The 2016 Spring Conference of the Wisconsion Fellowship of Poets is almost here, and here's the schedule. If you haven't already registered, now would be a good time to do so. This year's theme is: CROSSING BORDERS: Hearing Other Voices
FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016:
4:00 p.m. Registration Opens;
4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Book Fair;
5:30 p.m. Executive Board Meeting;
7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Open Mic Poetry. Round-robin style, emceed by F. J. Bergmann;
9:00 – 10:30 p.m. Poetry Slam-mation! A poetry slam with judges and monetary prizes!
$50 for 1st, $30 for 2nd, $20 for 3rd.
SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2016:
7:30 a.m. Breakfast;
8:00 a.m. Registration Opens;
9:00 a.m. General Business Meeting;
9:45 a.m. Break/Book Fair;
10:00 a.m. Roll Call Poems;
11:15 a.m. WFOP Awards;
12:45 p.m. Bryan Thao Worra reads;
1:15 p.m. Kao Kalia Yang reads;
1:45 p.m. Roll Call Poems;
2:30 p.m. Break/Book Fair;
2:45 p.m. Ed Bok Lee reads;
3:15 p.m. Asian-American Poetry panel; Moderated by Soham Patel
4:00 p.m. End of Conference
The WFOP held its first meeting at the UW-Madison Memorial Union on April 23, 1950. The organization is devoted to promoting a fuller recognition and appreciation of poetry around the state through seminars, a quarterly Museletter, two annual conferences, poetry contests and awards, and other regional and statewide events. WFOP publishes the annual Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, is represented on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, and sponsors educational activities throughout Wisconsin.
I was delighted to learn this week that my new poem "The Pearl In The Shadows" was accepted to be the very first piece readers encountered in the new anthology from Martian Migraine Press, "Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis" which comes out this May!
This is a very strange, weird, and horrifying collection featuring work from an international range of talent including Gord Sellar, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, Konstantine Paradias, Vrai Kaiser, Stef Elrick, and many others. I'm looking forward to it!
As we go into the tenth anniversary of On The Other Side Of The Eye, one of the interesting questions has been, how much progress have we made advancing and expanding the everyday understanding of the beauty of Laos, in all of its diversity. This is certainly a lofty goal but there are also some practical metrics that we can look at, as well.
As a poet from Laos, I think it requires a flexibility of understanding the fickle nature of 'poetic fame' within the grand scheme of things. While we must take our work seriously, it does not mean that we remove ourselves from the living world in quite the same way as Buddhist monks do. I do feel both monks and poets are grappling with the inexpressible world, that world beyond what we can sense and feel. The world of the spirit and the not-spirit. A poet at their best should be making an effort to plunge deeper, deeper into the chaos and uncertainty of a world stuck in the constraints of time and space, and we make our best effort to reach something greater.
An ongoing problem I've had over recent years is the difficulty in finding my work online as a casual reader. Both of my earlier books from Sam's Dot Publishing are now difficult to find in print, while Winter Ink, through the MN Center for Book Arts is of a rare limited edition, and prohibitive for most casual readers. Tanon Sai Jai remains reasonably available, and DEMONSTRA, too, is still available from Innsmouth Free Press.
Later this year I'll have to work on a comprehensive bibliography of my work which is complicated by my treatment of my articles for Asian American Press, Tripmaster Monkey and a few other publications more as one-offs and pieces that I otherwise don't track for one reason or another.
The previews I have available at Issuu are a stopgap measure, but I really do have to find a better solution if I want to ensure people can find Lao poetry easily. Or Lao American poetry, or Laotian American poetry as the case may be. It's a difficult scenario when the terms we use to refer to our community can require such nuance, even as others might just call it "Laos poetry," which no one with good grammar should really accept. But it's still the term our verse will be sought by.
How does a Lao poet reconcile with the practical fact that it is far more likely that people will search for Laos with terms such as "beautiful Lao women" or "Lao import models" or "Lao porn stars" seeking public figures such as the retired Playboy model Karouna Kay Sivilay, Jackie Lin,or the model and cosmetologist Lori Malay? Or perhaps people are simply looking for good Lao recipes, or Lao restaurant reviews that they can't find on Yelp. There are a few who will probably find my work by accident seeking the rules for Lao gambling or perhaps questions about adoption in Laos. I suppose there's a certain poetry in all of this.
As a writer, it all keeps you humble.
Sometimes you'll get students stumbling across your blog searching for posts that explain what your poems are about, or why you wrote your book the way you did. These are certainly worthy questions, but now you'll have to ask yourself, will you give them those answers easily, or make them work through it?
This is a world filled with extraordinary distractions that can easily derail both writer and reader. That's a fact of life. But what does it mean for us to persist at maintaining a blog for a decade, for better or worse?
Sometimes, all I know is that you have to make your best effort to create something of meaning against the looming eternal silence. Something. Anything. The rest is up to forces beyond our control.
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.” ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
This week at Strange Horizons, my poem "Minions" went up, taking a different look at the sorts of people who might side with villains, monsters, and other nefarious figures. A big thanks to everyone over there for their support. It's a great way to head into the New Year for the Southeast Asian community!
This year we had an opportunity to return to Wondercon, this time showing the experience to a Thai exchange student while also discussing the importance of cultivating a sense of imagination personally and as part of a culture.
Among the highlights of this year, I had a chance to meet the man who did the original designs for Kahn Souphanousinphone from King of the Hill, as well as Phil Foglio, who was a major part of my early introduction to the fantastic through his work on Phil & Dixie; Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire; and Myth Adventures based on the work of Robert Asprin.
This year most of my time was spent in the dealer's room and observing the various cosplayers, who demonstrated some amazing ingenuity and craft with many of their designs.
There were a number of familiar vendors and artists in attendance this year, such as Diana Huh and Rick Kitagawa, whose work I first became familiar with as a part of the H.P. Lovecraft film festival. In addition to her animation work, Diana Huh continues to work on her webcomic, The Lonely Vincent Bellingham.
Raul Trevino is an artist whose work really resonates with me. I first came across it at the 2015 Wondercon while Nor Sanavongsay and I were attending. His flagship comic is Tinkers of the Wasteland, but he also does some great arks books such as Ink & Punky.
We met a fine purveyor of jackalopes and their adorable cousins:
I also met the Arigon Starr, creator Super Indian, and we had a good talk that made it clear there were many intersections between the Lao American experience and the Native American experience in terms of wanting more diversity from both mainstream and independent comic book publishers. But there was also a question of distribution and how we got our works into the hands of our ideal audiences.
And of course, cosplayers galore. Although I could only attend for the last day, even on Sunday, there was a positive spirit and great excitement throughout the convention. It seemed like there was something for everyone.
I look forward to seeing what everyone puts together for 2017.