Washington poetry: Sulu DC showcases Asian American poets

Michelle Myers, left, and Catzie Vilayphonh perform at Sulu DC's poetry night.
Michelle Myers, left, and Catzie Vilayphonh perform at Sulu DC's poetry night. (Veronika Lukasova For The Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010

Last month's Sulu DC was an exercise in extremes. The showcase for Asian American and Pacific Islander American poets and other performers featured Vijai Nathan, a rising local stand-up comic of Indian descent who regaled the crowd with slightly ribald tales of her dating woes. At the other end of the spectrum was Yellow Rage, the Philadelphia-based duo of Michelle Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh. At times speaking over each other, and at others reading solo, the Korean American Myers and Laotian American Vilayphonh delivered often-barbed observations about being marginalized because of their appearance, language and traditions.

The tonal shifts are both intentional and, according to Sulu co-founder Simone Jacobson, inevitable. Although the lineup is carefully vetted by Jacobson and her co-curators, the goal is to maintain the same freewheeling fusion of moods that you might find at an open mike -- minus the sometimes-dicey quality.

About that name: Sulu co-founder Regie Cabico says he wanted something open-ended. True, Sulu is the name of an island in the Philippines, where Cabico's family is from, but most people hear it and think "Star Trek." That association works well, says Cabico, who wryly notes that George Takei's character on the show was, counter to stereotype, not the alien. But Cabico also thinks the old TV tag line could just as easily apply to what Sulu DC is trying to do: to boldly go where no man has gone before.

What to expect: A lively mix of spoken word, music, stand-up comedy, film and other offerings, and a diverse crowd. "The 'Asian' is about what's up on stage,' says Jacobson, "not who's in the audience."

If you go: Sulu is held the third Saturday of the month starting at 7 p.m. Its current home is Almaz restaurant, 1212 U St. NW (Metro: U Street). $10; $8 for students. The March 20 show will feature poets Sahra Nguyen and Sham-e-Ali Al-Jamil and comic-storyteller Brian Wang. Visit http://groups.google.com/group/sulu-dc, e-mail suludc@gmail.com or join the "Sulu DC" group on Facebook.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

© 2010 The Washington Post Company