OUT OF THE MARGINS: Video Poem :: Bao Phi

OUT OF THE MARGINS is excited to be featuring visual-poetic works this June. Here, we dive into the intersection of the oral, the visual, and the power of the poet’s voice accompanied by music. The emotional impact of our first selection – a video poem by Bao Phi – is undeniable, as you’ll see below. We also love the collaborative media aspects involved in the making of this video poem. 

Bao Phi teams up with filmmaker Tony Nguyen to perform a visual version of his poem, “Future Letter to Daughter Apologizing for When I Caved to Her Request and Brought Her to Barbie’s Dream House at the Mall of America.”

Future Letter to Daughter Apologizing for When I Caved to Her Request and Brought Her to Barbie’s Dream House at Mall of America

So many times I wish I was stronger.

Everybody needs a Ken,
the song chirps on repeat.
Already I walk where I don’t exist.

You propelled yourself, wobbly cannonball,
down bruised colored hallways,
not acting ladylike at all,
ignored the preening at the make up stations
for jumping spasmodically in place,
wanted to bake pretend cupcakes in the fake ovens
so you could eat them all yourself.

How can I teach you not to ask for the pink cars,
the thin threads,
the hierarchy of blondes,
the sell to be skinny
without you wanting it all anyway?

I can’t promise I’d write a poem
if you were a boy
jumping boot first into a G.I. Joe land,
staring down the eyes of cannons that shot
but never killed.

In the end, whose resistance will you take on?

Love that gives my life meaning,
so beautiful I can scarce believe you’re cast from me at all-
I am so sorry
for the plastic worlds I helped bring you into.



Bao Phi is a multiple Minnesota Grand Slam poetry champ and National Poetry Slam finalist who has been on HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and whose work was included in the Best American Poetry anthology of 2006. He has toured as a featured artist in hundreds of venues across the country since 1999, including the blockbuster diasporic Vietnamese variety show Paris By Night. He has been named a City Pages, Star Tribune, and Urban Griots Artist of the Year. His first book, Sông I Sing (Coffee House Press), was met with strong sales, is taught in classrooms across the United States, and enjoyed rave reviews, including the New York Times which stated, “In this song of his very American self, every poem Mr. Phi writes rhymes with the truth.” He is currently the Program Director of the Loft Literary Center. His second collection of poems will be published by Coffee House Press, and his first children’s book, to be illustrated by Thi Bui and will be published by Capstone Press, both in 2017.

This post is part of diaCRITICS’ Vietnamese American Literary Series, OUT OF THE MARGINS, launched in 2015-16. The series curates literary work from poets, writers and artists of Vietnamese-American and Vietnamese diasporic experience. Our mission is to create an inclusive, diverse, provocative, ongoing space for voices and visions from this community, thus bringing them out of the margins. Dao Strom is the series editor and curator.

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