Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting to to Know Bryan Thao Worra

As you all know, this week's Family Style is themed "Laos in the House". Since it is a very exciting topic and phrase that I also am proud to have coined (Bryan still thinks he did it first), I would like to personally add that I am going to be sharing new work and possibly a collabo poem with Bryan, but we'll see... Anyway, in anticipation for Bryan's first show in Philly, I thought I might ask him some questions to so you could get to know him better.

CV: So, what do you do when you’re not writing?
BTW: If I'm not writing, I'm getting ready to write. But that covers a wide range of activities. My old teacher J. Patrick Lewis always reminded me that writing is 90% thinking, so I look at the work of other artists, journey through the community and take a lot of pictures. I'm also a big gamer and enjoy talking with my colleagues in the science fiction, horror and fantasy writing community.

CV: How did you get started writing?
BTW: Growing up in Michigan in the 1980s I attended a number of Lutheran and Waldorf schools where we were often encouraged to write stories. During this time, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Frontiers and Call of Cthulhu, among other role-playing games were really popular among my classmates and I found I much more enjoyed the story-telling process as a creator.

As a poet, most of my work really began in the last years of high school in Saline, Michigan, and at Otterbein College in Ohio. A College advisor invited me to a coffeehouse at The Roost, and another to a Quiz and Quill reading in the Philomathean Room in Towers Hall, and making a long story short, I took to it like a fish to water and wrote ever since. Along the way, my college introduced to the work of writers like Pablo Neruda,Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Heather McHugh and Shuntaro Tanikawa. These were the key poets I'd read in my early years.

CV: Do you find other Lao supportive of your work?

BTW: The roots of Lao culture treasured poetry as an intellectual pursuit and that's carried through. My poetry's very different from the classical forms but it's well within the spirit of the tradition, too. My work is supported by the modern Lao community in much the way other poets are supported by the modern Lao community.

CV: What’s one of the best things someone has said to you about your writing?
BTW: A manuscript of mine was being judged for a competition and one judge dismissed it as: "It's chaos." But another defended it saying, "Yes, but it's controlled chaos."

CV: How do you find time to write?

BTW: Good scheduling, good discipline.

CV: Why are you excited by the Lao American Writers Summit?

BTW: It's an arrival. After 30 years to have the opportunity to gather together and consider where we'll really go next, possibly together. Nothing's set in stone. But we want to open possibility.

CV: What’s a personal project you’re really looking forward to?

BTW: Trying my hand at a few more novels and short stories. That's going to be something newer.

CV: Do you have any advice for younger writers?
BTW: Look below the surface. Connect with an aim for truthfulness. Don't "kitchen sink" your work, have some faith in your readers intelligence. Be the writer you want to be, not what others want you to be. That's a start.

If I've left any questions out, you can ask Bryan yourself when he performs this Friday at Family Style. Hope to see you all there!

- Catzie

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FAMILY STYLE!!! FRI., MAY 21 @ AAI, 7:30pm

Well, it's that time again--time for this month's FAMILY STYLE!!! 

Family Style
Open Mic Series
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine Street
Third Fridays of the month:
UPCOMING: Friday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.
$5-10 sliding scale admission

May's open mic features poet BRYAN THAO WORRA and the theme "LAOS IN THE HOUSE."

BRYAN THAO WORRA is an award-winning Lao American writer. Born in Laos in 1973, his work appears in over 80 international publications and is taught in college classrooms around the world. He works nationally on Southeast Asian refugee resettlement and the arts. He holds a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts and received a 2009 Asian Pacific Leadership Award from Council from Asian Pacific Minnesotans. You can visit him online at
Hope to see you!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Philly Youth Poetry Slam Finals, Fri, 5/14, and SULU DC, Sat, 5/15

Hi beautiful peoples,

In Philly, the weekend belongs to the youth poetry movement.  Friday night is the Finals for the Brave New Voices National Slam Team. This year the national competition is in Los Angeles.  Sat night is Youth Poetry Night at the Rotunda.  The youth poetry scene is electric in Philly--check it out if you can.

Sat night in Washington DC, our friends at SULU DC are putting on another amazing show--and they're at a bigger and better venue!  This month, the hip hop group SNRG is featuring.  I love their tracks "Hello World" and "Where Did You Go?"  Please support if you're in the DC-area.

