Thank you, Allan Kornblum. 1949-2014

From the time I was a young high school poet hungry to read books, especially by poets of color, Coffee House was the publisher that put out work by some of my favorite writers. Before the internet, these books made me who I am. A lot of that catalog was formed through the vision of Allan Kornblum.

By the time I was in my mid-30’s, I had been a poet for almost two decades, but I never put together a manuscript to send to presses. Never pursued it, because I believed spoken word artists like me never got published anyway. I figured I should just be happy with doing shows. Allan randomly comes up to me at some literary event, and says to me, “why don’t you send me your manuscript?” I don’t have one, I thought to myself. But because he asked, I put one together, and then suddenly my book was being published by the house that published most of my heroes. While a lot of people helped with that book, it is fair to say that without Allan, there would be no Sông I Sing. And more importantly, maybe none of the books that were instrumental to my development as a poet.

Thank you Allan. For everything.

New review in L.A. Letters/Mike’s book release

My friend, the great poet Douglas Kearney, hipped me to this new review of my book in L.A. Letters on KCET, by Mike Sonksen. It was completely unexpected, and quite awesome.

I’ll be performing tomorrow, May 21st, at Michael Mlekoday’s book release. I’m excited, as I get to share some new work – but moreso for Mike’s book. He’s an amazing poet, and if you haven’t experienced his work yet, you totally should.

Performing in Boulder this Week, and Nerds of Color

Hello all,
I am taking a temporary break from my hiatus to perform for the good folks in Boulder. Hope to read some new poems. Here is the info:

What: CollaborAsian Open Mic potluck with Bao Phi
When: March 13th
Time: 6:00PM-8:00PM
Where: University of Colorado at Boulder, University Memorial Center 382
Cost: Free

Also, I’ve been writing a few essays for the Nerds of Color site, which is awesome. Please check it out if you haven’t already: not just for me, but for tons of great articles by a lot of different nerds of color. Check it out here.

Angry Poetry Corner

Angry Asian Man published one of my poems, 8 (9), about murdered Hmong teenager Fong Lee. Thanks a million to Angry Asian Man and Cara Van Le for providing this space, I hope it raises some awareness of his life and the injustice he and his family suffer. Thanks also to the Fong Lee family for the permission to (re)print this poem online.

Poem here.

Peace and be safe.

Asian American comic book anthology “Shattered”, in stores this week!

The Asian American comic book anthology “Shattered” is in stores this week, and widely available for order. Added to my bucket list: a character concept of mine is included in it, illustrated by acclaimed graphic novelist G.B. Tran, author of Vietnamerica.

A bunch of us are doing special posts about Shattered. Here are some notes regarding the genesis of this project, from me and G.B., as well as an exclusive look at some sketches and early process that G.B. was gracious enough to send to me.

  • I was asked by my friend Walidah Imarisha, a fellow geek writer of color, to submit work to a radical sci fi anthology she was putting together. The opportunity lit a fire under me, to write out a concept I had stewing in my brain for quite a while: an apocalyptic tale where Asia and the Middle East are blamed for a mysterious zombie outbreak that devastates middle America, causing the East and West coasts, and Canada and Mexico, to wall off Middle America.
  • Though no one knows the real reason for the outbreak, opportunistic American politicians point fingers at Asia and the Middle East. There is a movement to place surviving Asian Americans and Arab Americans into hard labor camps in the middle of the country. The intention is twofold: to incarcerate all Asian Americans and Arab Americans without due process; and to use the inmates’ bodies to draw the zombie hordes away from the surviving populations on the coasts.
  • I had been meaning to explore these themes for some time. As a lifelong fan of sci fi, cyberpunk, and fictions involving utopia/dystopia, I often encountered work written by Western writers that envisioned China or Japan as a dominant global superpower, or the ones responsible for causing some type of apocalypse. However, race was often unexplored in those fictions, and while there was no shortage of Asian cultural appropriations, there was always a lack of actual Asian and Asian American characters.
  • If history has taught us anything, it’s this: if Asia becomes a superpower, or causes some catastrophe, the ones who will suffer the most from it especially in America, is Asian Americans. We would receive none of the benefits, and all of the blame.
  • The good news: Walidah accepted my submission. The bad: the publisher fell through. The good news: fine fellows Keith Chow and Jerry Ma contacted me and asked me to submit a character concept for their new Asian American comic book superhero anthology, Shattered. Even better: they paired me up with G.B. Tran, the artist and author of a book I deeply love and respect, Vietnamerica. Imagine you’re me: a spoken word poet raised in the hood who grew up addicted to Chris Claremont’s run of X-men, grew up wanting to see more substantial Asian American characters in comics, then I get to be included in an anthology – *and* my concept is illustrated by G.B. Tran? It’s a dream come true.

Here are some concept sketches and thoughts from the man himself: G.B.

From G.B. Tran
When pal Jerry Ma, art director of SHATTERED, asked me to contribute to their next volume, my wife and I had just welcomed into the world our first child. Consequently, my immediate answer was, “Hell no, I’ve got diapers to change!” But ever persistent, Jerry kept asking and told me more and more about the writer he wanted to pair me with and his concept.

Whether it was because of immense lack of sleep, learning more about Bao’s great work, or more that his idea was a fun twist on your typical post-apocalyptic zombie survival story, I quickly realized this was something I wanted to be part of. Besides, when else would I get a chance to draw a zombie getting its head blown off by pho-lovin’ freedom fighters?

(click on a thumbnail to view the larger image)

Writers Get Their Nerd On

The great Tish Jones asked me to curate a show at Black Dog as a part of the Saint Paul Almanac’s Lowertown Jams series, and I decided to ask some of my fellow nerds of color to do a brown nerds reading. It happened tonight, to a packed crowd, and the legendary artist Ta-Coumba Aiken was there to do a live drawing of the event. Sheila Regan wrote a blog entry about the show, in which she writes “(Bao Phi)” was a big old nerd in general. Which is one of my favorite things ever written about me. Read the full story here.

Bao Phi: Sông I Sing East Coast Book Readings and Signings

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Hello all,
I will be doing a series of readings on the East Coast to promote my book. More details to follow.

Thursday October 18 BOSTON
Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
38 Ash Street, Boston
6:30 p.m.
38 Ash Street
Boston, MA

Friday October 19 PHILADELPHIA
5 p.m.
Family Style/Asian Arts Initiative
7:30 p.m. $5-$10 sliding scale
Asian Arts Initiative
1219 Vine St.,
Philadelphia, PA

Saturday October 20 NEW YORK CITY
Museum of Chinese Americans
7 p.m.
with Magnetic North and Taiyo Na
215 Centre St. between Howard St. and Grand St.
New York City, NY

Bao Phi is a fiscal year 2012 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Lin: 467 by Bao Phi and Joua Lee

Hello all,

This poem and video was originally conceptualized at the height of Linsanity as one in a trilogy — the first, “Lin. Sanity” by Giles Li and Ash Hsie, was posted last week – here it is.  

My poem’s title, “467” alludes to the rank Jeremy Lin had in the NBA prior to Linsanity.  It was inspiring to me, that someone who was told over and over again that he was not good enough, worked hard and believed in himself enough to keep working on it til he got his shot. Painfully, but not surprisingly, it seems many still are blind to that effort, and blind to the racism imbued therein.

When Jeremy Lin went down with an injury, the whole plan was put indefinitely on hold. The recent (and baffling) vitriol that sports media outlets have thrown Jeremy Lin’s way escalated the timeline.  Thank you to all involved in making this video, and keep an eye out for another video in the trilogy (July 27, 2012)

Thanks to the amazing Joua Lee for making this video.