Bao Phi on March 23rd

This month’s Teen Voices workshop is finally here: Wednesday, March 23, 4:15-6:30 PM at Mugby Junction on Huff Street, featuring special guest Bao Phi.

What to bring: writing supplies/devices, drafts in process, and something to read out loud.


Bao Phi creates poems that are equally compelling read on the page or performed out loud. He is a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, and appeared on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. His first book, Sông I Sing, was published by Coffee House Press in 2011.

We are very lucky to have Bao join us, and are hoping for a good turnout. If you haven’t been able to attend regularly, that’s OK–you’re still very welcome! Please get to Mugby early enough to get your order filled and be ready to start by 4:30.

Check out Bao’s website for more info, including some really cool videos. Photo of Bao Phi by Anna Min.


Our December guest poet, Zach Carlsen

Zachary Carlsen is our guest poet for the next Teen Voices workshop, 4:15 PM this Wednesday, December 9th. Carlsen’s poetic concerns include the velocity of language, gleaning poetic cadence out of the everyday dialects of ordinary Americans (as misheard or misunderstood), strong aesthetic architectural forms and cross-pollinating connections, the literature of ecstasy, apocalyptic and fantasy worlds, mathematical form, and the lyric poem. The following excerpt is from an interview he did in 2010, while presenting a workshop at Surrey University in the UK.


What is your understanding of American poetry in its broadest sense? How do you feel your writing takes part in that?
Real American poetry will always reflect the movements, patterns, and momentum of “our” English—the U.S. brand. It will always turn the simplest breath into fire. Our poetry (and/or language) is a dragon that doesn’t know it is a dragon—one part fantasy, one part danger, one part romance, one part precision. Even if one doesn’t “understand” our dragon, when you are in front of the real thing you have no choice but to take it seriously. THAT is how I know when I am reading real American poetry. My own writing is in many ways made up of what I overhear and mis-hear from my fellow Americans, day to day. In that way, I tame the fire and re-shape it into breath.

Give a general overview of your work. What are your main concerns? What images do you find yourself using over and over?
I always work on big projects. I need an architecture to work within or else the possibilities of the imagination are all too much—for example: 100 poems/each with 10 lines/each line with 10 syllables. Or, a long narrative poem that gives the entire arc of a couple’s existence in a fantastical world. My main concerns are investigating a certain element/theme/idea until it is exhausted and inside out, WITHOUT sucking the life from it and beating a dead horse, as they say. The images I keep coming back to these days are: darkness, asters, heroin, and “what does devotion look like” (if that is an image).

What line do you think poetry walks between “’truth” and “The Truth”? Do you feel responsible to tell things as they “are” or are you more invested in something else?
The first and only “rule” I ever learned about poetry was that American poetry is not a receptacle for hidden meaning; rather it is the vehicle through which human emotional complexity is constantly revealed. If a poem does that, it does everything—truth, The Truth, everything, Everything. I think poems should avoid didactic impulses and philosophical muscle-flexing.

Interview excerpt from: