Sunday, August 30, 2009

BARROW preview available online at Scribd.Com!

In preparation of the release of BARROW next month, a short, free sample of poems is now available at:

This particular sample includes poems that have been previously published in literary journals around the world including Whistling Shade, the Journal of the Asian American Renaissance, Northography and Tales of the Unanticipated.

As you will find in this short preview, the subjects cover a significant range. Particularly as speculative poetry, with strong influences from science fiction, fantasy and mythology as well as contemporary culture.

If you enjoy it, please tell your friends, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months ahead!

A review of Zelkova Tree

A fine analysis and commentary on a poem of mine that appeared in the inaugural issue of CHA: An Asian Literary Journal, based in Hong Kong. My deep appreciation to the editors for their insightful and touching remarks. It's a delight to have been included, and Zelkova Tree remains one of my personal favorites for many reasons.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Asian and Asian diasporic writers, new or established, are invited to send short stories in English for a volume of NEW ASIAN SHORT STORIES to be published by Marshall Cavendish (Malaysia). The book will be edited by Prof. Mohammad A. Quayum whose details are given below.

They invite short stories not exceeding 6000 words and NOT published or submitted for publication elsewhere to be submitted to the editor electronically at, by 15 February 2010. The book will be released in September 2010, and all successful contributors will be sent a complimentary copy of the book upon publication.

About the Editor
Mohammad A. Quayum has taught at universities in Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and the US, and is currently professor of English at International Islamic University Malaysia. He is the author or editor of nineteen books (published by Penguin, Pearson Education, Peter Lang, Prentice-Hall, Marshall Cavendish etc), and his scholarly articles have appeared in distinguished literary journals in the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan, India, and Malaysia.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Writer's Opportunities

Minnesota: McKnight Fellowship Guidelines for the 2010 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers, Loft Awards in Poetry and Spoken Word and Loft Award in Children's Literature / Younger Children will be available in early September. The deadline for both awards is 5 p.m. on Friday, October 23rd. For more information visit

National: Kundiman and Alice James Books will be accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts for The Kundiman Poetry Prize postmarked between November 15 and January 15, 2010. The Kundiman Poetry Prize welcomes submissions from emerging as well as established Asian American poets. Entrants must reside in the United States. For more information visit

Additional deadlines of note:

Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange Contest
Deadline: August 31, 2009
Two prizes of $500 each are awarded every three years to a poet and a fiction writer living in California. Each winner also receives an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to give a reading and meet with writers, editors, and agents. California poets and fiction writers who have published no more than one full-length book in the genre in which they are applying are eligible. Submit four copies of up to 10 pages of poetry or 20 pages of fiction by August 31. There is no entry fee. Visit the Web site for complete guidelines.

Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship Awards
Deadline: September 1, 2009
Fellowships of $7,000 each are given annually to Illinois writers. Finalists receive grants of $700 each. The awards, which alternate yearly between poetry and prose, are given to Illinois residents who have lived in the state for at least one year prior to the application deadline and who are not enrolled in any degree- or certificate-granting program. This year’s competition is open to fiction writers and creative nonfiction writers. Submit 15 to 30 pages of prose completed within the past four years, proof of residency, and a resumé by September 1. There is no entry fee. Visit the Web site for the required entry form and complete guidelines. Web site:

Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grants
Deadline: September 1, 2009
Grants of up to $2,500 each are given by the Leeway Foundation three times a year to support women poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers in the Philadelphia area who need financial assistance to work on a project involving art and social change. Women and transgender writers living in Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, or Philadelphia counties who are 18 years of age or older and who are not full-time students in an arts program are eligible. Applicants must have a project commitment from an organization or mentor. Submit an entry form by September 1. There is no entry fee. Call, e-mail, or visit the Web site for complete guidelines:

Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards
Deadline: September 1, 2009
Grants of $5,000 and $10,000 are awarded annually to Ohio poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. Writers who have been residents of Ohio for one year prior to the application deadline and are not enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program are eligible. Online submissions only are accepted. Submit 10 to 15 pages of poetry or 20 to 30 pages of prose completed within the past three years by September 1. There is no entry fee. Visit the Web site for the required entry form and complete guidelines:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thought of the moment.

"When you ask a celebrity to "jump", his attention is essentially concentrated on his jump, the mask of posture falls and reveals his true personality."
-Philippe Halsman, American photographer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thank you, khop jai, Elgin!

