In Search of Asia-America

By Carolyn Ellison

Features Editor

On September 3, WCU was lucky enough to have Amnesty International Poet Laureate Alvin Lau perform his spoken word in the Illusions room. Lau drove all the way from Chicago to do the show. However he is no stranger to the area, Lau spent his years growing up in South Carolina. Lau’s performance definitely had the audience on the edge of their seats with his political and insightful words. Previously he has performed on HBO’s Spoken Word and just recently started doing business with Time Warner. A competitive spirit, Lau has won several awards for his professional poetry performances. He has ranked within the top seven poets for National Poetry Slam, scaling as high as second place in 2006. When I asked Lau when he started writing poetry, he quickly responded with the surprisingly accurate date of February 2001. Still, he started out writing fictions and plays until he discovered his fervency for spoken word.

Lau was personal and playful with the audience, beaming on stage in his Obama T-shirt, drinking a Miller High Life that a student kindly gave to him. Considering the political atmosphere this time of year, the show was a great opportunity to present pertinent issues in our country today. Lau spoke of gay rights through a powerful poem about his sister and how she too deserved to have a happy marriage one day, if she chose to. Another governmental topic he explored through his poetry was his search for the real “Asia-America”. This encompassed the topics of racism, immigration, and the everyday stereotypical assumptions that people can often make. When Lau is not performing his work, he travels the country to schools and universities speaking on social justice, racism and prejudice.

Passion would be a good way to sum up Lau’s time on the Illusions stage. Lau spoke his truth, even though it was sometimes angry and always intense; his words bring you full circle. You find yourself left with questions about this country and the people in it that he drew from the shadows and leaves them at your feet. You can both ignore the issues and keep walking or you can do something about it.


of Alvin Lau

Zodiac Sign: Leo

Favorite Animal: Penguin

Favorite number and color: 23 and blue

Favorite Painter: Gaugen

Favorite Fiction Writer: Michael Chambon

Favorite Poet: V Young Lee


“I love my mom very much, I’m actually working on a bunch of poems right now about how much I love my mom.”

“My idea of comfort is eating macaroni and cheese while listening to Kanye West.”

“If I could make a metaphor for where I am in my life right now, I am a red balloon at a funeral.”

“In Chicago they sell deep-fried Twinkies, which are both the most fabulous and most disgusting thing I’ve ever had.”

“My hero is my mom and Nelson Mandella-more my mom. No offense. Sorry Nelson.”