Friday, February 17, 2017

Adventures in Artificial Intelligence: Lao Engravings Edition


There's a certain hilarity to how the Google AI thought it could improve or enhance a photo from my collection of public domain engravings from the French Colonial Era in Laos. There should probably be a poem in here somewhere.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chien-Shiung Wu, "The First Lady of Physics": 1912-1997


Recently, while researching Wolfgang Pauli, I came across a casual picture of him with an Asian woman, which had my curiosity. A quick investigation revealed that it was in fact Chien-Shiung Wu, referred to by many as "The First Lady of Physics." True to the times, mind you, she was also called the ‘Chinese Marie Curie’, ‘Madame Wu’, and "the ‘Dragon Lady’ (given to her by her students at Columbia University for her uncompromising standards)."  Today, February 16th, marks the 20th year since her passing.


When you read the details of her life, it feels like so much more needs to be done to encourage Asian American youth and, indeed, the rest of the world, to appreciate her contributions and legacy, especially given the focus on STEM careers.  ‘I sincerely doubt, -she said – that any open-minded person really believes in the notion that women have no intellectual capacity for science and technology.’


As the Futurist notes:
"By the time Chien-Shiung Wu retired, she was one of the world’s leading experimental physicists. She was a recipient of multiple prizes and honors. She was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Princeton University; the first female President of the American Physical Society (elected in 1975); and the first living scientist to have an asteroid named after her. Her book ‘Beta Decay’, published in 1965, became a standard text in nuclear physics."

So here's to her memory, and a hope that many more will be inspired by her example in the future.



World Read Aloud Day! Recommendation: A Sticky Mess

Today is World Read Aloud Day!

Among my recommendations for Lao readers around the world, is why not go with Nor Sanavongay's popular adaptation of the classic folktale A Sticky Mess from Sahtu Press! And keep an eye out for #2 following the further adventures of Xieng Mieng!

You can get your copy at: http://sahtupress.com/books/a-sticky-mess


Meanwhile, what other great children's books would you recommend for young Lao readers? 


Long Beach Comic Expo: February 18-19


The Long Beach Comic Expo is a two-day event held February 18th and19th at the Long Beach Convention Center. Tickets are available using the BUY TICKETS button on their website, or at your local comic book shop. Long Beach Comic Expo is an annual event held at the Long Beach Convention Center each spring. I'll be covering the LBCE for Sahtu Press, and will hopefully see you all there!

It's a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types of pop culture. At Long Beach Comic Expo you'll find exhibitors promoting and selling all types of related products, as well as entertaining and educational programs, guest signings and meet and greet sessions with celebrities.


Among the highlighted actors scheduled to attend this year is Jason Momoa, from Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones, and Aquaman in the upcoming Justice League movie. Also keep an eye out for Brittany Ishibashi, Also known as Maggie Zeddmore, a Ghostfacer from the hit CW show, Supernatural, and Herbert Jefferson Jr. who played the original "Boomer" from Battlestar Galactica.
Over fifty comic book writers, editors, artists and creators will be on hand, including Michael Golden and Mark Waid, Heidi MacDonald, Rosie Knight, Tim Bradsteet, George Perez, Jim Cheung, and Peach MoMoKo.


Known in the underground scene in Japan, Peach MoMoKo's art is themed around war and the female adolescence. She has recently started making comics and winning awards for her inking skills, as you can see in her 2016 piece, Munen for Girls & Corpses:


Among the cosplayers confirmed to be coming to this year's LBCE will be Livia Chiu, Megan Golden, Sara Moni, Jessie Pridemore, Nicole Marie Jean, Angi Viper, the Marvel Report, and more. It will be interesting to see which costumes they present this year!


Naturally, I'll be scouting for Lao American and Southeast Asian American artists and creators, and look forward to reporting back to you on that. What are some of the things you're looking forward to at Long Beach Comic Expo this year?


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

CTRL+ALT Spotlight: Chad Shomura


Among the interesting artists and thinkers I met at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's CTRL+ALT: A Culture Lab on Imagined Futures was Chad Shomura, who created an intriguing space: The Corner of Heart To Hearts that was among my favorites in terms of ideas I thought could be transferable to the Lao community in diaspora and in Laos itself.

Chad Shomura is a political theorist, writer, and teacher based in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. He received his BA and MA in Political Science from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and his PhD in Political Science from the Johns Hopkins University.