Please refer to the flyers below for info.

Much love,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rally at 7am, Court Hearing at 9am and New Poem

I just received an email saying that the rally at the Federal Court House in St. Paul starts at 7am. The court hearing for the appeal begins at 9am.

316 North Robert Street
St. Paul, MN

Please send your thoughts and prayers to Fong Lee's family as they continue to seek justice for their son and brother.

My dear friend, Kao Kue, and I are collaborating on a poem/performance piece for Fong Lee.  In support of his family, I will share my poem here.

In love and struggle,

"Our Women's Work: A Story Cloth Poem In Memory of Fong Lee"   (She #)
By Michelle Myers

It is a time of grieving:
The earth howls to the trees.
The trees shake loose their leaves.
The birds refuse to leave the land.
The wind shudders in the sky.
And our souls rattle in our skins. 

It is a time of praying:
We press together our aching palms
and bury our knees beneath the dirt.
We place our hands upon still-open wounds
as the earth heaves under our fingertips:
The pain is immense.
We cannot wait any longer—
Our women's work must begin. 

It is a time of healing:
We clasp the fingers of 
Our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters.
We sing in prayer.
We sing in defiance.
We sing in love.
We sing in vengeance.
We sing in peace.
Brother, you can let go now, we chant.
Son, you can fly away now, we comfort.
Brother, we release your spirit, we assure.
Son, you are free from earthly bindings, we proclaim.
Our voices weave safe passage past threadbare spirits 
who covet our patch-work coat of love. 

It is a time of avenging:
As the spirit of our brother, our son, makes his journey
We stand with one fist raised and one palm open—
We look with an intent gaze and our chins up—
We speak with our voices clear and reveal our spirits true—
while the false and wicked cower before us,
We dare those others who would try to stop us:
We promise you, we say to them—
Our resolve is as sharp as our memory.
Eventually, we will sever your loose ends from our sky.
We will restitch justice in the fabric of the clouds,
and we will rethread hope with the rays of the sun. 

It is a time of renewal:
The earth meditates beneath the trees.
The trees gather their fallen leaves.
The birds stand on tiptoe at the summit's edge.
The wind stretches in the sky.
And our souls mend slowly within our delicate skins.
Our Brother—
Our Son—
Our tongues now have the strength to write your story into the air
And we wield its truth on our breath in this life
so that you may be at peace in the next. 

For You—
We will stand.
We will speak.
We will live.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fong Lee Appeal, Wed, May 12


I've blogged about the Fong Lee case, helped to fundraise, tried to support the family, spread the word, and wrote poems.  Now the time is here: please support the Lee family as they seek an appeal of the verdict which acquitted their son's/brother's murderer.  Please help them seek justice.

There is a rally at the Federal Court Building in St. Paul, MN starting at 7am.  Please be there if you can.  If you know anyone in Mpls/St. Paul, please ask them to spread the word.

Details from the flyer are provided below.

In love, struggle, and solidarity,

Justice for Fong Lee
Appeals Process

Please join us in helping Fong Lee’s family
Find justice for their beloved son.  

 When: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Time: 7am
Location: Federal Court Building
                316 N. Robert St.
                St. Paul, MN 55101

Citizens of all Communities and 
the Hmong Community!

Come and join us, "Voice of the people," 
in a Rally for Justice!
We are a group of concerned local citizens 
who believe that this case is 
another example of corruption, 
arrogance, bias, and violence 
displayed by the 
Minneapolis Police Department.

We Need YOUR Help!

Please contact us for further information.
Coordinator   or    Parents of Fong Lee
Janelle Yang         Noukai  Lee
952-201-0383       651-468-8995

Monday, May 03, 2010

In Celebration of Women, UPenn Bookstore, 5/6, 5:30pm

Hi beautiful people,

I will be performing solo with several other Philly-based female poets for the In Celebration of Women reading that will be this Thurs, May 6 at the UPenn Bookstore.  The reading begins at 5:30pm.  Admission is $7 general admission, and $5 for students, seniors and Mad Society members.

The UPenn Bookstore series is every first Thurs and is sponsored by In Light of Unity Association and Mad Poets Society. Proceeds from admission costs benefit a different charity each month.  May's proceeds will be donated to Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County.

For this event, I will be highlighting my She poems.

Please check out for more info.

Hope to see you!
Love always,