In our final live edition of Hard NOC Life from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT — the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo, award-winning poet Bryan Thao Worra discusses the literature of the Laotian diaspora and explains why the Asian American literay canon needs more speculative fiction.
A poem for Bruce we repost on the anniversaries of his birth and of his death.
Excerpts from Bruce Lee’s Last Interview
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We are all saddened by the loss of Maya Angelou, who has passed away at the age of 86. Upon hearing about Angelou’s passing, I immediately thought about Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, a book published in the mid-1990s that paired her poetry with the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
I was caught making ice sculptures while wearing my X-Uniform in 5 Pointz, Queens, and someone asked why I would risk exposure.
I wear my X-Jacket when outside of the Academy to empower myself, and to remember that being mutant is a global phenomenon — our gifts, largely and widely, will go unrecognized as our existence is fundamentally iconoclastic in an otherwise conformist world.
I especially wanted to visit the 5 Pointz Academy after having been painted over white.
The world lost a titan of the Black Arts Movement when the poet Amiri Baraka passed away today in Newark, New Jersey after several weeks of hospitalization. Baraka was 79 years old.
The poem Ahmed was referring to, “In Memory of Radio,” comes from Baraka’s first collection of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, which has been reprinted below. In it, Baraka — then still known as Leroi Jones — uses The Shadow to bookend the poem:
I am a video game player. There is no denying that. But I am also a father. So finding balance between family obligations and video games can be daunting at times. So I allow myself to buy one video game — at full retail price — a year. Well one year, I decided that the game I wanted was Street Fighter IV. I’ve been a big SF fan since SFII. My cousins and I would play that game to death in my uncle’s living room to the point that we were banished from the T.V.
I was extremely surprised that there was a character of Mexican heritage in the game, so that was another incentive for purchasing it. When I chose El Fuerte as my character, I was surprised that, well, he was shorter then Blanka, his quest is to find good recipes, really has no projectile moves, and, let’s be real, resembles a rejected understudy to Rey Mysterio Jr.
We wrote it because we are both unabashed nerds. And we are also both Black feminist poets, professors and activist/organizers. As many folks reading this blog know, this mix can cause a bigger explosion than a warp core breach in the matter/anti-matter containment unit on the Starship Enterprise. Often there are no images of anyone who looks like us in comics or in sci-fi, and those folks who do are not authentic representations, but are often more ideas of what white male writers think Black women are.
The flip side of the discussion of opening up the speculative fiction genres to more writers of color telling stories about characters of color is the phenomenon of white writers employing characters of color. Such works are not automatically or inherently problematic when done sensitively and skillfully; indeed, the diversification of the worlds of white creators to reflect the real diversity of our own is necessary. Speculative fiction abounds with examples both bad, like the racial allegories of Tolkien‘s Middle Earth, and good, like Le Guin’s Earthsea series, Stephenson’s Snow Crash, or Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.
Last year, my friend and mentor, the poet Tim Seibles, was a finalist for a National Book Award in poetry for the book Fast Animal.
In the book, Tim writes a series of poems from the perspective of Blade, the Marvel Comics vampire hunter made famous by a series of movies starring Wesley Snipes.
For Lit Week, I asked Tim if we could publish one of the “Blade” poems here on The Nerds of Color. After the jump, you’ll find the first poem in the book’s series of five. The other poems are titled “Blade, Historical,” “Blade, Unplugged,” “Blade, Unsympathetic,” and “Blade, Epiphany.” So, if you haven’t already, go out and get a copy of Fast Animal right now — and hell, all of Tim’s other books of poetry. You won’t be sorry.
Years ago, before we knew what shape Secret Identities was going to take, I asked my friend and former professor, the poet Luisa Igloria, to submit a poem about Asian Americans and superheroes. She sent me this beautiful persona poem from the point of view of Dolly Arro, the nurse who cared for Christopher Reeve for so many years until he died in 2004.
Though we ended up not using it in Secret Identities, Luisa eventually published the poem in the online literary magazine SWEET in 2008. I’ve asked Luisa if we could reprint her poem here on The Nerds of Color for Lit Week. The poem is after the jump, and Luisa’s new book, The Saints of Streets, is available now.