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by Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

A few years back, I was working on a hip hop theater show in Chicago with my friends and collaborators Usman Ally and Idris Goodwin. The hip hop theater show was called “American Ethnic,” and it focused on race, gender, media, and ideas of the “other” in mainstream American culture. After creating with Usman and Idris for months regarding all the ways our identities were marginalized by mainstream American culture, my creative brain exploded with this poem “Self-Centered” out of my sheer exhaustion from thinking of myself as peripheral to dominant narrative and playfully puts my own experience in the center by imagining if the world were run by “5 foot 2 tattooed Asian females.”

As a veteran spoken word poet and burgeoning filmmaker, I was eager to make a video version of this quirky poem given that more and more of my audiences experience spoken word first online. Given this new age of tech and social media, I am wary of incessant information pollution and flashy tech gimmicks, but when I discovered the 360 video technology used in this video, I was so thrilled to find a way a way for form to marry content in a fresh new way literally putting the audience in the center of the entire action and deepening the central metaphor of the poem.

This piece was truly a labor of love (with a nearly all-female crew behind the camera) and we are asking viewers to tweet us @yellowgurlpoet #SelfCentered “What would YOU do if you were the center of everything for a day?” to continue the conversation. You can also follow some great conversation starters on my Instagram where commenters explore what would they do if they were in charge of top corporations, education, the military, and more for a day. The vision is one of using poetry, satire, and new media to spark our (r)evolutionary futures via the asset of our imaginations, placing ourselves central to the narrative that we want to create for ourselves and the world.

Enjoy! On desktop/laptop, you can scroll left, right, 360 with your mouse or trackpad. On iPhone and iPad, download the GoPano app to scroll/swipe 360 around the video with your fingers and you can also tilt the video by tilting your smartphone. We’ll also be rolling out an education guide complete with creative exercises integrating writing, performance, dialogue, transmedia, and social justice in the upcoming months – so stay tuned for that on my social media feeds – thanks so much for watching!




Kelly_TsaiArtist Bio:

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai is an award-winning poet, playwright, and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work as a performance poet has been featured on HBO, MTV Iggy, and at over 500 venues worldwide including the White House. Her publications include Drunken Boat, Asian American Literary Review, and The Kartika Review. She is an alum of Hedgebrook and the Kundiman, Cave Canem, Callaloo, and VONA writing workshops. (yellowgurl.com, youtube.com/kztsai, twitter.com/yellowgurlpoet)





Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members. 


Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai
About Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

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