His engaging premise at CTRL+ALT was that we could create alternate futures through intimate dialogues with ourselves and others. The Corner of Heart To Hearts suggested that it was possible and desirable to "work against the pace of contemporary life, which affords little time for reflection, self-care and the hard work of building community."

Often we seem to believe the future must have technology deeply embedded into our social process but is it possible that the radical iteration of the future is something as simple as a space with a simple table and a pair of chairs where people can just talk?


Feminist and queer scholarship informed this approach, notably ideas on public feelings, stranger intimacy and queer utopias. He worked in collaboration with the artist Yumi Sakugawa to blur the divides between the public and private, strangers and intimates, individuals and communities, in order to build connections that are at once ephemeral and meaningful, and in which "glimmers of utopian futures may be discerned."

I'm looking forward to seeing other more extended reactions to this piece, but overall the timing couldn't have been better for people who were seeking a space to discuss the massive shift the United States and the world seemed to be taking that November. It was among the most necessary of the installations, in my estimation.


Outside of the CTRL+ALT exhibition, he researches and teaches a variety of topics, such as affect, the human and its ecologies, uneven conditions of living and dying, and the struggles of minoritized peoples to survive and thrive. His work engages canonical and nontraditional political thinkers by drawing upon the insights of related fields such as feminist, queer, and American studies. He is currently writing a book entitled The Bad Good Life, which examines how the good life inhibits changes from being made to the sociopolitical infrastructure of the US.


His publications have appeared or will appear in Theory and Event, Deleuze and Race, qui parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, Asian American Literary Review, and Redescriptions: Yearbook of Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory.

Chad Shomura was an Assistant Editor for Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy and is on the editorial board of Capacious: The Journal of Emerging Affect Inquiry. He blogs at The Contemporary Condition. Be sure to give it a look!



"Filipinos In Laos" now in ebook version


Between 1957 and 1975, many Filipinos came to work in Laos. Most were contract workers with U.S. agencies, others were entrepreneurs. They were agriculturists, nutritionists, engineers, teachers, community development workers. A large number were Filipino healthcare personnel -- medical doctors, hospital and public health nurses, dentists -- who staffed medical facilities all over the country.

They arrived at time when their skills, much needed, were locally scarce. Like all other nationals of foreign aid agencies, they were compelled to leave when a new Lao government took over in 1975. It can be said that they personified pioneer NGO workers. What they did is not well known today and is largely unrecorded.

A new edition of a book released April 2015 describes what they accomplished in those 18 years. It provides lessons in development aid that are still relevant for today's practitioners. One reader has commented "Certainly, an interesting and overlooked piece of history. History written by Americans and Europeans has a lot about philanthropic activities of Americans and Europeans but not too much about such activities by Asians. So this but helps correct this omission." The book (246 pages, softcover) is available from www.amazon.com where its webpage includes a table of contents, printouts of selected sections, and photos.It is now available in electronic version.

[Poet Spotlight] Melody Gee


Melody S. Gee's first poetry collection, Each Crumbling House (2010), won the Perugia Press Book Prize. Her second collection, The Dead in Daylight (2016), is now available from Cooper Dillon Books.

Originally from Cerritos, California, she earned a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. She has previously taught at Purdue University, Ivy Tech College, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Southwestern Illinois College.

Her poems and essays most recently appear in The Los Angeles Review, Barnstorm Literary Journal, Spillway, The Book of Scented Things Anthology, Boxcar Poetry Review, and others. Her awards include two Pushcart Prize nominations, a Best New Poets nomination, the Robert Watson Literary Prize, and a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat fellowship.

One of her first published poems was "The Voice Before" in the Greensboro Review in 2008. Nearly ten years ago, she was working with themes of voice and body, the broken and the screaming. She also appeared in one of my favorite venues, Cha Magazine in Hong Kong with a 2009 poem, "Giving," examining the poetry to be found in family and even in rotting fruit.  Next year's ghosts make an appearance in her brief 2016 poem, "On the Vine," which appeared in Meridian.


Victoria Chang, who I've featured in Poet Spotlight previously, remarked on Each Crumbling House: "Melody Gee proves to us through her poetry that first-generation Asian American experiences still matter and will always matter. But even more so, her quietly unsettling and powerful book speaks to the whole human experience through its exploration of inheritance. These are haunting poems about culture, nature, and ultimately about love."

