Friday, October 30, 2009

[Films] Good Horror Picks of Recent Years

Although I'd love to see lots of you on Halloween for our literary celebration, some of you may be stuck inside at home distributing candy to passing ghosts and ghouls. The following films get my highest recommendations from recent years:

Drag Me To Hell is Sam Raimi at his finest, learning plenty from his Evil Dead series in this tale of the Lamia and what happens when you cross little old ladies from the old country.

Let The Right One In is a sweet coming of age story. With a vampire.

I'm also looking forward to the upcoming Daybreakers.

The Descent is a great, almost Lovecraftian tale with some great female characters and a chilling, claustrophobic atmosphere. You also really can't go wrong with his earlier werewolf film Dog Soldiers or his post-apocalyptic Doomsday.

Dagon remains one of my favorite retellings of an H.P. Lovecraft story, this one inspired by Shadows Over Innsmouth. Right along with Re-Animator and From Beyond they take some liberties, and some may object to the comedy interjected into these films but few can argue with the overall spirit with which they successfully capture Lovecraft's weird vision.

Dawn of the Dead Whether it's the remake or the original, Dawn of the Dead really serves up some great zombie action for you. The other key zombie films that really vindicate the genre are of course Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, which alas isn't available out on video yet. 28 Days and 28 Days Later also deserve mention.

Versus gets a special nod for when you absolutely positively need some time-hopping zombie yakuza martial arts action.


Other key Asian horror films that stand head and shoulders above the rest include the original Ju-On, Kairo, Dark Water (NOT the remake), The Eye and Shutter. These all really raised the bar on atmospheric, creepy films that will leave you unsettled. Unfortunately, the industry's gone largely downhill with imitators and not enough time spent on developing the stories. But there was a brief golden era of fine Asian horror with diverse plots and innovation in concepts and excellent technical execution. Hopefully it won't be long before we see a resurgence.

Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party at Kieran's!

This Halloween, come to the  Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party, hosted by the Loft Literary Center and Kieran's Irish Pub! Not limited to poets, this is a night for all literary freaks to rise from the dead!  The evening will include a Costume Contest and an Open Mic.  Guests are encouraged to get creative. Readings of the work of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard and others will be heard! Come one, come all!

When: Saturday, October 31, 8pm
What: Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party
Featuring:
  • Reading/Open Mic, starts 8 pm
    Read from your favorite poetry, short stories, plays -- any and all work from authors dead or alive (or your own)! Or just sit back and enjoy the show.
  • Costume Contest, starts 10 pm
    Enter for your chance at our literary prizes!
Where: Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 Second Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55401. (612) 339-4499
www.kierans.com

Writer's Opportunities: Hmong, Lao and Asian American Journals

Alas, it's been a very rough year for Hmong and Lao magazines with many functionally defunct and out of the running. A few are still in operation and accepting work.

Hmong and Lao Magazines:
www.bakkamagazine.com Accepting fiction/non-fiction short stories, poetry, essays and op-eds, photography, visual art submissions, letters to the editor. Bakka Magazine is a regular magazine for anyone with a connection to Laos. It's been on a slight hiatus but is expected to be back in operation very soon.

www.jsaaea.org The Journal of Southeast Asian Education and Advancement is taking both non-fiction and creative, literary writing. It is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal addressing research interests surrounding the education and community development of Southeast Asian Americans.

www.myspace.com/hmongpassion Hmong Passion Magazine is looking for contributors. They have a strong youth and education focus. It's scheduled to be published quarterly (every 3 months).

http://www.hmong.org/hmoobteen.aspx Hmoob Teen Magazine is still publishing out of Hmong American Partnership and provides great opportunities for many young Hmong writers.

Asian American Magazines
The following Asian American magazines and websites could also always use new writers and contributors:

www.myspace.com/hyphenmagazine Still active, Hyphen Magazine is always looking to give opportunities to freelancers, writers and artists.

www.13minutesmag.com 13 Minutes target audience consists of females, ages 24 to 45. Their focus is to provide bicultural Asian American women with a forum in which issues that are familiar with them can be addressed and explored.

www.asiancha.com CHA: An Asian Literary Journal is the first Hong Kong-based online literary quarterly journal dedicated to publishing quality poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, reviews, photography & art from and about Asia.

www.thememagazine.com Theme Magazine is a quarterly publication that covers global avant-garde Asian culture for an increasingly international readership.

www.myspace.com/altrazine or www.altrazine.com Altra is still going. A quarterly lifestyle magazine that celebrates Asian and Asian American excellence. ALTRA highlights achievements by cosmopolitan, English speaking Asians and Asian Americans, and also informs the public on the diverse trends and issues affecting individuals of Asian descent.

www.colorlines.com Colorlines is a more serious bimonthly magazine, and is billed as the leading national, multi-racial magazine devoted to the creativity and complexity of communities of color. ColorLines features the best writing on the issues that affect these communities.

www.jademagazine.com Jade Magazine endeavors to be THE reference for professional Asian and Asian American women in their 20's and 30's.

www.audreymagazine.com Audrey Magazine is still around. A bimonthly English-language magazine highlighting the stories that interest Asian American women nationwide.

www.eastwestmagazine.com East West, is an Asian American lifestyle magazine covering fashion, politics, food, career, beauty, celebrities and more.

www.kartikareview.com Kartika Review is a well-run, thoughtful Asian American literary journal, and one to keep an eye on over time.

www.asianamericanpoetry.com AsianAmericanPoetry.Com has slowed down a little, but still accepts submissions.

www.asianamericanliteraryreview.org Asian American Literary Review. Their website isn't really up yet, but they have plans to unveil their first issue in 2010. They have some very impressive names in East Asian and South Asian literature connected to their editorial board.

[Introduction To Lao Writers] Souvankham Thammavongsa


In Canada, Souvankham Thammavongsa is the author of Small Arguments (Pedlar Press, 2003) and Found (Pedlar Press, 2007.) She also published at least five chapbooks before Small Arguments, but these are extremely hard to find. She also has a chapbook of one-act plays, Weed Woman, among other works. Years ago, I cited her as an essential author to read among international Lao writers, and I stand by that.

Souvankham was born in the Nongkhai, Thailand refugee camp and grew up in Toronto. If you read her interviews, I think you'll agree with me, she's a poet's poet, and she has quite a sense of humor.

Found has recently emerged as an exceptional movie by the talented Paramita Nath. The director uses impressionistic techniques to show Thammavongsa's journey: Years ago, she discovered her her father's scrapbook that he had kept in the Thai refugee camps. It documents the family's escape from Laos in the 1970s. It was filled with doodles, addresses, postage stamps, maps and measurements. One day, he threw it out.

Her book, Found, was her response. Paramita Nath's film presents the old photos, text, animation and home movies. Although it is a short film, I consider it as important as Nerakhoon in presenting the narrative of Lao refugees. Both of these films possess a high degree of art that transcends conventional expectations of refugee stories. It is very much in line with the way Lao artists around the world have approached our experience.

Small Arguments won the 2004 ReLit Award for excellence in poetry and an Alcuin Society citation for excellence in book design. Souvankham has also been featured at Harbourfront's Premiere Dance Theatre and International Reading Series. She participated in the WIER program in 1997 as a student at York Memorial Collegiate Institute. She was an editor of big boots, a zine for and by women of colour. In 2002, she received the Lina Chartrand Award for poetry.

