Category Archives: inspiration

Poetic offerings


you just turned eleven
i don't know what the years coming look like
soon you enter a storm
i see the rumblings on you
black child in Los Angeles
endangered species
i would call all my people to stand
n make a circle around you
until you grown
i would carry you
if you behaved
but all i can do
is give you these words
soft as the morning when no one else notice

this is to tell you i see you..."

from "Aye Nay," by Ruth Forman


I see you. How powerful are those words? I wish heard them growing up. I wish I knew my people made a circle around me. I wish I was given these words, “soft as the morning.”

There is a lot of fear and pain in the world today as well as this year, building upon previous centuries of it so it should be no surprise to us now. In thinking and feeling my way around what it means to be alive and principled during these times, I return to writing. And though I haven’t written many blog posts this year and few poems this week, I am working on a more long-term endeavor to dedicate time and resources to writing. As I envision the intertwining of writing and creativity in my future and feel uncertainty and excitement, I know for sure that writing (and therefore reading) has always helped me heal. Has always helped me see others. Has broken me apart to reveal our core. A core which is so shaken, so bruised. I hope we all stay in a place of softness in a time of such strident, common needs. I will share a few more poem excerpts that keep me tender and teary-eyed.


"Do you understand the song you've sent walking through my 
catacombs of marrow? Black parasol notes hum, dirge of the 
removed lung. I now know the promise of a body scooped 
hollow, tea lights in the the torso's cave. You've come 
inside from another country and I have so much to give."

From "Beheaded Kingdom" (part iii.), by Saeed Jones


" is the sense
that something that was alive
for a very long time
is still alive.  Not yet beaten into
or oblivion
by those who kill everything
they touch
with money."

from "Loving Oakland," by Alice Walker

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Book Line-up Winter 2015-16

Here is what I’ve been reading at the end of 2015:

Finish poetry books not yet finish:

7) The Fact of a Doorframe by Adrienne Rich

15) How to be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

21) Home Course in Religion by Gary Soto


Finish or start these novels/collections:

22) Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie

23) Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat

26) Son by Lois Lowry

27) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

28) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee


How I hope to start 2016:

1) Playing in the dark by Toni Morrison

2) Renaissance by Ruth Forman

3) Revolutionary Petunias by Alice Walker

4) My House by Nikki Giovanni

5) My father was a Toltec by Ana Castillo

6) How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

7) Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

I’m happy to end 2015 with hopefully 28 books under my belt. I do have to say that it is increasingly hard for me to focus my mind on reading because of the growth of tech in my life. I’m not against technology, per se. However, it is good to be aware of its impact on my focus.

I will be traveling to Mexico with Harper Lee’s books tucked in my backpack, hoping I will finish both amidst exploring and relaxing. And as 2016 rolls around, I have a lot of poetry on my list. As always, am wondering about the Asian American voices I should also find to read. I am also slowly mulling over Feminist Without Borders like it is medicine. It has been years since I started this academic, non-fiction book, so it doesn’t belong on any one list.

On this new moon I also set intentions on sending out my poetry collection in February, a grad school application timeline, and a commitment to use public/shared modes of transportation. The new moon was a week after someone hit my parked car. It was celestial timing, I suppose. It feels right.

What are you reading? How are you reflecting and ending or beginning this winter?

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Brynn Saito

Inspiration from Brynn Saito’s poetry. The Palace of Contemplating Departure, published on the Drunken Boat.

Once this poem was read aloud, I understood the craft and beauty in it. I especially like the outrageous, almost magical, imagery. Awesome. And the ending. Oomph. Just the way a poem should hit you. Push you into a pool of questions.

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inspiration: (anti)war songs

Huế, Sài Gòn, Hà Nội, quê hương ơi sao vẫn còn xa

(Hue, Sai Gon, Ha Noi, my homeland why are you still so distant)

Huế, Sài Gòn, Hà Nội, bao nhiêu năm sao vẫn thờ ơ

(Hue, Sai Gon, Ha Noi, how many more years shall you still be indifferent)

Việt Nam ơi, còn bao lâu,

(Viet Nam, how much longer)

những con người ngồi nhớ thương nhau

(will people sit remembering/missing, loving one another)

* * *

My translation of the song, obviously titled “Hue, Sai Gon, Ha Noi,” signifying the unity of the central, southern, and northern regions.  Khanh Ly, considered one of the best singers from Viet Nam, sang the lyrics of Trinh Cong Son, considered one of the best songwriters.  Joan Baez called Son the “Bob Dylan” of Viet Nam.  His anti-war songs were censored by the South.  In Son, my friends and I find one of our few Vietnamese artistic inspirations.  Khanh and Son have been appealing to me at the end of bad bad days.  And I like to sit and look for the lyrics, struggle to bridge the difference between the sentiments and the words of Vietnamese and English.

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Inspiration: dao strom and the origin tale

i remember being in the OC for an organizing training a few months ago, though it feels like years have passed now.  we stopped at a gallery opening where most of our crew was captivated by a visual and written piece called origin tale.  the writer and performer sang at the opening and the room didn’t stop for a second to acknowledge her.  it bothered me.  the men and women dressed in lavish silks, eating grapes and cheese, these people who supposedly cared so much about vietnamese-american art, these men and women– and their children– did not stop to pay their respects to the artists themselves.  unfortunately, i think the event spoke to the current state of art, especially grassroots art, in the vietnamese-american community.  i couldn’t leave though without making sure i jot down my favorite passage into my notebook.  this is an excerpt from dao strom‘s re-telling of a vietnamese creation folktale.

– – – – –

<You will feel sometimes acutely tired, but you will also find it difficult to rest.>

<You will feel lonely very likely often.> <You will at times feel that you miss someone or thing you cannot remember.> <You will come to places where sometimes the trees, the lay of the land, the music in the movement of the water, the way the light strikes things, these simple forms of witness, will almost remind you of who or how it was.>

<You will love– deeply– just a few times.  This will become your best vehicle for remembering.>

<Love <<this particular kind>> will snap you out of it– your father’s world– at those times when you most need it.>

<And then you will know.> <Daughter.>

<Our ideas are real.>

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Reading List

When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. -Zadie Smith. “Rules” for Writers

Reading List Fall 2011

Recently read:

Octavia Butler- Kindred

Toni Morrison- Sula

Tina Fey- Bossypants


Currently reading/stalling at:

Alice Walker- In Search of our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose

Audre Lorde- Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Chandra Talpade Mohanty- Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity

trinh t. minh-ha- woman native other

Michael Ondaatje- Running in the Family

bell hooks- Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

To read (in no particular order):

James Baldwin- Notes of a Native Son

Diane Fujino- Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama

Jonathan Neale- A People’s History of the Vietnam War

ee cummings- 100 poems

Zadie Smith- White Teeth

Roland Barthes- A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Khăc Viện Nguyễn- Vietnam: A Long History

Jamaica Kincaid- A Small Place

Junot Díaz- Drown; Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Cherrie Moraga- Loving in the War Years

Sylvia Plath- The Bell Jar

Monique Truong- Bitter in the Mouth

Bao Phi- Sông I Sing

Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’O- A Grain of Wheat

Pierre Clitandre- Cathedral of the August Heat: A Novel of Haiti

Anton Chekhov- Ward No. 6 and other stories (collection of short stories)

Octavia Butler- (EVERYTHING)

David Foster Wallace-

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Lao Tzu says…

Lao Tzu says: “An over-sharpened blade dulls quickly.”  Photo taken in my neighborhood on one o’ those cloudy days… Reminds me that uncertainty and hardships are moments for growth, keeps us sharp, useful.

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