Editors’ Picks: APIA Writing Doesn’t End with May.

Perhaps it sounds obvious, but engagement with APIA art and writing shouldn’t be limited to the Month of May:  APIA writers and artists are, of course, producing and performing and publishing new and challenging works all year round.  Here are a few recommendations to get you started for the summer (in no particular order):

1. Takeo Rivera’s GOLIATH (dir. Alex Mallory). This powerful one-act choreopoem about the implications of the Iraq War, which began life as an original student play at Stanford, is making its New York City debut tomorrow, thanks to the brilliant creative talents of its playwright (Takeo Rivera) and its director (Alex Mallory).  Takeo is one of those rising-star-types whose work is impossible to miss once it’s entered your periphery: his aesthetic roots lie in the brave activism and the rhythmically-compelling sonic and dramatic gestures of spoken word, and his critical approach to his subject matter is thoughtful, complex, and blade-sharp (he has a Masters Degree in Modern Thought & Literature and is about to enter a PhD in performance studies this fall).  Alex (GOLIATH’s director), is also a forced to be reckoned with: she’s been directing productions and workshops in New York for a couple of years now, and before that, in college, she honed her chops by directing a number of major student productions and by founding The Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project.  Alex was also the major force behind bringing GOLIATH to the Big Apple.  GOLIATH has been newly revised for the New York stage and will be playing at the Robert Moss Theater for the next two weeks. If you’re living in New York City or will be in its vicinity during the next few weeks, I urge you to see this play. I t’s not something you want to miss!  [See the teaser trailer above].

2. “We Axe You to Speak”: Kartika Review’s first poetry reading.   Yes, folks.  Kartika Review’s inaugural reading event is tonight (6 to 8 pm at the SF Public Library, 100 Larkin St), and I highly recommend it (though I’m sad that I’ll have to miss it because I’m not on the West Coast).  Barbara Jane Reyes, Eddy Zheng, Margaret Rhee, Shelley Wong, and Kenji C. Liu.  Great lineup.  Landmark event.  To those of you in the Bay Area: GO.  You do not want to miss this if you can help it.

3. “I Got My”  Music Video ft. Jin [Magnetic North and Taiyo Na].  Bao Phi posted on Facebook that this “is not a music video – more like an Asian American family reunion, or maybe a map. Whatever it is, it’s a gift.”  One can’t help but agree: so many landmark APIA faces!  The video was created for APIA month, but its awesomeness, of course, extends far beyond the month of May alone.  Here’s the video:

Continue reading “Editors’ Picks: APIA Writing Doesn’t End with May.”

Sulu Spotlight: A Conversation with Taiyo Na

Above: A Taiyo Na scrapbook. Shown here are Regie Cabico, Taiyo Na, Taiyo Na’s youngest fan, Ishle Yi Park, Beau Sia and Taiyo Na fighting a giant yellow _____ .

As the Sulu Series came to an end on September 19, 2010 to a packed house at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York, I sat down with Sulu’s artistic director, Taiyo Na, to try to understand what five years of Asian and Pacific Islander performing arts meant to him and to our community. Below is a recap of our conversation, which I hope will inspire other cities (like The Sulu Series in New York, Sulu DC and Family Style in Philadelphia, among others) to gather and find platforms for our unique voices.

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How did The Sulu Series begin in New York?

Two things really contributed to the formation of Sulu: Hurricane Katrina and the Boston APIA Spoken Word and Poetry Summit in 2005. After the Boston Summit there was a lot of good energy after a really great Summit. Regie [Cabico] felt like there needed to be a hub in New York City for Asian American artists. It was also because the Asian American Writers Workshop at the time felt like a less community-friendly space. Before that, the Asian American Writers Workshop was kind of that hub, so there was that factor. But then when Hurricane Katrina hit, it was like “Wow!” you know? It was a pivotal moment in the country of course, but also for a lot of us here because when they were covering Katrina we knew that there were a lot of Asian Americans down there in Louisiana and Mississippi and their stories weren’t being told and their needs weren’t being attended to. Sure, everybody was affected in that region. Everybody deserves the attention. But we wanted to do something in particular with the Asian American community to say, “You know, there’s a lot of Vietnamese folks there and they need help.” So we put together this benefit for those folks and the money went to the this group in Biloxi, Mississippi. That benefit kind of brought a lot of Asian American artists and organizations together and since then, we carried on Sulu. Regie was living in Williamsburg at the time and had a connection at Galapagos Arts Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And they were like, “Hey, we have these Tuesday nights open, do you want to take it once a month?” and I’m like, “Okay.”

Was it just you and Regie [Cabico] then?

No, no, no, it was a bunch of us. [DJ] Boo was there. There were other artists, too. Terry Park and Chaz Koba, Hanalei . . . and a bunch of others. Even at the Katrina benefit, I became one of the main sort of cultural connectors—people who have the contacts with the artists and brought the artists together. It just kind of became this natural thing for me to do the monthly Sulu curating too after that. We did, I think, the thing at Galapagos for maybe a year or so and then, things weren’t really workin’ out there. The location was Williamsburg and not Manhattan and it was hard for folks to get to and you know, the vibe was different. So when the Bowery Poetry Club . . . I forgot what happened. But, we did an event here. We did like a special Sulu at the Bowery Poetry Club. It had to do with triple A.S. (Asian American Studies Conference). It was happening one year in New York and it went really well, so we were like, “Oh, well let’s just have it here.” Beau Sia has a good relationship with Bob Holman and it just all organically came about. Bowery Poetry Club became the new home and it’s been our gracious home ever since (for the last three years or so).

What do you see as the state of affairs for AAPI poetry, specifically in New York but in the rest of the country, also?

The APA poetry community here . . . I mean, I’m not per se an expert, but I think with Kundiman, it’s great. What they do here is just phenomenal. What Joseph Legaspi, Sarah Gambito and Ron Villanueva and Pat Rosal and all those folks have done to build that organization up to a retreat that can have like 20-some poets every year to help nurture their talents, to have a monthly reading series, is great. I think they’re a little bit more of an older crowd, more of like an academic crowd, but that’s fine, there’s that. But I think spoken word per se if we were to kind of split poetry up into those two camps—more academic poetry and then spoken word poetry—spoken word poetry is real healthy. It’s more mainstream, so there’s less of kind of the underground stuff, you know? It’s bigger and more popular than ever.

Continue reading “Sulu Spotlight: A Conversation with Taiyo Na”