APALA Member Represents at the London Olympics—through Poetry
Bryan Thao Worra, Lao-American writer, poet, and a member of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), was selected to represent Lao poets in Poetry Parnassus, a weeklong poetry festival held in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics.
The Olympic Games are not all about sports and athletes—poets participate, too. Bryan Thao Worra, Lao-American writer, poet, and a member of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), was selected to represent Lao poets in Poetry Parnassus, a weeklong poetry festival named after the home of the Greek Muses and part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World held in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics. He was one of the poets picked from more than 6,000 nominations to represent each of the 204 countries participating in the Olympics.
Thao Worra’s poem, “No Regrets,” was written in recognition of Lao-American poet Saymoukda Vongsay’s first chapbook, published in 2008. The two of them have been working together to raise awareness of Lao-American literature. According to Thao Worra, the poem is “deeply inspired by the work of Asian-American librarians and writers who continually work to connect us to both our pasts and our futures.”
Over the years, he has worked to support established and emerging Southeast Asian–American writers and artists to innovate a new literary and artistic tradition for their communities.
This poem, along with the other selected poems, is on display in the outdoor spaces around the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall until September. It is also included in The World Record, an anthology published for the occasion, and was read on BBC Radio in July.
Poetry Parnassus, which took place June 26–July 1, featured more than 100 free events, including readings, talks, and creative workshops. It began with a “rain of poems” (Vimeo, 3:19), when 100,000 bookmarks featuring the selected verses were dropped from a helicopter over Jubilee Gardens, next to the London Eye.
Born in Vientiane, Laos, in 1973, Thao Worra is author of several books of poetry, including On the Other Side of the Eye (which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year), Touching Detonations, Winter Ink, Barrow, and The Tuk Tuk Diaries: My Dinner with Cluster Bombs. He is the creative works editor for the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and the first Lao writer to hold a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts. Visit Thao Worra’s blog at thaoworra.blogspot.com.
ANCHALEE (JOY) PANIGABUTRA-ROBERTS is an APALA member and assistant professor/metadata and multicultural services librarian at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries. JADE ALBURO is president of APALA and librarian for Southeast Asian Studies, Pacific Island Studies, Pan-Asian Studies, and Religion at UCLA Library.