On The Dead in Daylight, Tina Chang remarked, "A fiercely feminine blood runs through these poems. Of wire, of salt, of harvest, of motherhood, of daughterhood, and all that these elements lay claim to. The Dead in Daylight reveals an astonishing voice that is equal parts ferocious and tender. Melody S. Gee's collection builds a generous fire where origin is praised and where history shines beyond the flame."

Currently, she teaches developmental writing at St. Louis Community College, and lives with her husband and daughters in Saint Louis, MO. You can visit her online at http://www.melodygee.com/


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

[Poem] Evolve

[SFF Poetry Spotlight] Francis Wesley Alexander


One of my fellow members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, Francis Wesley Alexander is based in Ohio and is prolifically writing, while enjoying the antics of two kittens. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Disturbed, Star*Line, Prune Juice, Scifaikuest, Illumen, Martian Wave, Trysts of Fate, and numerous other publications.

Poem: The Pearl In The Shadows.


"The Pearl In The Shadows" appeared in Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis in 2016 from Martian Migraine Press, inspired by the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos and other traditions. Here's a recorded reading of it I did this season. I was honored the poem was selected as the opening poem to the anthology. "When the Sage points at R'lyeh, the Madman stares at the tentacle," is still one of my favorite opening lines to one of my recent poems.


Cthulhusattva also includes great stories by Gord Sellar, Kristi DeMeester, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, and the groundbreaking Mythos novella from Ruthanna Emrys, The Litany of Earth. With cover art by Alix Branwyn, interior illustrations by Michael Lee Macdonald this is one of my personal favorites in my library.

Monday, February 13, 2017

[Poem] Passa Falang


My poem "Passa Falang" from my 2013 collection of Lao American speculative poetry, DEMONSTRA from Innsmouth Free Press.

Friday, February 10, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Eleanor Chai


"A young woman in Paris encounters an uncanny presence on a tour of a small museum. A study by Rodin of the dancer Little Hanako―titled Head of Sorrow―triggers in the young woman recognition of her mother, a mother erased from her life since childhood."

Thus begins Eleanor Chai’s Standing Water, one of the most remarkable first books of poetry in recent years. It is "a journey into the past as well as the present―into the narrative hidden from the poet since birth, as well as the strategies that she has adopted to survive. It is a journey about how we learn to cope with, to perceive and describe, the world. It is a story about savage privilege and deprivation. Haunting the whole is the figure of the real Little Hanako―Rodin’s model, a Japanese artist displaced in Europe, the medium through which other artists dream and discover the world."

Eleanor Chai lives and works in Westport, Connecticut. She is the coeditor of the forthcoming Efforts of Affection: The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore. Standing Water is her first collection of poetry from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.


Road Trip: Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens


This week we take a look at the storied Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, a collections-based educational and research institution established in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington in Pasadena, California.

Beyond books, the Huntington is home to an amazing and extensive art collection including permanent and rotating displays that make it well worth a visit if you're in the area.


The primary focus of the art collections are 18th and 19th-century European art and 17th to mid-20th-century American art. The gardens are also magnificent to behold and include landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Chinese Garden and a Desert Garden. To its credit, I think it's difficult to take it all in in a single day, and it warrants repeat visits to get the most out of it.


This season, among the special exhibits worth catching are Lari Pittman: Mood Books, Real American Places, Becoming America, and the Orbit Pavilion.


Closing on February 20th, Los-Angeles based artist Lari Pittman is known for his exuberant, colorful, and graphically complex works. Huntington visitors can see the artist at his hallucinogenic best in this exhibition.

Six monumental illustrated books, each opening to more than four feet in width, contain 65 paintings by the artist. They draw from a variety of aesthetic traditions, ranging from decorative art and design to advertising and folk art. Combined with Pittman’s brilliant draftsmanship and acidic color, the images advance an astute and acerbic social commentary embedded in narratives rich with real and invented mythologies.

As someone who's worked closely with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, I have an appreciation for books that challenge our sense of what a book might be beyond those intended for the mass market, and this was a provocative exhibition. It closes February 20th.


The poet in me appreciates the dialogue between the poet Walt Whitman and photographer Edward Weston in Real American Places, on display until March 20th.