Thammavongsa's poetry is typically sparse even compared to the work of other Lao poets, and challenging. But she is one of the essential voices of our generation, and I applaud her for her daring. I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

[MN] READING JAM WITH HMONG AMERICAN WRITERS

A great line up of some of my favorite Hmong writers in Minnesota. If you're free on Monday night, this is a don't miss:

If you're interested in new voices by emerging Hmong American writers and new works-in-progress by more established Hmong American writers, check out the Lowertown Reading Jam at the Black Dog this Monday November 2, 7-8:30 p.m. The featured readers include Gaoiaong Vang, Mai Yang Xiong, Linda Hawj, Mai Neng Moua, and May Lee-Yang.

What: Reading by Hmong Women and Girls
When: Monday, November 2 from 7-8:30 PM
Where: Black Dog Cafe, 308 Prince Street (kitty corner from St. Paul Farmer's Market)
Why: Good literature

This is presented as part of the The Saint Paul Almanac series of ten Reading Jams, each curated and produced by well-known Saint Paul writers and spoken word artists, at Black Dog Café on the first Monday of each month, which began in October 2009. In addition, a variety of independent coffee shops and public venues throughout the city are holding readings by contributors to the Saint Paul Almanac in the weeks following the launch. They intentionally expand language/communication experiences with a visual artist rendering each reading visually, and an interpreter signing each event. Come check it out and support the literary arts in Saint Paul!

The Saint Paul Almanac is sponsored by KFAI: Radio Without Boundaries, the City of Saint Paul, the Saint Paul STAR Program, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Lowertown Future Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation, Twin Cities Daily Planet, the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, and Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Upcoming Appearances for 2009 and 2010

Busy year ahead! I hope you can join me for some of these great events!

October 31st I'm co-hosting the Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party at Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 Second Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55401. (612) 339-4499 www.kierans.com to support the Loft Literary Center.

November 10th I'm reading for the Normandale Reading Series at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN.

November 14th I'm reading at the Minnesota Transracial Film Festival sponsored by Adopsource at Oak Street Cinema at 309 Oak Street SE in Minneapolis.

November 18th I'm presenting at St. Cloud State University as part of ASIA's Social Justice Week. This year's theme is: Open Your Eyes, Here I Stand: Asian American.



December 11th I'm at the ALEC Conference in Sacramento, California with Catzie Vilayphonh and Ova Saopeng, as well as Oscar-nominated Thavisouk Phrasivath, who is the keynote speaker. I'll have copies of BARROW and Tanon Sai Jai available.


January 13th I'm reading at Birch Bark Books in Minneapolis as part of the popular Birch Bark Books reading series.

In February, 2010 I'm reading at Otterbein College for the very first time since I left in 1997.

March 5th-7th I'll be at Marscon 2010 in Minnesota. Their theme is Dark Lords and Femme Fatales. How can I resist that?

April 7th-9th, 2010 I'm at the AWP Conference in Denver, Colorado.

April 10th-11th, 2010 I'm at the Association for Asian American Studies Conference in Austin, TX.

May, 2010 I'm at the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans Asian Pacific Heritage Dinner. The date is still to be determined, but there's some exciting things happening this year.

May 28-31st, 2010 I'll be in Tennessee celebrating Lao American heritage with the Royal Lao Classical Dancers.

June 18th, 2010 I'll be at award-winning author and comic book artist Gene Yang's reading at the Loft as part of the Loft Mentor Series. You have to check out his work, particularly American Born Chinese.

July 1-4th, 2010 I'm presenting at Convergence in Minnesota- This year's theme is BRING ON THE BAD GUYS. It's going to be great!

July 10-12th, 2010 I'll be with the Minnesota Dragon Festival. Dragon boat races, great entertainment and more!

August 6th-8th, 2010 I'll be at Diversicon with Guest of Honor William F. Wu.

August 13th-15th is the Lao American Writer's Summit in Minneapolis. An opportunity for Lao American writers and artists to meet with their readers and one another to talk about our work and upcoming projects and ways to support the growth of Lao American literature around the world. It will also be the third year anniversary celebration for the release of my book On The Other Side Of The Eye!

August 21st-23rd there's a good possibility I'll be in Elgin, IL to celebrate Lao American heritage with the community there.

And coming around full circle? October, 2010 is the Twin Cities Book Festival and the ARCANA horror convention.

And maybe somewhere in between there, I'll release a new book or something. :) Cheers and thanks for all of your support.

[Diversicon] William F. Wu to be D18 Guest of Honor in August 2010

Prolific author William F. Wu will be the Guest of Honor for the Twin Cities, Minnesota science fiction convention, Diversicon, now in its 18th year.
NOMINATED FIVE TIMES for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, William F. Wu has published over a dozen novels as well as over 50 short stories that have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, which include Omni Magazine and the best-selling 1996 STAR WARS: Tales from Jabba's Palace.

On panels at science fiction conventions where he has frequently been guest of honor and toastmaster, Wu is known for his contemporary fantasy short stories, such as "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium," a multiple award nominee that was adapted into an episode of the television series The Twilight Zone. Recognized for his historical accuracy and action-adventure, Wu is often a requested speaker for students in middle school history and literature classes. He is the author of more than a dozen novels including the 6-volume young adult science fiction series from Avon titled Isaac Asimov's Robots in Time. With a Ph.D. in American Culture, Wu has taught college writing courses and led creative writing workshops for writers of all ages.

His most acclaimed book, Hong on the Range, was chosen for the Wilson Library Bulletin's list of science fiction "Books Too Good To Miss" and was a selection for the American Library Association list of Best Books for Young People, the New York Public Library's Recommended Books for the Teen Age, and was also a Young Adult Editor's Choice by Booklist Magazine. The novel is based on Wu's Hugo and Nebula Award nominee "Hong's Bluff," which first appeared in Omni Magazine.

Hong on The Range has been adapted into a comic book trilogy by Fly Paper Press for Image Comics and is in development for film and television entertainment with Matinee Entertainment.

Diversicon celebrates diversity in speculative fiction, including diversity in media, of SF fan and professional groups, and cultural diversity. It value both our commonalities and the things that make us different, and they strive to help the local SF community reflect the cultural range of Minnesota in the Third Millennium. Given its size (100–125 persons), it's one of the most panel- and discussion-intensive SF cons that Minnesota has. Previous guests of honor have included award-winning authors such as S.P. Somtow, Kay Kenyon, Kelly Link, Sheree R. Thomas, Minister Faust and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

[Creature Feature] Rakshasa

The Rakshasa is a cannibalistic, ill-tempered, shape-shifting demon notorious for disturbing sacrifices, desecrating graves, harassing priests, possessing humans, and so on. I guess they're kind of like KISS without the catchy tunes.

Magicians and warriors, their fingers are venomous, and they feed on humans and rotten food.  They show up all over India and Southeast Asia in epic poems and art. In the Ramayana, the figure of Ravana is a Rakshasa, and he is known in Laos as Hapkhanasouane in the Lao epic of Phra Lak Phra Lam. Some dispute whether or not they have a true shape.

