The Asian Poet Is Here: Interview with Beau Sia

Beau Sia is a written and spoken word poet who made a big splash with his parody on Jewel’s poetry volume titled A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge. Since then, he’s traveled to perform and speak at university campuses, all the while continuing to write. Earlier this summer, he finished a run on Russell Simmons’s “Def Poetry Jam” on Broadway, which won a Tony. Following the run of that show, he did a short Q&A with Meniscus!

How do you pronounce your last name?


What was it like growing up in Oklahoma City?

Not easy. Not just because of my race, but also because of my particular interest in writing poems circa 1993.

You did, however, make your way to the lone open mic there. Did that help the situation somewhat?

It helped to give me fuel to keep pushing myself as an artist and develop as a person in the process.

You are Chinese-American, but you grew up attending Filipino-American functions? Why?

My parents are Chinese Americans from the Philippines.

Did those events result in cross-cultural coolness, or confusion?


What has been the best moment of your career so far? Worst?

I don’t know. I guess winning the Tony was probably up there. Also getting my book, A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge, published. I’m sure those are up there. I’m still waiting for all of the girls in high school who rejected me to email me about how wrong they were for having done so. But that’s my bitter teenage heart talking. Worst moment… I don’t know. I’m always trying to find the great thing about bad experiences. The growth that can be gained. Lame, right?

That’s not lame at all, particularly if you can share a kernel of wisdom with us…?

What kind of wisdom? There is something to be gained from every experience. I am not invalidating loss or hardship, I am saying that in the midst of even the most negative situations, one can gain some better understanding of themselves, which in turn, makes one more dynamic and stronger.

What was your most memorable performance?

Maybe the first time I performed “the Asians are coming, the Asians are coming,” I had just written it. It was a day after the 2001 Oscars. I felt as I performed it that a change was coming in the world.

How often do you travel to perform?

As rarely as never for months and as often as flying every day for weeks.

Do you notice any differences in audience reception or reactions, i.e., Asian vs. non-Asian, college-age vs. older, etc.?

I do pretty well across the board. I think this one time I was in Arkansas and it was a very conservative, primarily Christian college, and I’m pretty sure they were turned off more by my language than by my content, as if words were triggers for people to stop listening to someone.

What is the best city on earth?

I don’t know. Best city I’ve been to on earth would have to be New York City.

What was it like to meet Jewel? I read that you guys exchanged books.

She’s cool. We’re cool with one another. She came and checked out the Broadway show. Just like old acquaintances.

What are your future goals?

To die trying to become the greatest writer of all time, knowing that I will probably fail.

How would you like to be remembered?

As Beau Sia.