In 1941, the Limited Editions Book Club approached Weston to collaborate on a deluxe edition of Whitman’s poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. The publisher’s ambitious plan was to capture “the real American faces and the real American places” that defined Whitman’s epic work. Weston eagerly accepted the assignment and set out with his wife, Charis Wilson, on a cross-country trip that yielded a group of images that mark the culmination of an extraordinarily creative period in his career. On the other hand, the book didn't sell that well and the resulting prints became mostly a footnote barely mentioned in Weston's storied career.

Weston's approach appears not to have been a literal interpretation of Leaves of Grass opting to take a broader inspiration of the concept, and though he typically kept extensive notes on what he was taking pictures of, it's difficult to find many references to what seems like it should have been an extraordinary journey. At this point in my life, this resonates with me at many levels as both a photographer and as a poet.

Up until October, 2019, The Fielding Wing's inaugural exhibition, Becoming America showcases more than 200 works from the Fieldings’ collection of 18th- and early 19th-century American art works, including paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metal, needlework, and other related decorative arts. Meanwhile, the Orbit Pavilion will be up until September this year, and as a speculative poet, I strongly encourage you to visit. The outdoor installation is the brainchild of Dan Goods and David Delgado, visual strategists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who conceived an innovative “soundscape” representing the movement of the International Space Station and 19 Earth satellites.


In their permanent collection, I'd definitely also encourage you to take a look at their Gutenberg Bible, a copy of the Canterbury Tales, and their display on Paradise Lost. 

Their notes on Paradise Lost brought into focus for me that it was written in the aftermath of the English Civil War and resulted in many of the words we continue to use in English today such as "pandemonium," "terrific," "debauchery," and "stunning," and as a work that might well be considered speculative poetry, it makes me wonder what words Lao who've survived our civil war might invent and add to the Lao language and others.


If you want to visit, the hours are typically from 10-5, but it's always closed on Tuesdays. The last ticketed entry time is 4 p.m. The library and art galleries close at 4:30 p.m. and guests are encouraged to begin exiting at this time. The Huntington is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Independence Day. Admission is between $23-25 for adults and students can enter for $19-21 depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend visit.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Muriel Leung


Muriel Leung is from Queens, NY. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in the Collagist, Fairy Tale review, Ghost Proposal, Jellyfish magazine, Inter|rupture, and others. Among poems of hers that I'd call attention to for my regular readers are her pieces "MOURN YOU BETTER: ecstatic phase," "The World's Tiniest Human," and "Robot Pleasure."

She is a recipient of a Kundiman fellowship and is a regular contributor to the Blood-jet Writing Hour poetry podcast. She is also a poetry co-editor of Apogee Journal.

Currently, she is pursuing her Phd in creative writing and literature at University of Southern California. Her first book Bone Confetti was released by Noemi Press in October 2016. Truong Tran notes that "In Muriel Leung’s Bone Confetti, the poet writes, “The body, a violin that someone is always fingering.” I am haunted by this line and all that is hidden within the spaces in between. I am haunted by this book as a work of silence, as pain, as loss, as the book written as necessity. It is a beautiful, difficult and unresolved work of art. Such is poetry. Such is life."

She tweets from @murmurshewrote. You can also visit Muriel Leung at http://www.murielleung.com/


Selfies, Society + Being Southeast Asian: March 11-12, 2017

Calling all Southeast Asian youth in Minnesota! On March 11-12th, come explore Southeast Asian history, heritage, identity and society with us in our mini weekend workshops packed with knowledge, multimedia and a safe space that's yours to own. Free registration, free food and a stipend at end of completion. Open to ages 13-18. Workshop details and registration here: http://bit.ly/2kSTQUY


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Asian Detective Novel: From Racist Caricature To Authentic Representation


Earlier this month at LitHub, Pooja Makhijani presented a useful introduction to The Asian Detective Novel: From Racist Caricature To Authentic Representation that I think would be a great place to start for emerging writers to see where we've been and where we're going with this much-loved but often problematic genre.

I want our communities to add their voices the field, even as I hope they sidestep the often racist and colonial tropes typical of the field when stories are Southeast Asian. Back in 2010, I took a brief look at some of the more well-known mystery novelists who were trying to make their name with Southeast Asian themes and the various techniques they used to wedge their way in.

What is widely considered the first modern Lao novel, Phaphutthahuup Saksit, The Sacred Buddha Image, was published in 1944 by Pierre Somchine Nginn and was a mystery novel. So I feel in no uncertain terms the Lao have "skin in the game," even as we must now create works that fall on all points of the literary continuum. Who will be the Lao Mickey Spillane or Dashiel Hammett, our Raymond Chandler or Agatha Christie?