Interestingly, in one translation of the Lotus Sutra, a set of Rakshasa daughters swear to uphold and protect the teachings of the Buddha:
At that time there were daughters of rakshasa demons, the first named Lamba, the second named Vilamba, the third named Crooked Teeth, the fourth named Flowery Teeth, the fifth named Black Teeth, the sixth named Much Hair, the seventh named Insatiable, the eighth named Necklace Bearer, the ninth named Kunti, and the tenth named Stealer of the Vital Spirit of All Living Beings. These ten rakshasa daughters, along with the Mother of Devil Children, her offspring, and her attendants, all proceeded to the place where the Buddha was and spoke to the Buddha in unison, saying, "World-Honored One, we too wish to shield and guard those who read, recite, accept, and uphold the Lotus Sutra and spare them from decline or harm. If anyone should spy out the shortcomings of these teachers of the Law and try to take advantage of them, we will make it impossible for him to do so.
Well, who could say no to an offer like that?

[Exhibit Notes] NONE OF THE ABOVE

Thanks to everyone who came out for the NONE OF THE ABOVE reading. It was a great example of Mail Art and the Fluxus movement and the exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts was a positive and powerful reminder.

I walked out with a renewed sense of the importance of the everyday art and the need to constantly push the envelope, and to tackle art, wrestle it to the ground to create work that challenges and dares to take risks. It was a great evening featuring Tom Cassidy, Erica Christ and Loren Niemi.

At the moment, I'm processing it all still, but a big thanks to Tom Cassidy for bringing me in on this evening, and my strong recommendations for those of you who get the opportunity, to participate in Mail Art projects in the future.


[Hypothetical Poetry] Vastu Poetics

A few years ago there was a push among the culture vultures to present the Indian approach to space arrangement, Vastu. This was a different perspective to consider in comparison to the Chinese arrangement system of Feng Shui. Both essentially channel the flow of cosmic energies for the benefit of an individual or family's fortunes. And blame misfortune on a badly placed couch.

There's all sorts of magical mumbo-jumbo and lingo that gets discussed, infinite testimonies and contradictory results and data and typical efforts to strip out the metaphysical principles of Hindu beliefs to create a secular novelty commodity that will typically last in most households until the next mystic fad comes along.

Does it really work for living spaces? I haven't tried it. My approach to space arrangement is: Do it so you don't trip on things and you can find most of your stuff easily. From an arts perspective, I appreciate looking at new ideas and how one might take on Vastu poetics. I don't think anyone has but I imagine it goes like this:

A page or canvas is seen as a representation of the firmament, waiting to be anchored down by different spirits or concepts. A perfect square is the best, but any page would do, for practical purposes, and one would conceive of the space mostly as a 3x3 grid.

One common sense of that grid is:
The uppermost row would be attributed to Air, Prosperity (Health and Wealth) and Water. This row would be where inquiries begin, as the Air element is connected to indecisiveness or constant motion. The conventional belief is Water is connected with serenity and depth, flow and possibility, among other things.

The middle row has properties of Darkness and Mystery, Space and the ethereal, and Light connected to it. A poet engaging Vastu poetics uses the center of the page, the poem to present unifying concepts. This is the heart where energy collects and radiates outward- the center should be as open and spacious as possible.

The lower row references the elements of Earth, the cycle of life, death and duty, and finally Fire or electricity and energy. This row is associated with wisdom and emotional strength, responsibility, and spiritual and physical transformations.

Notably, an alternate version sees it as:
Top row: Wind and Air. Wealth. Faith and the unknown.
Middle row: Water. Space/Spirit. Light.
Lower row: History or Earth. Life and Death. Fire.
There's a slight difference in this arrangement. Less helpfully, this changes depending on the time of the year if you're going all out to explore this.  This is all theoretical. I don't know if any poet has consciously worked, especially in English, to write poems structured or influenced in such a way.

Basic Vastu poetics would probably prefer triplets over couplets. Possibly nine syllables or nine-word lines. Books with nine sections or chapters. A poet might try to keep in mind their general ayurvdic type- pitta, kapha or vata and tie that in to their approach. I imagine a perfect book would thus be 81 pages. 9 chapters of 9 poems each, one of a total of 9 volumes.

Advanced Vastu poetics would undoubtedly ultimately point towards transcendence and seeing beyond dualities and polar opposites and interrelations towards the overall unification of the whole cosmos at physical, spiritual and intellectual levels, thus at a certain level of achieved understanding you can throw all of this out and make art.

Friday, October 23, 2009

[Introduction To Lao Writers] TC Huo



Continuing our overview of Lao American writers, TC Huo is a Laotian American author, of Chinese descent, who emigrated from Laos to the United States in 1980 and now lives in Santa Clara, California. He has written books such as A Thousand Wings and Land of Smiles. In 2001, he received the award for adult fiction from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

His books have been reviewed favorably in the New York Times. Hopefully it won't be too long before we see new work from him and greater recognition with the community for his efforts to bring the perspective of Laotians to the world of arts and letters. It would be wonderful to see him invited to literary events and festivals. That's he successfully brought two novels to publication is quite an accomplishment.

Marilyn Chin: Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen


On Thursday, October 22nd in New York, the Asian American Writer's Workshop held a party to celebrate Marilyn Chin's first novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, which is the current front-runner my personal favorite book of the 2009. I haven't laughed as much with an Asian American novel like this in a long time. It's really good.

The party was made possible in part by seasonal sponsorship from Beerlao and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I'm particularly happy to see Beerlao supporting the literary arts in New York. I hope they continue to do so not only there but elsewhere across the country. It would be especially nice to see them support events by Lao writers and artists. I know it would mean a lot.

I interviewed Marilyn several years back for Asian American Press that's currently archived at the University of Minnesota. I recently did a zany follow-up interview with her for Tripmaster Monkey.

Here's wishing her continued luck and success on Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen! I think it's going to be one of the great classics in the coming years ahead.

Lao Oral Histories in November!

Dr. Vinya Sysamouth from the Center for Lao Studies is coming to Minnesota in November all the way up from sunny California! I hope he dresses warmly and reads the memo that it occasionally gets cold out here.

The purpose of his trip is to come up and assist us in the collection of oral histories in the Lao community, a project I have long considered to be of deep and significant importance, and one I know many others are interested in. While he's up here, if you or someone you know is interested in sharing your story with him so that he can record it for the benefit of the Lao community, it would be deeply appreciated. You can e-mail him at vinya@laostudies.org

In Minnesota, the Hmong Archives, Asian Media Access and for a while the Hmong American Institute for Learning (now HARC) were actively working to document the stories of the elders and other community members. One of the best written oral histories, to me, was Gayle Morrsion's Sky Is Falling, a story of the last days of the city of Long Tieng during the war for Laos in 1975, although most of those perspectives are from only two sides of the conflict. It is still a significant text.

But to me, the model that remains the most impressive was the one developed by the Center for Multicultural Cooperation and their Hmong Voices series, which turned it into an intergenerational project, matching an elder with a youth and an adult. As they trained the youth how to conduct interviews, write well and use digital equipment, they integrated rare footage from the archives in a masterful way to create some amazing mini-documentaries. They're only a few minutes long each, but well worth examining as best practices, not only for the history it documents but the skills it gives tomorrow's young leaders.

