THESE PEOPLE CHANGED MY LIFE. They are also three of the most nationally acclaimed spoken word poets in America, from HBO Def Poetry to your HOMES! Now, they are all going on tour together. Oh, the damage!!
Giles Li: My poetry sensei. He was the very first person to put me on to the world of spoken word poetry.
I remember before I met Giles, I was mad. He was the new mentor and coordinator for a Youth Program I was doing and I was mad he was replacing Sophia Kim, a woman I wanted to work with. I didn’t really want to meet him. The only Giles I knew at the time was the weird librarian from Buffy the Vampire Slayer–so I had a double negative pre-impression of him. All my prejudgments were quickly proved wrong. When I finally got to know Giles, I remember thinking how calm he was ALL THE TIME. His expressions were hard to read. But I finally realized that fiery passion doesn’t always have to brew in a volcanic vault. You don’t have to prove yourself in every moment. Watching Giles perform was my first spoken word show. He was so funny, witty and passionately expressive in a way I had never seen before. That’s when I started to realize words & performance to be a catalyst for exploring other parts of you. I love Giles’ poetry because it crushes the cliche, it is brutally honest without brashness and it is always a step ahead of my thoughts.
Bao Phi: My Vietnamese sensei. He showed me that Vietnamese people can write poetry, too. Holla.
I met Bao through Giles. I already wrote about HOW FREAKIN’ AWESOME Bao is in an earlier post and to keep things fair, you can check it out HERE.
Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai: Warrior of words. She brings the fire and the wind all in one breath.
I also met Kelly through Giles. She was a guest performer at a youth leadership conference I organized in high school. I remember thinking how bad she was with that tattoo but also how fierce she was with her voice. I think she’s one of the best spoken word poets out there not only in performance and content, but also in soul and purpose. She is one of the few artists I’ve met that understands the need to forward an art form rather just exploit the art form for personal gain. There aren’t very many empowering role models of Asian American women out there, especially in the mainstream. Unless you want to count Tila Tequila as an “empowering” role model because she uses fake boobs and sex to snatch fame (the pain she did to our last name!!). But anyways, in 2006 I opened for Kelly at a Locus Arts show in San Francisco. She told me she liked my poems and that meant the world to me.