Colin Cotterill managed to create an entire series of detective novels set in Laos starring a French-trained national coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun. I think he made some interesting choices in the types of characters and situations he presented, but I also do not believe he has exhausted all of the scenarios, especially as we read the daily news from Laos.

I think the time has long been coming for a new generation of Lao mysteries written by Lao around the world, and for publishers to support such novels as they emerge. Not all of them will be perfect. Much like the pulp fiction tradition of the 1920s and 30s, there will likely be a lot of forgettable junk.

But if we want to create a Lao tradition of literacy and a love of reading I believe we need to create these and other genre works to meet many tastes. Some of our writers will find mainstream appeal, others will have works that only work for Lao readers, but I believe the world is vast enough to accommodate them all.

In any case, give Pooja's article a read to get a sense of what's being done, and what might be expanded upon!

National Lao American Writers Summit Date announced for 2017


Mark your calendars for Seattle! The National Lao American Writers Summit will be convened at Highline Community College, June 23-24th 2017 (Friday & Saturday).

More details will follow soon, including a website update at http://www.laowriters.org. This year is being made possible by a collaboration between POM Foundation, the Lao Community Service Center (http://www.lcsc-wa.org), Highline Community College, and Seattle Lao community members. They will start a crowdfunding campaign very soon.




The Fourth National Lao American Writer’s Summit will mentor and support the first and emerging generation of Lao American writers. Held in Seattle Washington, during the Summit, nationally-renowned Laotian American writers will conduct workshops with participants.

Attendance has previously ranged from 100 to 450 people throughout the weekend.

The Pom Foundation is well-known for their programming skills such as the popular Kinnaly Music and Dance Classes, Lao Cultural Exchange Program, Lao Summer Camp, and FORTE: Summer Camp Talent Show. The Lao Community Service Center (LCSC) is a non-profit community organization that assists refugees and immigrants with social, cultural, and educational services. LCSC’s mission is to unite and strengthen the Lao Community in the Pacific Northwest.


Highline College is an institution of higher education located in Des Moines, Washington, south of Seattle, Washington. Highline was founded in 1961 as the first community college in King County, Washington.

I have absolute confidence in their ability to bring together a memorable gathering, but they'll also need your help as volunteers and donors because this is a major undertaking with significant outcomes for participants in regards to their artistic process and community building efforts.

Washington has close to 11,568 Laotians and over 2,000 Hmong, making it one of the largest Lao communities in the US.


Previously, the National Lao American Writers Summit has been convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Diego, California, with representation from 23+ states. We've come a long way from the very first Lao American Writers Summit at the Open Book and Loft Literary Center in Minnesota. The Lao Arts have continued to expand and flourish.

Among the things we'll be celebrating is the formation of Pom Foundation. We'll be introducing it to the national community at large, and seeing where they will need support in the years ahead. 2017 is the 10th anniversary of my first full-length book, On the Other Side Of The Eye, and part of my first year as President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Catzie Vilayphonh will be releasing her debut book of poetry later in 2017. We'll hopefully see a preview at the Summit, as well as a glimpse at Nor Sanavongsay's Xieng Mieng sequel. Saymoukda Vongsay is a new VERVE Spoken Word Grant recipient in addition to her recent work with the Smithsonian.

Previous Lao American Writers Summit chair Krysada Panusith Phounsiri also received a Rhysling Award for Poem of the Year for his poem "It Begins With A Haunting" addressing the legacy of UXO in Laos.

Seattle also holds a special place in the world of Lao Arts and Letters in Diaspora because in 1999 the late Outhine Bounyavong's collection Phaeng Mae: Mother's Beloved was published by University of Washington Press, thanks to a translation by Bounheng Inversin and Daniel Duffy.

I hope you'll join us for this and so much more.

[Poet Spotlight] Timothy Yu


Today's Poet Spotlight is Timothy Yu, who is the author of three chapbooks of poetry: 15 Chinese Silences (Tinfish, 2009), Journey to the West (Barrow Street, 2006, winner of the Vincent Chin Chapbook Prize from Kundiman) and, with Kristy Odelius, Kiss the Stranger.

He is also the author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965 (Stanford University Press), which won the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies.

