Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fangoria covers Lao horror filmmaker Mattie Do's "Dearest Sister"

Fangoria just covered the exclusive first photos from Mattie Do's new Lao horror film "Dearest Sister" It's not for the faint of heart, but if you've been following along the growth of the Lao horror film industry this is an excellent treat for those of us who've been waiting for her next outing since "Chanthaly"!

Check it out!

New work to appear in the Asian American Literary Review, Fall 2015

I just turned in several new works including "Laotian Cartographies, Part I (Phantoms)" for the Asian American Literary Review special issue (Fall, 2015) which will be highlighting 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War and other conflicts in Southeast Asia, particularly through the lens of cartography and ghosts. That's a good way to end the month. A big thanks to Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis and Mariam B. Lam for putting up with me and my zany, zany schedule. I'm really excited about the pieces and will let you all know when it's up. Somewhat unrelated but then again not, a new poem of mine has been accepted for inclusion in an upcoming anthology addressing the King In Yellow this year. More details forthcoming.

Radio Free Asia on the National Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit

Radio Free Asia did a recap of Our Shared Journey, the national Lao American symposium and writers summit we convened this month. Thanks again for all of your support, everyone!

The Symposium and Summit were convened at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center as part of a partnership with the University of Minnesota's Immigration History and Research Center as well as with the National Lao American Writers Summit.

We had representatives from over 13 states in attendance as well as international luminaries such as Souvankham Thammavongsa, recipient of the 2014 Trillium Prize from Canada, and Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvong, one of the founders of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project now celebrating its 20th year. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Lao Diaspora, although many of our journeys to the US began before even then. I'll post more pictures from the gathering soon.

Goodbye, Laos in the House!

Be sure to catch the closing reception for the Laos in the House exhibit in Philadelphia this weekend. 

The very first Performance Showcase of Lao American artists is coming to the National Jewish American History Museum at 101 S. Independence Mall E. Philadelphia. Tickets are $20 at the door, with food and open bar cocktails at 7pm.  

During the day from 10AM to 2PM there will be free arts workshops at the Asian Arts Initiative at 1219 Vine Street in Philadelphia.

The event includes poet and dancer Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, and singers Phongsavanh Saiyavong and Lina Luangrath. Refugee Nation and the Iowa Natasinh Dance Troupe will be performing, as well as Catzie Vilayphonh, Saymoukda Vongsay, Chanida Phaengdara Potter. This is also a chance to see the art of Chantala Kommanivanh, Nor Sanavongsay, Boon Vong and Xaisongkham Induangchanthy.

This is a don't miss gathering that is the culmination of over 5 years of love, work and art in our community. It's an exceptional way to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Lao journey.

Lao 40: Day 1

Southeast Asia Globe: "I Look Back With No Regrets At Our World Fires And Love"

This weekend I was featured at the Southeast Asia Globe thanks to Nathan A. Thompson, with a wonderful illustration by Victor Blanco in the article "I Look Back With No Regrets At Our World Fires And Love."

A very big thanks to everyone who made this possible, and who took the time to develop a wonderful analysis of my poems "Her Body, My Monuments" from my 2007 book On The Other Side Of The Eye, and "In The Beginning," from Tanon Sai Jai. Be sure to check it out! 

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lao diaspora, I'm delighted to see my work finding its audience around the world, and that these humble words of mine are resonating with others as they search for home and meaning. Here's to the best that's been, the lessons learned, the memories made and the dreams discovered. I look forward to so much ahead with you.

NBC News "National Poetry Month: Asian-American Poets to Watch"

Well, it's not every day that I get mentioned on NBC along with Ravi Shankar, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Bao Phi and other great poets. Thanks to Frances Kai-Hwa Wang for the wonderful article. As always, this is where I point out that no listing of Asian American poets can really be "complete" or without controversy as we saw when the Poetry Foundation undertook the somewhat thankless task. But I appreciate the efforts of community members to still consider this something to attempt, rather than let our varied voices languish in obscurity.

There are some who consider it a pejorative to be called an Asian American poet, and then the question of what does it mean to be a Lao American poet in my particular case. I tend to be philosophical about the matter. As I've mentioned before, no one gives Tolstoy static for being classified as a Russian writer, or Kerouac for being a Beat Poet, or Langston Hughes an African American poet, or Shakespeare an English writer. They've all left their indelible marks on the world of arts and letters. And sometimes the classification is appropriate, and in others, less so. Some times you can classify me as a speculative poet, other times a horror writer, other times a Lao American blogger. But such designations are starting points and so long as we are not using them as a mechanism for confinement and arbitrary dismissal, I approach such terms with understanding and even a particular level of enthusiasm and curiosity.

Reading at Mendocino College, May 7th, 2015!

From the press release:

Friends of the Mendocino College Library are helping celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month at Mendocino by sponsoring a reading by Bryan Thao Worra on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 7:00 pm in library classroom 4210. The reading is free to the public.

Bryan Thao Worra is a Lao-American writer living in the Bay Area. He holds over 20 awards for his poetry and community leadership, including an NEA Fellowship in Literature. He is the author of 6 books with writing appearing in over 100 international publications including Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, France, Singapore, China, Korea, Chile, Pakistan, and across the US.

Born in 1973 in Vientiane, Laos, during the Lao civil war, he came to the U.S. at six months old, adopted by a civilian pilot flying in Laos. Living in California, he was naturalized in 1976 during the U.S. Bicentennial. In 2003, he was reunited with his biological family for the first time in 30 years; they had escaped from Laos to Modesto, California.

Worra is the first Lao American professional member of the Horror Writer Association and is an officer of the international Science Fiction Poetry Association. He is the Creative Works Editor of the Journal on Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement. His work is on display at the Smithsonian's national traveling exhibit, "I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story." In 2012, he was selected to be a Cultural Olympian during the London Summer Games representing Laos. His 2013 book Demonstra was selected as Book of the Year by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can visit his website at for more information about the author.

This event is sponsored by Friends of the Mendocino College Library, an affiliate group of the Mendocino College Foundation. Please visit for more information about the event or visit for more information about the Mendocino College Foundation.

Mendocino College is located at 1000 Hensley Creek Road in Ukiah, CA.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Burning Legacies: Cancer/Covert Wars

Midwest tour is almost done! Tonight I'm in Madison for the "Burning Legacies: Cancer/Covert Wars" reading with Brandy Worrall-Soriano at the Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative at 6pm! This is our very first reading together!

The Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative is located at 426 W. Gilman Street, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Angels of the Meanwhile benefit chapbook for Pope Lizbet

I recently donated my long poem "Thread Between Stone" to Angels of the Meanwhile, the benefit chapbook for the writer Pope Lizbet  to help her cover her unexpected medical expenses recently.

This is a "pay what you want" collection with some very amazing writers contributing work to it. Alexandra Erin​ has been organizing it and the details can be found here:

[Lao Artist Spotlight] Sisavanh Phouthavong Houghton

One of the wonderfully accomplished Lao American visual artists of this generation is Sisavanh Phouthavong Houghton of Tennessee,who has had four solo exhibitions and participated in many others since 2002. She spent most of her formative years in Kansas, and received her MFA in Illinois. You can visit her website at: Her official bio notes:
Sisavanh Houghton is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro where she teaches advanced level painting courses. She was born in Vientiane Laos in 1976. At the age of four, her family emigrated from Thailand to Winfield, Kansas. She attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Painting in 1999. Sisavanh continued her education at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale where 2003 she received her Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting and Drawing. She has exhibited her work in solo, juried, and invitational exhibitions throughout United States, Canada, and New Zealand. She is currently being represented by the gallery Tinney Contemporary in Nashville Tennessee. Sisavanh resides in Woodbury, TN with her sculptor husband Jarrod Houghton, their two daughters Zoe and Ava, and two cats Mr. Peacock and Gwen.

Putting her into context, I would particularly take note of background in Vientiane and the Central US. Her MFA in Illinois makes me inclined to consider her work in relation to Chantala Kommanivanh with his roots in Illinois and Milwaukee, and Malichansouk Kouanchao, who has roots in Vientiane and Minneapolis. As an artist from Vientiane, I would also take a look at her work compared to Sompaseuth Chounlamany, who tends to go for more of a realist approach in his painting, and to Vongduane Manivong, who is more self-taught in her work.

I find myself particularly intrigued at the solo shows she's done to date, because the titles reflect a particular Lao Vientiane American humor to them: 2007 Things That Suck, 2004 Displacement, 2003 The Working Body, and her 2002 Smell of Art Through Culture. According to her statement for the Tinney Contemporary gallery representing her, a major thrust of her artistic direction at present are works that "speak about the psychology and taboo of the subject matter "Money" in U.S. society."

Her recent 2014 works are particularly striking. She presents Dwell; Washington Transit; Subway Confusion; and Deadwood for this year. Of course, most of these have probably been several years in consideration and there are others still in progress from that time. It reminds me of how few works are really completed by any of us in a particular year.

In her present body of work on her website, you don't find many pieces specifically or overtly referencing Lao culture although one could make arguments for some pieces or take note of how she handles the depiction of small animals such as butterflies and hummingbirds in flight, and insects. I'd pay particular attention to her 3D pieces in her Insectophobia series.

There doesn't yet seem to be an update on her plans for 2015 and 2016, but if you get a chance to engage with her art, I'd highly recommend it. As we straddle the 40th year of the Lao Diaspora this year and next, it will be interesting to see how she responds artistically (or perhaps not at all, as some Lao artists and writers have suggested is their intention.) There doesn't seem to be immediate information about whether she is available for commissions, but she is presently represented by the Tinney Contemporary Gallery if you're interested in collecting existing pieces from her body of work.