World Refugee Day 2021 Reading

Happy World Refugee Day!

This weekend, we’re celebrating the new exhibit Swirl of Words in Hackney, London to recognize the 88+ languages and cultures found in the borough! If you go to the library they have a free anthology for you there, including my poem from the 2012 London Summer Games, “On A Stairway In Luang Prabang” (which first appeared in my collection Tanon Sai Jai)

At the last census, Hackney recorded a total of 88 languages spoken across the borough. This number – probably an underestimate – is amongst the highest of any borough in the country. Stephen Watts has taken this as his starting point to select one poem in its original language and in English translation, to create a kind of poetry map of Hackney. You can see more about the project here:

This was recorded in the rain at Enger Park, which rests above Duluth’s West End on a site once called Grand Mountain. I’m reading from my full-length collection Tanon Sai Jai. The park was developed on land purchased with money donated by West End furniture dealer Bert Enger in 1921. His 1931 will included more money for the park’s development, and in 1939 Enger Tower was built in the park in his honor. Today the park includes the American-Japanese Peace Bell, a gift from Duluth’s sister city of Ohara-Isumi, and serves as a popular location for weddings.

World Refugee Day is an international day organised every year on 20 June by the United Nations. It is designed to celebrate and honour refugees from around the world. The day was first established on 20 June 2001, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The event aims to recognise the strength of the refugees who have fled the conflict and persecution of their country in hope of finding sanctuary and living a better life. World Refugee Day builds the concept of understanding for their plight which shows one’s resilience and courage in the rebuilding of their future. This year marks the 20th anniversary since it was first celebrated.

This week also marks the 45th anniversary since I became a US citizen on Flag Day in 1976 during the American bicentennial, so there’s a lot going on here. My thanks and appreciation to everyone who’s been a part of this journey.

Bryan Thao Worra is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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