I've been honored to call him a good friend for almost a decade, first knowing him through his poetry then meeting him in person at the Association for Asian American Studies Conference in Chicago in 2008 as we discussed Asian American poetry. He's has an exceptional gift for distilling many of our concerns as Asian American writers into readable and challenging essays.

His first full-length book of poetry 100 Chinese Silences came out in 2016, which I'd been anticipating for quite some time. If the poet Li-Young Lee is associated with Chicago, then Timothy Yu has surely stood out as one of the finest poets of Madison, in my personal estimation. I admire his work deeply enough that I included him as a guest character in my award-winning book DEMONSTRA in 2013.

How he juggles it all consistently amazes me, but I appreciate his warmth, humanity and wit, and encourage all of my readers and students to read his work when you get the chance.  I look forward to his continuing journey as a poet and kindred soul in this strange cosmos.

His work has appeared in Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review, SHAMPOO, Mantis, Lantern Review, and Kartika Review. He is associate professor of English and Asian American studies and director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

You can visit Timothy Yu at www.timpanyu.com


Tits of Laos: Aegithalos Concinnus, the Black-Throated Tit


As a Lao poet, there's often an expectation for you to build an expertise in a wide range of topics such as the food, flora and fauna, and the geography of your country.

For example, over the years I've discussed things such as the Saola and the Laotian rock rat, as well as various Lao fish, the Laotian wolf snake, and prehistoric creatures we've discovered such as the Ichthyovenator, a type of spinosaurus. Laos is home to a wide variety of birds although many of them haven't been classified fully by Western science standards. There's a whole discussion to be held about that.

So, to be of some assistance to those who are seeking big Lao tits on Google or Bing or whichever search engine of choice you use, I'm discussing Aegithalos concinnus, the Black-throated tit, who is a member of the long-tailed tits. Thankfully, these are common enough they are nowhere close to extinction or considered a particularly threatened species.

As you can guess, long-tailed tits have medium to long tails. They make woven bag nests in trees. They have a mixed diet, including insects and spiders, seeds, fruits, and especially raspberries.

There are 9 species of long-tailed tits worldwide and at least 1 species known in Laos, which is the Black-throated tit, also known as the the Black-throated bushtit. It can be distinguished by a black throat and a black 'bandit mask' around the eye. They have three toes pointing forward and one toe pointing backwards and are considered perching birds.

Their nests are typically constructed from moss and lichen in tree branches. Like other tits, Black-throated tits in Laos are highly social, and can flock in groups up to 40 at a time. The Black-throated tits can be found in the Himalays, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Vietnam, and Taiwan, preferring broadleaf forests and pine forests at middle altitudes.

How big can a Lao tit get? Typically, the Black-throated tit is considered small at approximately 10.5 cm long and only 4-9 grams in weight.

Budding ornithologists with an interest in Lao tits will also want to keep an eye out for the Japanese tit, the Green-backed tit, the Yellow-cheeked tit, the Yellow-browed tit, the Sultan tit, and the Fire-capped tit, as well as the Pin-striped tit-babbler and the Grey-faced tit-babbler, which I'll discuss in other articles in the future.

I do not immediately recall any poems about Lao Black-throated tits among my fellow Lao poets. So, I certainly encourage emerging Lao writers to pen a line or two about these fine birds to build a greater interest in the tits of Laos and other natural beauties that are part of our collective heritage.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Art Exhibition: Dark Visions: Mid-Century Macabre 9/16-1/17

Recently at the Norton Simon Museum, they held the exhibition Dark Visions: Mid-Century Macabre in Pasadena, California. Unfortunately I missed this one but one can get a bit of sense of the items exhibited through the five-minute introductory video at Vimeo.

The significant premise of the exhibition was that "Lurking on the fringes of the 20th-century art world was something sinister, something not necessarily identifiable or easy to fit into a specific movement such as Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art or Minimalism. The exhibition Dark Visions: Mid-Century Macabre looks to mine the dark recesses of the mid-20th century and explore the creations made to exorcise the demons that plagued artists."

The exhibit was composed of assemblage, painting and lithography, with works by Edward Kienholz, Joseph Cornell, Clare Falkenstein and Jess, among others.

The Norton Simon Museum's earliest example was a closed box by Kurt Schwitters, entitled  Lust Murder Box No. 2 from 1920–22, which they felt foresaw the fascination with the macabre among artists in later decades. The title for the piece was based on a damaged plaster figure that once lay in the box and daubed with lipstick to make it look “bloody.”


