations.