HBO Def Poetry 4 "Little Red Books" Kelly Tsai (3X Def Poet)



the illustrations look the same I remember while sure how teacher how are you son she like stand up do you go bow down sois sit down these are the first words they taught us to say in Chinese school and we would repeat vowel sure how did she like she gon smoosh ah acting each motion out like good obedient children taking cues from the books in the kids in the books that open from the opposite direction Wow sure how the kids were always in school uniforms with bright white skin and rosy red cheeks jet-black hair braided or bobbed books carried enthusiastically under one arm Sanchi lie so of course I would recognize them even 15 years after failing to learn Chinese beaming at me from a book open western-style screaming I love to study hard every day I love to brush my teeth I'd love to read my little red book long live mouth long live mouth long live mouth I can tell I have made a mistake by coming into the revolutionary bookstore looking at the enormous heads of Mao and Lenin I am confused and I start playing choose-your-own-adventure with what I see before me delete Chinese children here insert white black red brown children here delete Mao leave all other text the same insert Hitler insert Bush insert jmo insert whoever the you want to do you go is it as funny when they indoctrinated look like you is it as cool as kiss she as righteous is it as easy to scream revolution now if you knew you'd have to give up some of your it's Mao as much of a genius we need tells you that your bougie urban intellectual ass needs to stop reading some books and go out to the field at work did mal experiment on your family to create a better world did you know that communism is not theoretical for everyone swoosh ah my friend signs off all of his emails siempre Lutron de paz y revolution as if the two were possible peace and revolution as if bloodless Wars didn't still tear psyches apart change hurts living it is hard we've got to be ready if we decide to Sun chill I stand up son she lie son she lie

50 thoughts on “HBO Def Poetry 4 "Little Red Books" Kelly Tsai (3X Def Poet)

  1. @LEGENDZ360 I think ultimately she meant any kind of change/revolution takes much struggle and pain..whether it's socialist revolution or not, whether it turns out to be successful (like French Revolution), or not.

  2. i dont understand this ?
    WTF FUCK IS SHE DOING THERE, SHE SHOULD BE IN THE KITCHEN !!

  3. xoxoxoxo
    I'd marry her as long as she don't mind me opening up my kungfu dojo =p

  4. xoxoxoxo
    I'd marry her as long as she don't mind me opening up my kungfu dojo =p

  5. I love her poem and the message of this poem. She is able to spin her words so provocatively to speak to people about a history and great struggle that many people have faced and are still facing today, as well as use that to warn people that change is indeed hard and that they should be ready.

    To everybody who questions her Chinese: She is indeed speaking Mandarin, and the correct pinyin is "zhan(4) qi(3) lai(2). {stand/rise up} And she did pronounce the tones incorrectly at the end.

  6. @ed9s She never said anything against books or studying. She's speaking against communism and indoctrinating people.

  7. @ed9s Actually, I think you DID miss the point. It's not anti-studying, it's anti-indoctrination.

  8. first time i've heard chinese words in def poetry jam! awesome! :))

  9. Kelly, I first saw this poem while showing the Def Poetry episode it was in to my English class. The kids–and I–became instant fans of yours. Well done.

  10. revolotion and peace don't mix.. what about a revolotion of love?

  11. is it me or did she actually want them to stand up but they didn't get it.

  12. Yo! she looks like a yellow black girl! sorry if i sound stupid but she looks like my daughter, just lighter.

  13. I love her performance. I also love, how you can be from completely different cultures but understand each others' struggles in varying dynamics.

  14. The books of which Tsai speaks are elementary school level mini textbooks. Almost any ABC whose parents sent them to Saturday Chinese school would recognize them in an instant. Though I dont totally agree with her jump from these texts to Maos little red book, I think Tsai is on to something here. I personally dont think that her message is for or against change, but is rather a cautionary note reminding us that with change comes hardship and in her own words, Weve got to be ready.

  15. Tell that to the families who suffered through the Great Leap Forward, a time in which btwn 14-43 million people died. Nowadays I see classmates decorate their dorm rooms with recreations to Delacroix posters proclaiming, "Vive la Révolution!" and comm. prop. saying, "We will be Chairman Mao's little red soldiers." Such enthusiasm for relics of days gone by is understandable for I, too, share in their interest. But we have to remember that for better or worse, great change comes at a great cost

  16. Thank you for droppin' knowledge w/o flogging the ignorant. That's teaching!

  17. Good integration from the words of the story into her poetry. It's interesting how she took a child's story book, then applying the words to more serious matters, thus showing us how the context revealed the true nature of the words and even the different meaning that the same phrases had in each context. skillz

  18. lol its fine I'm mixed with Chinese and I can never get that shit right xDD

  19. Good shit, definitly a nice thinking point. BeninSJ picked out my favourite line already.

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