The question we might ask then is how have our techniques changed in the way we depict the human struggle to engage with morbid subjects such as death and evil in its various, often horrifying forms.

[Poet Spotlight] Jasmine An


Jasmine An is a queer, third generation Chinese-American who comes from the Midwest. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, she has also lived in New York City and Chiang Mai, Thailand, studying poetry, urban development, and blacksmithing.

Coming from Ann Arbor area during the 1980s, I was very intrigued to see where she took her poetry, especially given her ties to the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

She feels her soulmate and forever muse is Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in numerous publications such as HEArt Online, Stirring, Heavy Feather Review and Southern Humanities Review .

After graduating from Kalamazoo College, she was awarded a writing residency at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Tennessee where her most important jobs were feeding the chickens, giving treats to the sheep, emotional support to the donkey, and occasionally writing poems.

As of 2016, she lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand continuing her study of the Thai language and urban resiliency to climate change.



Keetje Kuipers  selected Jasmine An's manuscript, No-Name Woman for the 2015 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize.

In her remarks, Kuipers said: "Fiercely sexual and frank, the speaker in Naming The No-Name Woman mythologizes her experiences as a Chinese-American woman, never flinching from the various overlapping identities she encounters. I am reminded of the fearlessness of Kimiko Hahn’s work, and am stirred anew by Jasmine An's resistance to any kind of shame that identity—chosen and unchosen—is eager to place on us. The speaker’s foil in these poems is the actress Wong Liu Tsong (Anna May Wong), “the open secret, the uninvited guest, the hand resting / in the small of my back.” Jasmine An does not so much make use of Wong in an effort to compare and contrast, but instead, she joins with her, blending voices and giving new and roaring life to that long and still unfolding story of race, gender, and sexuality in our country."

SFPA Member News: January


The Science Fiction Poetry Association posted our member news for publications from January. It was a fairly busy month, with many successfully finding homes for many of their works including at least 3 new books and chapbooks. One of the benefits of membership with the SFPA is the opportunity to share one’s poetic work with the community, and I thank our fellow poet and SFPA member Mike Payne for compiling this list each month.

This month, our members checking in include Lisa Lepovetsky, Steven B. Katz, Deborah Davitt, Kenny A. Chaffin,  M.C. Childs, Colleen Anderson, Akua Lezli Hope, Ken Poyner, Shannon Connor Winward, Jenny Blackford,  Robert Frazier, Christina M. Rau, Michael H. Payne, David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Kendall Evans,  Mary Soon Lee, F.J. Bergmann, Ashley Dioses, and Peg Duthie.

Thank you all for getting your words out into the world and expanding our sense of what Speculative Poetry can be. Keep inspired, everyone!


Magdalena Ball has her new poetry book, Unmaking Atoms out now from Ginninderra Press and Herb Kauderer has his poetry chapbook, Burning Los Angeles from Fowlpox Press released.

Magdalena Ball is one of our international members of the SFPA. She is also the author of the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, a non-fiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Magdalena Ball was born in New York City, where she grew up. After gaining an honours degree in English Literature from the City University of New York (CCNY), she moved to Oxford to study English Literature at a postgraduate level. She ultimately migrated to NSW Australia, where she now resides with her family.

Herb Kauderer is one of our prolific members who has roots working as a Teamster who's driven almost everything that has wheels. "It might be fair to say I wrote my way out of the factory. The first college to hire me was intrigued by the 500 published poems noted on my resume. That interview was in 1998. There may have been a few poems more since then," he's famously noted.  With accolades and nominations that stretch back over 25 years, his body of work includes now at least 11 chapbooks such as SNOWSTORM OF '14; THE BOOK OF ANSWERS; BENEATH THE GREASEPAINT; GHOSTS DREAM OF MADMEN; and VARIATIONS OF SLEEPING ALONE.

Frederick Turner also noted that he released his poetry book, Apocalypse: An Epic Poem came out from Ilium Press in Sept. 2016. Frederick Turner is an internationally-known poet, lecturer, and scholar, and Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. He is philosophically interested in time, evolution, and self-organizing complex systems in game theory and economics. Shakespeare is his enduring literary obsession. He practices Shotokan karate. He has two sons, and live in Dallas with his wife and two dogs.