A big thanks to everyone who was so wonderful and supportive during my recent visit to Elgin, IL where I was able to present my work at both Lao Culture Night and at the 1st Lao Elgin Festival at Vasa Park. It was very interesting meeting so many of you, especially my Facebook, LaoKingdom.Com and Myspace fans face to face for the first time.

It was also rewarding being able to hang out with Thavisouk Phrasavath, who's a dear brother to me and the director of Nerakhoon, which was nominated for an Oscar this year.

The poems I read this weekend included On A Stairway in Luang Prabang and Notes Regarding A Living Heart. They are available in my collection, Tanon Sai Jai.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Change in schedule

Just as a reminder: I am NOT reading tonight at Dreamhaven Books due to a scheduling conflict, however The Speculations Readings Series continues Friday, August 21, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at DreamHaven Books, 2301 E. 38th St., Minneapolis with four Featured Readers: HADDAYR COPLEY-WOODS, WILLIAM ALEXANDER, DAVID SCHWARTZ, and DENA LANDON. Check it out. I'll be reading for the series in 2010. Thanks everyone :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tanon Sai Jai now available!

A new project of mine is now available to the community, entitled Tanon Sai Jai.

The completely free e-version of Tanon Sai Jai can be found at

The free e-book edition IS slightly modified from the hard-copy edition, which you can order at:
The signed version is $10, with $5 shipping and handling.

As those of you who've bought copies of
On The Other Side Of The Eye know, hard copy editions of the books you buy from me come in very unique, hand-addressed envelopes with poems and a nice inscription for you or the person of your choice.

If you like
Tanon Sai Jai, please let your friends know about it! Thanks so much for supporting the work of Lao American writers and artists who are producing work on our own terms! Khop jai lai lai!

An Interview with Lora Jo Foo

Currently appearing in Asian American Press:
A garment worker at age 11 and a union organizer for eight years in the garment and hotel industries, Lora Jo Foo became a groundbreaking attorney representing low wage workers in sweatshop industries. She co-founded Sweatshop Watch and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. She is the author of Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns and Responsive Human and Civil Rights Advocacy, and has photographed throughout the United States and world. She has exhibited her nature photographs in galleries and at fine art fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area where she lives. Most recently she was the organizing director of a major California union. In 2004 and 2008, she was the National Voting Rights Protection Coordinator for the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.

Asian American Press had an opportunity to interview her recently before her upcoming reading on Friday, August 21, 2009 at 6:30 P.M. at the Loft Literary Center about her newest book, Earth Passages: Journeys through Childhood.

AAP: What inspired you to write your book?

LJF: Earth Passages is a book of nature photography interwoven with stories of growing up in poverty in the inner city ghetto of San Francisco's Chinatown. In 1989 when I wrote my first story from childhood, I did not have publication in mind. Rather I had an urgent need to remember events from childhood, to write about them, and in the process heal wounds from childhood.

At the same time I was writing my childhood stories, I was photographing. I took the first photograph I considered art in 1991. At first, I was fascinated with trees, particularly trees that grew through granite, clung onto hillsides and cliffs, or eked out a life in dry desert. After studying and re-studying these pictures, I realized that I was photographing my early childhood. Green Tree Among Hoodoos, the cover photograph, is a metaphor about young living things surviving harsh, barren environments.

Rainier Marie Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet that art is good if it is born of necessity and has its roots in the deepest place in your heart. Both my writing and my photography was born of necessity and came from the deepest part of me.

The writing of the stories and the photography went along separate parallel tracks. Sometime in the mid-90's when I realized both my writing and photography was telling the story of my early life and that both were healing me, I decided to publish this unlikely mixture.

I was also aware of the dearth of literature by Chinese American writers about growing up in poverty. And while there are political tracks about garment workers and their plight toiling in sweatshops, I wanted to tell the story of the kids of immigrant women whose overworked mothers were absent for most of the waking hours of their young lives. By telling my own story, I tell theirs also.

AAP: Can you talk about what challenges have arisen in embarking down the path of an artist and a community activist?

