Monday, October 20, 2014

Inspirations: Thep Thavonsouk and Bryan Thao Worra

One of the things that poet Bryan Thao Worra often tells his students is that good writing means being able to draw inspiration from other experiences, other artists. He walks the talk on this subject. One of his poems, "Discussing Principles of Art with Laotians" was published at Cha, a Hong Kong-based literary journal earlier this year. In this poem, Bryan Thao Worra employs his characteristic polylingual technique as he writes about Lao artists grappling with principles of classical Chinese art in Laoglish.

One of the key inspirations for this poem was a meeting with the master Lao painter Thep Thavonsouk, whose work can be found at Thao Worra first came across the work of Thep Thavonsouk in 2001 during discussions at the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project conference in Minnesota. He had a chance to actually meet Thep Thavonsouk in person in 2002 while convening the "Five Senses Show" an exhibition of Lao and Hmong art at the Babylon Gallery on Lake Street in Minneapolis. It had a profound effect on his approach to writing.

Various forms of "Discussing Principles of Art with Laotians" were written in the time since but never formally published until 2014. This October, Bryan Thao Worra met Thep Thavonsouk again, this time during the Beverly Hills artShow in California, where they caught up and saw how much progress each other had made, while still remaining true to the artistic spirit that drove them to their paths in the first place. They promised each other it would not be another 12 years before they met again.

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