Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer.
A friendly reminder that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and we here Lyricality celebrate and recognize the contributions of those of Asian descent.
Our guest editor for May and June is Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay.
Sabaidee, my name is Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. I’m a Lao American poet, playwright, and cultural producer who is based in Saint Paul. When I was invited to be a guest editor for the May and June collection of poems for Sunday Lyricality, I was thrilled. For the past several months, I have been a mentor to eight emerging student-writers through Minnesota State Colleges’ Write Like Us Program.
The student-writers represent five MN colleges and are interested in everything from historical fiction, metaphysical poetry, science fiction, prose, screenwriting, children’s lit, prose, memoir, and art criticism. Today, I’ve challenged them to make room for poetry and gave them the theme A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N.
Because they are all trying to carve spaces for themselves in this community.
Because the world is expecting to be moved by them.
Because they have an urgent story to tell.
Because they have a bone to pick.
Because they want to put a smile on your face.
Because they’re inviting you to be interrogative.
Because maybe what they reveal in their poetry is the vulnerability we’re afraid to bring to surface ourselves.
I hope that our readers will find these eight poets to be a balm on their May and June Sundays.
A Cricket Climbs Up
Matthew Koob Pheej Yang
A cricket climbs up,
Higher it climbs the tall grass
Reaching the bright sun.
The strong wind blows it away,
Off to a new unknown day.
Matthew Yang was born on February 4th, 1999 in St. Paul Minnesota to Hmong parents. For the first four years of his life, he lived in Frogtown where he was enraptured with stories about being a hero. His earliest memory of a heroic story was a Hmong movie series called Nuj Nplhaib thiab Ntxawm, which was the tale of a man on a quest to rescue the woman he loved from a pack of evil shapeshifting tigers.
This trend of heroic tales continued when he moved to Oakdale Minnesota. Through hero-centric stories like LEGO’s Bionicles, Star Wars, Greek Myth, etc, he learned to craft his own stories. Matthew began his stories through action figures but has since moved on to daydreams, role-playing in video games, and brief writings when a spell of inspiration takes him. He is a big fan of fictional stories, especially those set in a fantasy setting, within mediums such as anime, film, television, books and video games.
After finishing high school, Matthew spent a year working at a movie theater, then two more working as a wire technician. After spending so much time simply consuming stories, Matthew decided to give himself a chance to actually create them. He enrolled at Century College in the fall of 2020 where he plans to earn his AA Degree and the Creative Writing Certificate. Matthew has written for Century’s news team, The Century Times, and he is currently a Minnesota State Colleges Write Like Us Program Fellow in Creative Writing with a focus on fiction.
About Saymoukda: Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao writer. CNN’s “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell called her work “revolutionary.” Governor Mark Dayton recognized her with a “Lao Artists Heritage Month” Proclamation. She’s a recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual…in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.” She’s the author of the children’s book WHEN EVERYTHING WAS EVERYTHING and is best known for her award-winning play KUNG FU ZOMBIES VS CANNIBALS. Her work has been presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (NY), Theater Mu (MN), Lower Depth Theater (LA), Asian Improv Arts (IL), and elsewhere. Other awards include grants/fellowships from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Bush Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, MAP Fund, Playwrights’ Center, Forecast Public Art, MRAC, MSAB, and others. Saymoukda is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Theater Mu, a McKnight Foundation Fellow in Community-Engaged Practice Art, and a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in playwriting. She has served on Governor Walz’s State Poet Laureate design & selection committee, co-hosted a podcast on Minnesota Public Radio, and is currently serving on the City of Saint Paul Cultural STAR Board. You can get to know her at www.refugenius.net and @refugenius on Instagram.