LJF: It took me over ten years to write the childhood stories and just as long to build a body of photographic work large enough to publish in a book. The stories were so long in the making because they were painful to recall and because I needed stretches of quiet and alone time to write them. It was challenging to find that quiet time because I was a civil rights attorney and organizer during those years, working the enormous numbers of hours that most all community activists work. I had to be far away from my political activism to get the stories to flow out so I eked out a story or two a year. To photograph, I had to also take stretches of time off. Fortunately, at the Asian Law Caucus where I worked, we had a great comp time policy so that if you racked up tons of overtime hours, you could take comp time off. I took full advantage of that. But I couldn't leave the younger attorneys and community advocates on their own for long so I'd tell them that while they couldn't reach me in the mountains, I'd try calling them each night when I rolled into a campsite if the campground had a pay phone. While I consider myself a damn good attorney and organizer because of the hours I've spent honing both skills, my creative writing and photography have not had the benefit of that type of time and attention.

AAP: We often hear about how people get their start in the arts, but not why they stay in it. What keeps you going these days? · Where in your new work are you really trying to push yourself, challenge yourself, risk something?

LJF: My photography was both a means of accessing childhood memories that were repressed, a means of expressing what was deep in the subconscious, and also a means of healing. The urgency to photograph isn't as great as it was in the 1990's. Now that I've done a lot of healing, I do not have to be out in nature photographing as much. If there's any truth to the saying that a tortured psyche creates great art, than my becoming more healthy has meant I have produced less art. When I photograph now, it comes from a different place and I haven't figured out yet what that place is. My photographs have changed over the years as I healed. I spent the first five years photographing in deserts of the Southwest. I found the stark simplicity of the desert what I needed for peace of mind and healing. As I healed, I could move onto photographing in the chaos of rainforest. Still, my photographs from the 1990's, though color photographs, were mostly monochromatic. In those years, I didn't photograph riots of color. I hadn't shed my Armored Amazon persona and I didn't photograph dainty flowers. In January of this year, I was photographing in Vietnam. I was in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet where the markets were full of flowers and colors and life and I got carried away with shooting flowers. I am experimenting with photographing outside my box, outside of the themes that drew my ten years ago and worrying about whether there is still depth to my work.

I continue to write because I have more to say! My next book will cover my years of activism. It will be as difficult to write as the stories from childhood. Many people who have read Earth Passages are surprised at how personal and revealing the stories are. How vulnerable I've made myself in publishing these stories. Because these stories have helped me in the healing process and because they took place almost 40 years ago, they do not have the emotional charge today that they had as they occurred and as I was writing them. In writing about my years of activism – the years I spent as a shop steward in a unionized garment factory, scrubbing toilets at the St. Francis Hotel, as a litigator, as the national coordinator of the AFL-CIO's voting rights protection program, I will also write about my personal development and how the unresolved issues from childhood surfaced in unexpected and embarrassing ways that at times got in the way of the cause and the movement. It will be more difficult for me to reveal the weaknesses and dysfunction I had as an adult than the vulnerabilities of childhood. But I feel that it is important for me to continue writing so that other activists know to themselves the question: does the motivation for your activism come from a healthy place or a dysfunctional place?

Earth Passages: Journeys through Childhood consists of 28 vignettes and 53 color nature photographs, and tells the story of the author growing up in the inner city ghetto of San Francisco’s Chinatown – in poverty, in a housing project, at the age of 11 sewing in a garment sweatshop. In the girl's rare escapes into the woods she discovers a magical world so unlike the ghetto in which she lives. The stories from childhood are paired with color nature photographs taken by the author as an adult. Copies will be available on sale during the reading.

The reading is sponsored by Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (National Gender and Equity Campaign), AAPIP-MN Chapter, Full Thought Inc., and the Loft Literary Center. The Loft Literary Center is located at 1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Celebrating Lao Culture Night: August 22, 2009!

On August 22, 2009 (12:00pm to 9:00pm) come celebrate Lao Culture Night in Elgin at the Hemmens Auditorium at 45 Symphony Way.

There will be cultural performances, arts & crafts exhibitions, fashion shows, many hosts of vendors selling foods, and materials followed by the Oscar nominated documentary film "Nerakhoon: The Betrayal" along with a speech by the director, Thavisouk Phrasavath. Rediscover Elgin, and bring your family!

Lao American rock star Ketsana will also be attending!

Ketsana will have copies of her new album being released this month.

I'll also have a limited number of copies of my latest project, Tanon Sai Jai available, a special collection of my work from the last 5 years examining the Lao American experience (Festival special price of $10, regularly $15). Tanon Sai jai also includes never-before published pieces and a photo-essay on the Lao communities around the world.

So join us if you can for a very rare evening together! We look forward to showing you the amazing diversity and talent with the Lao community!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Combat Paper Reading: MCBA, Saturday Afternoon 9/19

I'll be reading at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in honor of their upcoming Combat Paper residency. Combat Paper is a collective that works with war veterans all over the English-speaking world making paper from their uniforms and developing artwork and writing from them. Jim Moore, Deborah Keenan and Jude Nutter will also be reading with me on September 19th from 2-3:30 PM. I hope to see you there! You can learn more about the Combat Paper project at

In September of this year, Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) and the Susan Hensel Gallery will host The Combat Paper Project for a week-long residency in MCBA’s studios.

This unique project, based out of Green Door Studio in Burlington, Vermont, is made possible by a multifaceted collaboration between artists, art collectors, non-profit centers and military combat veterans. Through papermaking workshops, local veterans are given the opportunity to use uniforms worn in combat to create cathartic works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beat and formed into sheets of paper. Later, text and imagery created by veterans are printed on the sheets. The goal is to use art to help individuals reconcile their personal experiences and challenge traditional narratives surrounding service, honor and military culture.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

One Night In Laos with the Jai Lao Foundation

As previously mentioned, the Jai Lao Foundation is launching their first fundraiser benefit dinner party celebrating Lao art and culture. The women and men who've come together for the event have approached things with exceptional donations of time, energy and spirit.

They have great plans for a lively fashion show and music, a bit of poetry, and a celebration of the food and traditions of Laos.

The Jai Lao Foundation is also doing some exceptional work across the US and abroad to raise the profile of Laos, and they'll be sharing some of the highlights of those efforts. I look forward to sharing more pictures from the evening in the coming days ahead.For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reflecting On Can Poetry Matter?

In 1992, Dana Gioia wrote the essay Can Poetry Matter? I re-read it often, but for me, the interesting take-away was always the very end, with six suggestions to improve readings and the presence of poetry in modern culture.

They boiled down to:
1. When poets give public readings, they should spend part of every program reciting other people's work—preferably poems they admire by writers they do not know personally.

2. When arts administrators plan public readings, they should avoid the standard subculture format of poetry only.

3. Poets need to write prose about poetry more often, more candidly, and more effectively.

4. Poets who compile anthologies—or even reading lists—should be scrupulously honest in including only poems they genuinely admire.

5. Poetry teachers especially at the high school and undergraduate levels, should spend less time on analysis and more on performance.

6. Finally poets and arts administrators should use radio to expand the art's audience.
As I look back on my last ten years, I applied a great number of these principles with my peers. There were moments of effectiveness, and moments when I groan and roll my eyes from the recall. Among things I would add?

We ought to use not only radio but the internet, to expand the art, using video, multimedia and whatever methods are at our disposal. I encourage documenting multiple readings of particular poems to show the variety of ways a work can be read and how it changes within time and physical contexts.

A great deal was discussed on less criticism and more performance. This was, and should be the most controversial of Gioia's suggestions. I definitely feel all poets should hear how poems sound aloud in performance and to work on effective, masterful delivery of both their own and others works. But I also feel the present climate is lacking in poets who can effectively evaluate and critique their own work or the work of others. Effort should be made to resolve this dilemma without venture into extreme.

I know I've benefitted greatly as an artist by integrating the other arts and senses into my readings. I'll always recommend that.

Ultimately, I find myself instead citing Orwell's quip, "A poetry reading can be a grisly thing," and still hope that by a vibrant and engaging performance, poets will instead leave an audience energized and as enthusiastic about literature as we are when we create. I don't believe a poetry reading needs to be cirque du soleil, but neither does it have to be some somber sepulchre of wounded verbs, some corpse of nouns.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Shark Week Poems

In a surprising move of good humor, the Academy of American Poets has posted an article regarding sharks and Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

Some notable poets cited for their work regarding sharks include Carl Sandburg, Herman Melville, who proves he didn't write just about whales, Robert Graves, James Russell Lowell, Martin Espada and Denise Levertov among others.

From my body of work, the two poems of mine most notable for their shark imagery would be The Shape (found in On The Other Side Of The Eye) and Bangkok Arrival (found in The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: My Dinner With Cluster Bombs).

Idly speaking, my favorite shark film is the over-the-top Deep Blue Sea, although Open Water and Jaws also hold high places in my book, as far as the shark vs. humans genre goes.

Personally, I'm rather fond of the hammerhead shark, although this has very little effect on many things. Cheers, and welcome to Shark Week!