Krysada "Binly" Panusith Phounsiri Interview

A poem satisfies me when it takes me on a journey and hits me in seamlessly smooth fashion.

We caught up with Krysada Binly Panusith Phounsiri, the author of the forthcoming “Dance Among Elephants” to learn a little more about him. “Dance Among Elephants” will be released later this year from Sahtu Press.

Lao stories are often complicated especially when it comes to finally arriving in the United States. What stands out to you about your family's journey and how you got here?

Krysada Binly Panusith Phousiri: There are various levels of ways Lao folks can find their way to America. My immediate family came as immigrants, not refugees. A few of my aunts and my uncle were the first to flee and be classified as refugees. Then it gets complicated on how academia classifies generations e.g. 1st, 1.3, 1.5, 1.7 etc.

All I can say is, the entire family split for a second, then all ended up in one house in National City. What stands out to me was how quickly life in early America became a survival/adaption game for all the different families.

Who are some of the poets whose work has lingered with you over the years?

I enjoyed following the works of June Jordan, Kevin Young, Li-Young Lee, Francisco Alarcon, Ruth Forman, and others. I recommend reading their poems.

When do you feel most satisfied with a poem?

A poem satisfies me when it takes me on a journey and hits me in seamlessly smooth fashion. I say it hits when I’ll nod on a part of a poem or when it gives me chills. Seamlessly smooth because it has to flow. My eyes have to groove down the lines.

If you could teach an elephant any dance, which one would it be?

First off, play the song Tame Impala – Elephant to get the feeling I’m talking about. We’ll begin with that cadence. I’d teach an Elephant to bobble its head side to side, not up and down. Imagine how silly it would look; tusk and big ears going its way. Then I’d teach it a variation of a salsa step, using all four legs. Hips are important! Perhaps I should be a real Elephant to teach one how to dance. Maybe not.

What's a dream you've had that could only have come from a Lao American?

Only a Lao American would have a dream about doing a backflip in slow motion in front of their friend’s front yard who also happens to be Lao American. I don’t know. It was a nice dream though.

Sahtu Press