One example on their website is Escape from Fear. Escape from Fear chronicles the story of Yee Yia Vang, as presented by his daughter Connie. Vang tells of his dangerous escape from Laos, and Connie learns the importance of her heritage and history. She's very young as she engages with the material, but I think that also adds deeply to the community's process of speaking about our collective history.
You can also find the story of Fresno's first Hmong city council member, Blong Xiong online.


I hope one day we'll see many of these stories emerge from across the community to develop a fuller picture not only of who we have been but where we want our community to go.
Artists like Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan and the fine Refugee Nation project are one additional, key part of this process- how do we bring what we've collected back into the community? Something to think about.

[Upcoming] The 4th ALEC, Me in America - What does it mean to be Lao American


Catzie Vilayphonh and I are presenting at The 4th ALEC conference: Me in America - What does it mean to be Lao American? in Sacramento, California. Given that the two of us have never presented together in person before, that's exciting. If you're in Sacramento in December, come join us. I'm bringing along copies of Tanon Sai Jai and BARROW for sale ($10 each), and signing them in person. You also get a chance to meet Thavisouk Phrasavath, the Oscar-nominated director of Nerakhoon. It's one day only and a really short day!


Friday, December 11, 2009 from 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
California State Univeristy Sacramento - Student Union Ballroom
Registration begins October 2009 at http://ALEC.LAOTIANLIFE.COM

Price: FREE for middle/high school students & their parents, General Price is $40 per person.
Group fees are available.

Keynote Speaker: Mr. Thavisouk Prasavath of Nerakhoon (The Betrayal), 2009 Oscar nomination for Best Documentary film.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

[Creature Feature] Mae Nak or Nang Nak


There are many films about the legendary Thai ghost, Nang Nak. I haven't seen too many of them, but I remain partial to Nonzee Nimbutr's 1999 take because of the balance and humanity with which it presents the legend. This isn't The Exorcist or The Exorcism of Emily of Emily Rose. It's done with a significant amount of dignity and a minimum of gore and splatter. Intira Jaroenpura made her debut as the lead in Nimbutr's film, and she's continued to star in an increasing number of films recently, including Pawat Panangkasiri's somewhat controversial Nak Prok (In the Shadow of the Naga).


Thai writer S.P. Somtow did an opera based on the story, premiering in 2003. Nancy Yuen portrayed Mae Naak as a more horrific, vengeful figure during a 2005 revival. Some great clips are up on Youtube at the moment. Personally, I consider Nang Nak one to depict sympathetically, but every artist has their own take. My own poem, Nang Nak, appears in my book On The Other Side Of The Eye, and there's a short story I have about her that is the core of a new collection I'm working on.


Functionally speaking, Nang Nak is what the Thai consider a phi tai ton glom, a woman's ghost who died during childbirth and whose baby also died. As such it is one of the most powerful and fearful types of the ghosts of Thailand. They are not to be angered.

The story of Nang Nak is typically centered near the Prakanong river and a shrine is dedicated to her at Wat Mahabut. The short form of the story is that while waiting for her husband to return from a war on the borders, Nang Nak died giving birth to their child. When he returned from the war, Nang Nak returned from the dead, waiting for him and tried to resume an ordinary life with him. Details vary from that point on, but as in most tales, things don't go quite as planned. To this day, however, the Thai and others love to retell the story and a new film comes out fairly regularly in Thailand, as well as television shows, books, plays and other forms of art.

[Introduction To Lao Writers] Catzie Vilayphonh


Catzie Vilayphonh is one part of the spoken word duo, Yellow Rage. Many became aware of her through her interview in Lao Roots Magazine, but she's been on the scene for years.

At a very young age, Catzie chose to break the mold by refusing to conform to the stereotypes about Asians. Her popularity as a spoken word performer in Yellow Rage exploded after an appearance on Russell Simmon's Def Poetry Slam where they performed their famously endearing piece "Listen Asshole."

As an amusing aside, she and I often spar over the phrase "Laos In The House," and she is one of several writers whose work I happily respond to in Tanon Sai Jai. To me, there can be no question about the vibrancy and energy she brings to her work, an eclectic approach I'd call Catziesque. She's also one of the few Lao American writers I'd met in person before I'd seen her work.



Today, Catzie raises awareness issues confronting Asians by performing her spoken word poetry at venues across the country with humor and significant innovation. You can find information about her all over the web, but she has been the Fashion Director for two.one.five magazine where she also does her weekly column Catz Out The Bag with everyone from designers to directors and artists to actors. She’s also been an editor at dorkmag.com. She's definitely worth keeping an eye on. :)

Just don't ever get on her bad side.

[Introduction To Lao Writers] Saymoukda Vongsay


Saymoukda 'Mo0ks' Vongsay of Minnesota is a first generation Laotian American writer and the author of No Regrets, a chapbook of poems released in July, 2008. She has performed at universities, museums, clubs, theaters, festivals, and overseas in Italy and Japan.She has worked with the Center for Hmong Arts and Talents, the MN Spoken Word Association, TruRuts, Yo! The Movement, and others. She has been an advice columnist and associate editor for Focus Entertainment Magazine. Along with numerous community projects, she is working on her novella, Flooded With Blood and Breath.

In her collection No Regrets, we see a good range of her work and some of the styles she enjoys, including those that we would consider updates of traditional Japanese forms. Her poems are notable for their brevity and immediacy.

Matchmaker, Immigrant Status and The Lost Brother Poem are particular favorites of mine and traverse familiar ground in different ways than many Laotian American poets. Vongsay's themes touch heavily on the issues of love and romance in the inner cities among Laotian Americans. Many might critique her work for still being quite young, but I find it worth encouraging and it speaks to her generation and the hip-hop community. It will be interesting to see what her follow-up works are.

[Introduction To Lao Writers] Phayvanh Luekhamhan



Poet Phayvanh Luekhamhan can be found at www.phayvanh.com, and although we've never met in person, I've always enjoyed her work and perspective. It's a hazard of being a writer- so many of our peers we meet first as text rather than in person.

To my knowledge, Phayvanh is the only Lao poet who has participated in the prestigious Kundiman poetry retreats. She typically gets attention for Souphine's Escape, which is a fine poem that combines traditional Lao music with her own gentle style.

It's no secret I admire a significant range of her work, and in particular, her poem Try This inspired a poem now featured in my book, Tanon Sai Jai. You can hear her do a live reading at http://www.myspace.com/phayvanh

Phayvanh Luekhamhan was born in Champasak, Laos in 1975. Her family resettled in Brattleboro, VT as refugees in 1979. She has been writing poetry for performances and exhibits throughout New England for over ten years. Over the course of her career, Phayvanh has collaborated with Souphine Phathsoungneune, a Laotian folksinger, to create a program interweaving Lao and Lao-American language, culture, and tradition. They perform in classrooms and concert stages throughout New England.

She is a Juried Artist with the Vermont Arts Council and is on the New England States Touring roster. Phayvanh made quite a reputation for herself over the years, with work supported by the Vermont Arts Council, The Vermont Council on the Humanities and the Vermont Folklife Center. And she's a formidable Scrabble player with a great sense of humor.

[Introduction To Lao Writers] Kongkeo Saycocie

Kongkeo Saycocie has written for years and has an impressive body of poems, short stories and a novel he's been working on. Definitely a Lao American writer to examine, with a unique perspective and high level of craft to his work.
There's great humanity and personality to his poems and his desire to share his perspective with others. I would look at That Spirit and Now We Are No More to get a sense of his style. He has moments of excessive sentimentality, but given the deep personal meaning of the subjects to him, I think this can be forgiven.

His poetry is deeply concerned with the history and meaning of the Lao identity. I consider him essential reading for his generation. Like many, he was involved with the SatJaDham Lao literary project of the 1990s and other efforts. As is often the case with Lao American writers, much of his work is apparently uncollected but he shares much of it for free on his personal website and through a few community publications and journals.

A Laotian American Writers Festival?

A Laotian American Writers Festival? I've written about this before, but it bears mentioning again.

For over 10 years, the Chicano and Latino Writers Festival featured local and national writers through support from the Friends of the St. Paul Public Libraries in Minnesota and others in the Twin Cities. This makes me wonder what a Laotian American Writer's Festival would look like.


We've been setting up a Laotian American Writer's Summit in Minnesota for a while now, but funding and schedules have been consistently conflicting for many of us. I hope in 2010 that will improve.

But who would we invite? In the US we have so many who would be good candidates, ranging from current figures such as Phayvanh Luekhamhan, Catzie Vilayphonh, Saymoukda Vongsay, Dr. Bounsang Khamkeo, Soudary Kittivong-Greenbaum, TC Huo, Kongkeo Saycocie, Ova Saopeng and other writers from the SatJaDham network. Khampheng Manirath, a traditional story teller from Laos currently lives in Iowa, and would potentially bring much to a festival.

Abroad, a short-list of Lao writers to consider includes:
Souvankham Thammavongsa of Canada would also be another fine writer to invite- she's even the subject of a short film, Found.

Douangdeuane Viravongs, the daughter of the late Maha Sila Viravongs and widow of short story writer Outhine Bounyavong. She has published various poems and novels and transcribed numerous traditional stories, of which the best-known is Kam Pha Phi Noi ('The Little Orphan and the Spirit’). She runs the family bookshop/publishing house Dokked Publishing in Vientiane and maintains the Maha Sila Viravongs Library, an important repository of rare books and documents.

Dr. Thongkham Onemanisone is the founder of the Lao Writer’s Association. He is the first Lao writer to receive the prestigious SEAWrite Award in 1998 for his work Pheua Hak Pheua Nang ('For Love for Her'). Dr. Thongkham's numerous other works include Phoum Pannya Sisawat ('Sisawat's Wisdom', 1997), Nithan Suphasit ('39 Moral Tales', 1997), Dhamma's Path Poems (2000), The Memory of SEAWrite Award Poems (2003) and Sharp, Decisive, Hot and Salty Poems (2004); the Lao Language Dictionary (1992) and Lao Language: Terms and Meanings (1997) and numerous poems and articles for daily newspapers and magazines.

The novelists Phieu Lavanh (b 1954), Bounseun Songmany (b 1956) and Damdouane Pomdouangsi (b 1958) are also frequently acknowledged as key writers, but curiously there are few extended details about their lives and work.

Several years ago, poet Thongbay Photisane visited the US as part of the University of Iowa's International Writer's Program. At the time, he directed and edited the only monthly literary magazine in Laos, and served as second secretary of the Lao Writer's Association, editing its newsletter. He was the author of the short stories "The Life of Love," "The Love of the Luang Prabang Song," "Life and Family" and "Song of Man," which have appeared in Vannasin magazine, the monthly publication of the Lao Ministry of Information and Culture; these were also published as a book.

From the Hmong community, prominent writers would include Kao Kaliya Yang, award-winning author of The Latehomecomer, Mai Neng Moua, the editor of Bamboo Among the Oaks, writer May Lee Yang, Katie Ka Vang, Pacyinz Lyfoung and the members of the Fresno-based Hmong American Writer's Circle or contributors to the Paj Ntaub Voice Hmoob literary journal.

Dr. Dia Cha author of Folk Tales of the Hmong and Dia's Story Cloth, Dr. Gary Yia Lee, author of Dust of Life, and Houa Vue Moua, the author of Trails Through The Mist also deserve strong consideration. Dr. Lue Vang's Grandmother's Path, Grandfather's Way is also a particular classic. I'd also certainly enjoy a festival featuring Soul Vang and Pos Moua, the author of Where the Torches Are Burning.

Frankly, you can just take a look through the inventory of the Hmong ABC Bookstore, an entire bookstore dedicated to the work of writers of Hmong and Lao heritage and find a trove of fine speakers and participants.

As always, no list is going to be complete and comprehensive. But I'd love to hear your suggestions about who would make great writers to add to a festival of Laotian American writers. It's promising that in the last few years we've seen a particular upswing in the number of books available where we could consider such festivals viable. I look forward to the day we actually have one, which will hopefully be very soon!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

[Creature Feature Bonus] The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima!

When a young lord of Japan fell mysteriously ill, it is ultimately discovered to be the work of The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima, who had killed its mistress and taken her shape to cause trouble. Sarudama.Com posts a good retelling from the 1910 classic Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford's Tales of Old Japan.


Bad Kitty!

[Creature Feature] Yurei

Yurei are Japanese ghosts.
We’re all familiar with them after the J-Horror fever that swept America a few years back.
The classic yurei have vile black hair, and 'wear' a long white or pale blue dress. In some traditions, this is a burial kimono. You'll also recognize them by their hands which dangle lifelessly in front of you. The imagery to represent a yurei goes back centuries.
One of the significant depictions is attributed to the 17th century artisan Maruyama Okyo, who painted the Ghost of Oyuki below.  Often, yurei have a few hitodama or floating flames hovering around nearby.


As in the Southeast Asian traditions of the phi, there’s many forms of yurei. Some are vengeful spirits returned from purgatory. Several are mothers who died in childbirth. A few are angry aristocrats, victims of the sea, a few children and samurai. You'll also run into the occasional seductress. 
Yeah. That's hot.

Depending on your sources, they often appear on rainy nights around 2 in the morning. The phrase “urameshiya” is frequently connected with yurei, who repeat the word and their grievances with you. 
Yurei say “urameshiya” because it translates, roughly, into something relating to curses, discontent, you know, all the usual reasons for haunting. And because it sounds creepy as **** if you say it right. 


A Zen story.

Keichu, a Zen teacher of the Meiji era, was visited one day by the governor of Kyoto for the first time. His assistant presented the calling card, which read: Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto.

'I have no business with such a fellow.' said Keichu to his assistant. 'Tell him to get out of here.'

The assistant carried the card back with apologies.

‘Oh, that was my error,' said the governor and with a pencil he scratched out the words Governor of Kyoto. 'Ask your teacher again.'

'Oh, THAT Kitagaki?' said the teacher when he saw the card again. 'Him, I  want to see. Show him in."

[READING] NONE OF THE ABOVE @ Open Book

I'm reading Saturday, October 24th at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts  to support Tom Cassidy's great exhibit he co-curated, NONE OF THE ABOVE  about "assembling" projects: Extreme no-editorial publication projects popularized in part by mail-art and Fluxus movements. 


This free reading is at 7 PM at 1011 Washington Ave. S. in Minneapolis!

An example of my poems that fits within this vein is 2019 Blues that is and isn't inspired by a number of science fiction films, books and experiences in Minnesota. 


Because Tom never lets me get away without pushing my art to new experimental levels, what we do on Saturday should be very interesting and a definite one-night only kind of affair. See you there!

40 Civil Rights and Social Justice Groups Support Net Neutrality

A letter from over 40 groups representing people of color and low income individuals supporting net neutrality was sent to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, in advance of a vote on this key topic. The letter is available at http://www.media-democracy.net/node/571  It's a long-letter but what's said needs to be said.

In The News in and around the Blogosphere

As a quick recap of recent bits in the news and blogosphere:

The Adventures of Johnny Northside covered my book release on October 10th. And a very funky sculpture in North Minneapolis by Ken Farkash. A special thanks to the great folks at Tru Roots who also did a good shoutout.

Altra Magazine has a nice interview with me in their newest issue conducted by Saymoukda Vongsay.

Asian American Press covered my joining the Board of Directors of the Loft Literary Center This was also covered at the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Issue of Contemporary Lao Studies out

The Center for Lao Studies (San Francisco) and Southeast Asia Publications at Northern Illinois University just announced the publication of Contemporary Lao Studies: Research on Development, Language and Culture, and Traditional Medicine, edited by Carol J. Compton, John F. Hartmann, and Vinya Sysamouth. It's available for $28.00 + shipping.
The premiere issue is divided into three main sections: Development,Language and Culture and Traditional Medicine. While I haven't had a chance to read this yet, I'd say the top articles I'd probably want to read, based on their titles are:

* Reproductive Health: The Key to Development Opportunities for Women in Rural Laos | Kathryn Sweet

* Aiding or Abetting? Internal Resettlement and International Aid Agencies in the Lao PDR | Bruce Shoemaker and Ian G. Baird

* Questioning Orientalist Power: Buddhist Monastic Education in Colonial Laos | Justin Thomas McDaniel

* Historical Medicinal, Religious, and Commercial Plant Use in Laos from Accounts of European Exploration | Kristine L. Callis

* The Influence of Cultural Tradition and Geographic Location on the Level of Medicinal Plant Knowledge Held by Various Cultural Groups in Laos | Amey Libman, Bounhong Southavong, Kongmany Sydara, Somsanith Bouamanivong, Charlotte Gyllenhaal, Mary Riley, and Djaja D. Soejarto

* The Lao Traditional Medicine Mapping Project (Lao TMMP) | Mary C. Riley,Bounhong Southavong, Gregg R. Dietzman, Marian R. Kadushin, Kongmany Sydara, Amey Libman, Somsanith Bouamanivong, Charlotte Gyllenhaal, and Djaja Djendoel Soejarto

I'll let you all know how interesting the articles were after I get a copy. But there are many other great sounding articles in the journal, and I wish them great success in the coming years ahead.

[Exhibit Notes] Desprez: The Slaves of Vedius Pollio Thrown Alive to the Moray Eels

From a recent exhibit in the Frick Collection, we find the work of Louis-Jean Desprez (1743–1804) who created the charming painting The Slaves of Vedius Pollio Thrown Alive to the Moray Eels (ca. 1777–79)


According to the Frick:
This delicate watercolor shows a gruesome scene: a slave is being flung into one of the fish tanks at the Villa Pausilypon, home of the notorious Publius Vedius Pollio — Roman equestrian, friend of the Emperor Augustus, and a man renowned for his wealth and cruelty. Vedius Pollio kept man-eating moray eels in his reservoirs “and was accustomed to throw to them such of his slaves as he desired to be put to death” (Cassius Dio, Roman History). Desprez’s drawing was among the many commissioned for a grandiose illustrated travel guide to Naples and Sicily, but the subject was finally considered too horrific for inclusion.
 It's certainly an unusual story. And I'll file it firmly under 'unpleasant ways to go.' And for a reminder. Here's a  Moray Eel spotted in Thailand:

[Exhibit Notes] We Believe in Something, 2009

From August 28th to November 1st in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program Galleries, Minnesota artist Roxanne Jackson assembled an interesting and free solo exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts spread across two rooms. The purpose of this exhibit is to examine issues of hybridity, those tensions between human and animal and the narratives of kill or be killed in horror films and folklore.

Jackson postulates that the unconscious and our connections to the animal world make statements about the truth of the human condition, and attempts to juxtapose evolutionary theories and science with horror films. It's a satisfyingly disquieting exhibit.

Christopher Atkins wrote an interesting description of the exhibit for visitors tying it into the old medieval diagrams, the scala naturae. These showed hierarchies rather than intertwined, overlapping and dynamic networks of relationships between nature.

The idea is, however outmoded, that if you ascend the ladder, there are superior states of being and privilege. Atkins cites Simon Critchley's notes on humor that "There is something charming about an animal becoming human [but] when the human becomes animal, then the effect is disgusting."

As can be expected, this is also a conversation about the Other, about what becomes a monster, and how the cabinets of curiosities and zoos allowed researchers and the public to look at creatures outside of their natural environments under controlled circumstances, although this approach also meant that a lot of assumptions get made- that somehow, if you take them out of their normal contexts, that they will behave the same.
My personal favorite of the exhibit was one of Jackson's untitled pieces from We Believe in Something (2009) which evoked memories of Asian horror cinema and folklore, particularly that of the Yurei, or Japanese ghosts.

Overall, I might have liked to have seen more pieces included, and in some cases I found the execution effective enough, but they failed to provoke much lingering curiosity within me.

[Creature Feature] Kitsune

It's October, so once again, this means Creature Features. First up, the Kitsune!

Kitsune are the original foxy ladies.

Also known as the Kumiho in Korea or the Huli Jing in China, there’s legends all over about mischievous fox spirits who can change shape.

In Japan, they’re connected with the Shinto god of rice, Inari, and believed to be long-lived, magical and super-smart pranksters.


After they’ve lived for about 1,000 years, a kitsune can grow an additional tail, up to about nine. When they get their ninth tail, their fur then turns gold or white. Common Japanese myths of the middle ages believed that any single woman met alone at night could be a fox. This is still pretty true today.

Kitsune typically hate dogs and will even run away in many circumstances. On the plus side, for a supernatural critter of Asia, the kitsune are very good about keeping their word, although they are still big practical jokers.

The legends are filled with stories of kitsune who marry young men and even have kids with them, but often leave if their true identities are discovered.

And for those of you who are interested in making a costume? This one’s also about as easy as it get. Just look nice and dress like an ordinary person, and you can claim you’re a kitsune in human disguise. You can add a fox tail if you want, but that may be overkill. Or attract the attention of a real kitsune.

Musings on the 2009 Twin Cities Book Festival

It's well known I love coming to the Twin Cities Book Festival year after year in Minneapolis, and I'm glad the fine folks at Rain Taxi put so much work into bringing us all together.


This year it was held on Saturday, October 10th, and thankfully didn't conflict with the Arcana convention, which I never miss if I can help it. The Twin Cities Book Festival did conflict with the FALLCON comic book convention and Gaylaxicon and a book release but that's to be expected. October is always very busy in Minnesota.


