Lao American writer Bryan Thao Worra has issued a new free e-book, “Between Souls.” The e-book can be downloaded for free at http://bit.ly/betweensouls11 and is part of the writer’s ongoing efforts to broaden and diversify audiences for Lao American poetry.
This was made possible in part by an Artist Initiative grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008. Bryan Thao Worra is the first Lao American to hold a prestigious Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“When we talk about the arts, one of the biggest challenges is access, especially for poets to be able to write and create on their own terms,” Thao Worra said. “As a poet, it isn’t about the money. It’s about creating dialogues and examining how we think on things as societies and as individuals.”
Thao Worra points out that e-books are now an essential part of a the literary landscape, and there should be poets there to meet them. Especially voices outside of the classics and mainstream contemporary poetry scene. “I looked around and did not see many Lao American voices reflected among the e-books available to buy, or even for free. I wanted to take a step towards changing that.”
Already, Thao Worra has received positive response from across the country. “I have people who’ve printed it out, some who read it in a single setting, others who have it stored on their smartphones. That’s a great validation that there are people who want to make space for poetry in their lives.”
Examples included in his latest collection are drawn from over a decade of his work. Poems have appeared in his books On the Other Side of the Eye, BARROW, Tanon Sai Jai, and My Dinner With Cluster Bombs: The Tuk-Tuk Diaries, and other journals between 1999 to 2011. For this book, Thao Worra opted to share the book in public using Google Documents.
“In the past, I tried many different options to make e-books accessible to my readers, but they wound up being cluttered with ads, had impossibly long links or interfaces that just weren’t intuitive,” Thao Worra said. “Is this now a perfect solution? No, but it’s a start to changing things. Strangely, it’s very easy to find free sites to easily store your pictures, videos and podcasts, but not e-books.”
In the meantime, Thao Worra continues to read and perform across the country, most recently discussing children’s poetry at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in California. He is also working with others to plan the next Lao American Writers Summit in 2013 and to find ways to connect Lao writers internationally for deeper cultural exchanges. “In Lao culture, poets were once the eyes of their city. When so few of our writers get to step forward, as a society we stumble blindly and miss many great opportunities to improve lives for the better.”