I'm probably in the minority, but I think the Festival could learn from the myriad science fiction and comic book conventions flourishing here.

One day, I really want to see 'Festive!' brought to the proceedings, and not just one big ol' "Swap-n-Greet!" literary flea market. This should be a vibrant celebration of books and reading, unleashing a fearsome yawp, not some morbid zombie shuffle of literary bow-ties. Although, I imagine more readers dressed as zombies here would enliven things a great deal.

During the festival, I ran into many good friends and colleagues like radical mail artist Tom Cassidy (who I'll be reading with at the Open Book soon), Tim Nolan, Joyce Sutphen, Wendy Brown-Baez, my good pals at Whistling Shade and of course, the Loft Literary Center.


I don't see why, in October, with Halloween just around the corner, we can't encourage costumes for people arrayed as their favorite authors, a fun mascot like Sir Booksalot or host an avant-garde literary project where everyone could be a page of a living, moving book milling about the floor. Although, with that, I imagine it could get quite maddening: 'Where'd Page 18 wander off to? Page 17 was too much of a cliff-hanger!'

Well, maybe another year.

And remember, we ARE in the middle of a great literary scavenger hunt right now, with some very cool prizes for participants. Be sure to play!

So, what were the big highlights for me?

The standout book of the Festival to me was Sid Gershgoren's wonderful Extended Words: An Imaginary Dictionary published this year by Red Dragonfly Press.
Imaginative, literary and innovative, my friends and I are already having fun searching for new words to use. One of the best blurbs about it is by Arthur Goldbarth:

"Imagine that our first (and last and best) dictionary had been co-compiled by Dr. Johnson and Jorge Borges, with Italo Calvino showing up to lend the odd bit of advice. Or that it had been planned by Freud and Einstein as they conducted their Australian aboriginal walkabout through the "dreamtime." Or. . . well, what more can I say? Drop your quandio (see under "Q"), and read this mesmerizing multidimensional book!"
An apt description. It's not for most people, but I like innovative language games with humor. I expect I'll spend a good part of the year having fun with it. It's a very energizing work.


Another book that piqued my curiosity was Christopher Valen's The Black Minute from North Star Press, a mystery hinging around the murder of a Hmong woman on Harriet Island. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the subject matter alone intrigues me. Will it be like those awful Chicago Hope/Gray's Anatomy episodes, or might it actually be handled well?

Other highlights included a nice conversation with the folks behind Turtle Quarterly, a literary journal that started last year. Its new issue is coming out on Sunday, October 25th with a launch party at The Coffee Grounds at 1579 Hamline Avenue in Falcon Heights from 4-6PM.

Big Brain Comics also gave me a good lead for future spaces writers and artists may want to hold events at: The West Bank Social Center at 501 Cedar Avenue S. in Minneapolis. Thanks, guys. I look forward to seeing how the space works out for our artistic community! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art Rosenbaum: Field Recorder

Utne Reader presented a great article recently on Art Rosenbaum and field recording.

What strikes me most is an aesthetic that seeks to gather work in such a way that it reveals and humanizes the music, the traditions rather than mystify and mythologize them. He explains at one point in the article:
“That doesn’t take away the strength or power of some of these old tragic songs or very intense blues. I mean, there certainly is this poetic and musical intensity—but the singers and musicians are human beings. They’re not mythical characters in some miasma of weirdness."

Quote of the moment: Frank Lloyd Wright

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."- architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Por Tek Tung: Thailand's Body Snatchers

Although the translation of their name is a little sensationalized, Utne Reader's article on the Por Tek Tung is a great introduction to the Buddhist rescue workers of Thailand, and an interesting and natural social phenomenon for a gridlocked city lacking public emergency rescue services and ambulances for the private hospitals. Journeyman Pictures also has an interesting report on the subject.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Upcoming this week!

I'll be talking to kids about being an Asian American writer Thursday night with Asian Media Access, discussing digital justice Friday with MAG-Net, then it's Dragons, Demons and 2009's interesting horror with Kim Harrison on Saturday at the ARCANA convention.

I LOVE my job. I really do. :)

Kim Harrison is the author of the recent book, The Outlaw Demon Wails and classics like the New York Times bestseller Once Dead, Twice Shy and White Witch, Black Curse, as well as Every Which Way But Dead and For A Few Demons More. I'm looking forward to meeting her in person. And you can too, if you swing by ARCANA!

Quote of the moment

"It is the dream of the state to be one. It is the dream of the individual to be two."- attributed to film-maker Jean Luc-Godard, who also opined:  "To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body. Both go together, they can't be separated."

The photography of Robert Bergman


Jacqueline Trescott, a writer for the Washington Post recently covered the work of Robert Bergman, whose photography is currently being displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.  What I found most intriguing was the discussion regarding his aesthetic:
"Bergman doesn't give any hint of what he found intriguing about this man he photographed, or who he is, or where the picture was taken.
It's part of the Bergman creed: no titles for the photographs, no identification of the subject, no information on the location. Just the year, just the close-up.
"It is my aesthetic stance. I don't want you to have any escape from simply reacting to the art," Bergman says, dancing slightly in his black nubuck shoes. "Telling the location sets up false assumptions. It undercuts your ability to understand and interact with the art. It subverts what I am trying to do."
 I'll give this consideration for future projects of mine some day, although it goes a bit against the documentary aesthetic within me that considers historic efforts to render my community anonymous and monolithic.

Chinese and American Writers Explore Culture in the Desert

This caught my attention this week:
The city of Dunhuang in western China, desert gateway to the fabled Silk Road, drew a group of American and Chinese writers in May for a bold, two-week experiment in intercultural collaboration and literary exploration. In October, the second half of the pilot exchange project will gather participants in Iowa, Chicago and Washington to continue their creative collaboration.
The “Life of Discovery” program, funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and sponsored by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and the Chinese Writers’ Association, seeks to stimulate the creative process for a select group of artists. But the program also has another dimension: participation by writers and artists from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The U.S. writers included Asian-American and African-American writers as well as a visual artist. For China, it meant writers and poets who are of Tibetan, Yi, Korean, Wa and Gelao backgrounds.
I look forward to seeing what the long-term results of this project are. I think cross-cultural exchanges are always important, especially in this day and age. It helps counter provincialism, and much like the previous post  regarding nonsense, good travel helps to shake the mind out of static connections and approaches to creativity.

An interesting observation:
Although Americans still conceive of writing as a largely solitary act, Petrosino points out, they are increasingly exposed to the workshop process of intensive group critiques and a sharing of drafts and ideas. Such collaborative exercises are central to creative-writing instruction throughout the United States.
“What we discovered is that the creative-writing culture is very different in China,” said Ferrer. “If we have a more personal, spontaneous writing culture, the Chinese have more of an author culture, where they feel responsible for what they write and want to take time with it. Both approaches are valuable, but different.”
Many of the Chinese writers were struck by this distinction as well. “The American writers often focus on a specific ‘personal self,’ whereas many Chinese writers take the larger ‘national self’ as point of departure in writing,” said writer Li Hui, who is also known by his Yi name Mushasijia Eni.
“The American writers have an unrestrained and relaxed attitude about writing,” said Cao Youyun. “The Chinese writers seem more concerned with historical factors and moral responsibilities.”
This may be something to revisit in the future.

[MN] Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party!


Looking for something fun to do for Halloween that doesn't include kiddie treats or the same old tired house party? Then come to the  Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party, hosted by the Loft Literary Center and Kieran's Irish Pub!

Not limited to poets, this is a night for all literary freaks to rise from the dead!  The evening will include a Costume Contest and an Open Mic.  Guests are encouraged to get creative:  Come as Edgar Allan Poe and read "The Raven."  Or come as William Carlos Williams dragging a red wheelbarrow.  Throw on your Hunter S. Thompson shorts.  Come in your toga as Sappho.  Heck, come as the Mad Hatter and recite "Jabberwocky."  Whatever strikes your literary and devilish mood! 

When: Saturday, October 31, 8pm
What: Dead (Poe)ts & Writers Halloween Party
Featuring:
  • Reading/Open Mic, starts 8 pm
    Read from your favorite poetry, short stories, plays -- any and all work from authors dead or alive (or your own)! Or just sit back and enjoy the show.
  • Costume Contest, starts 10 pm
    Enter for your chance at our literary prizes!
Where: Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 Second Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55401. (612) 339-4499
www.kierans.com

Stuff on Nonsense.

The New York Times ran an article recently that examined how nonsense sharpens the intellect. In many ways, this is the sort of thing zen philosophy has endorsed for quite a while, especially when using koans and other paradoxical riddles and anecdotes in the practice of meditation.
The urge to find a coherent pattern makes it more likely that the brain will find one.
All in all, interesting reading, and it's been a part of my methodology for quite some time. But it's reassuring to see I've been on the right track. Most of the time.

Tickets for The Minnesota Transracial Film Festival now available!

The Minnesota Transracial Film Festival is one month from today!!! Seating in the theater is REALLY limited, so buy your tickets now. It's the only way to insure that you don't miss out on this groundbreaking event! Tickets can be purchased at http://www.mntrff.org

Thanks everyone for your support!

The reading at True Colors bookstore went very well, with over 50 people showing up throughout the reading to help us celebrate the release of my new book. Pictures and other highlights will be posted soon! A very special thanks again to the management of True Colors, Tyree Campbell of Sam's Dot Publishing, Saymoukda Vongsay, IBe Kaba and Guante for making this a day to remember.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

[MN] 10/10 Other Things!

Obviously, I'm jazzed about our great book release on Saturday 5 to 7 at True Colors Bookstore in Minneapolis at 4755 Chicago Ave. South, Minneapolis.

But, if you can, don't forget the Twin Cities Book Festival, Fallcon, Gaylaxicon, CHAT's 3rd Annual Fresh Traditions Fashion show and Katie Ka Vang's Late Nite Series at Pillsbury House Theater! It's a packed weekend ahead! Keep it awesome and thanks for supporting the arts and culture in Minnesota!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Barrow Release this Saturday!


As a last reminder for the week, the celebration is from 5 to 7 at True Colors Bookstore in Minneapolis at 4755 Chicago Ave. South, Minneapolis.

I know, it's a very packed weekend already. But I'd love to have you there if you can make it. Among other great things happening in Minnesota this weekend are the Twin Cities Book Festival and FALLCon. Local writers El Guante and IBé Kaba are performing, and Lao American poet Saymoukda Vongsay will be the MC. We'll have wonderful door prizes,refreshments and book signings. Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

SEA Games: Lao Pride or Boondoggle?

The New York Times recently did an article on the upcoming SEA Games that examined the massive debt that Laos is taking on to host the festivities.

While I hear many people in the community excited and interested in going, I'm also deeply concerned by the economic and socio-political costs of the SEA Games. Is this the wisest venture and the best return on the limited resources the country has to spend? Thomas Fuller writes:

"But so far the greatest legacy of the games is a record deficit that has forced the country to seek emergency loans and strike secretive deals that give away large swaths of land."
The article goes in further detail, and they're quite troubling. I'm going to be very interested in seeing what the final outcomes are for Laos in terms of what's changed over the long-run. But in the meantime, here's the ad:


Safe travels to everyone who goes!

Rewriting Media's Business Model

A Jeff Jarvis profile on NPR raised some questions I've been deeply concerned about for years:

Jarvis argues that people need to prepare themselves for the collapse of big regional newspapers, which he says have failed to adapt to the Internet age. In their place, he proposes alliances of small news Web sites — each intensely focused on local news. He says they can provide useful coverage and still be profitable at a much smaller combined cost than the big older newsrooms. But in making his pitch recently at an Aspen Institute conference, Jarvis faced some tough questioning.
And those ARE questions that should definitely be asked. I find myself significantly concerned in my outreach work with Southeast Asian refugee populations and other issues that contemporary media is insufficient to get news and information out. Almost none of my colleagues watch local news or read the local papers, or even the ethnic community papers.

And big media collapses, it's not going to be deeply mourned by many, considering it already gave up its relevancy to so many already. It has largely ignored large segments of the population, and there's a price for that. But what's the healthiest way to rebuild avenues of communication with our community? I'm hardly going to argue for twitter or other major social networking as a sustainable media ecosystem.

In Minneapolis, I think blogs like The Adventures of Johnny Northside and the Twin Cities Daily Planet are indicators of where things might head, but to be fair, they also have their disadvantages. I love Arts and Letters Daily, but in the big picture, how do the voices of historically under-represented communities get news and opinions out? And in? And how do we train a new generation of writers to write for our community professionally, ethically and profitably?

Because if we don't want to find ourselves completely mired in a cowboy-media era of half-assed insinuations, innuendo and rumor-mongering, we've got to make it worth our while to generate community writers who will take the time to develop quality stories, do the right research and present it in ways that are meaningful to their audience.

Mr. Ed: Jerk?

In brief, a funny post on NPR:
A Jerk Is A Jerk, Of Course, Of Course: The Psychosocial Complexities Of 'Mr. Ed'.

Now that the first season of Mr. Ed is available on DVD, there's a pretty compelling, and obvious argument that that horse was one big insufferable 'emotional bully' and a real pain in the ass. Like everyone else, I'm surprised he wasn't sold for glue in a lot of those episodes. But I also found Holme's suggestion amusing:
Then again, maybe it can be explained by my theory that the whole "talking horse" thing was simply Wilbur suffering from Donnie Darko-like delusions, which stemmed from brain damage caused by a blunt trauma to his head, which totally happened in the very first episode.
Almost as interesting a suggestion as those reinvented Garfield strips, Garfield Minus Garfield which repositions the protagonist Jon Arbuckle as a troubled young man on an existential journey.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Pre-orders for BARROW now accepted!

Pre-order your copy of BARROW today and you'll be one of the first to get your copy before it reaches the bookstores! Your copy will be signed and personally mailed to you!


Featuring all-new speculative poetry, with a foreword by Dr. Nnedi Okorafor, the award-winning author of Who Fears Death, Shadow Speaker and Zahrah the Windseeker. The cover is designed by Lao American artist Vongduane Manivong.

Thanks for your support along this great journey!


And if you're in Minneapolis on October 10th, be sure to stop by for our book launch at True Colors bookstore from 5 to 7 PM! The True Colors Bookstore is located at 4755 Chicago Ave. South, Minneapolis