The Saint Paul Almanac is pleased to announce the fifth in its 2012–2013 season of acclaimed Lowertown Reading Jams, which celebrate the rich literary history of Minnesota’s capital city.

The “When Poets Found Bass” Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street in Saint Paul. This presentation of the popular and eclectic series, curated by Saymoukda Vongsay, features performances by Fres Thao, Desdamona, Truthmaze, and Saymoukda Vongsay, with music by DJ Kool Akiem.

Watch the performances on SPNN

About the “When Poets Found Bass” Lowertown Reading Jam

A poet, an MC, and a DJ walk into a coffee and wine bar…

In the last decade, the rise of spoken word poetry and poetry slams have given much attention to the literary art form itself—poetry. With poetry’s performative aspects being akin to the stylized delivery of vocals in rap music, the line between spoken word poetry and rap has been blurred and the debate on whether or not rap is poetry and vice versa continues to leave commentators on either end of the spectrum. But what happens when poetry and rap intersect? Truthmaze, Desdamona, and Fres—three local luminaries from the world of poetry and Hip Hop—take us on a lyrical adventure and prove that the tools, devices, and guidelines observed by poets are the very same ones utilized by MCs. Without stripping away either of poetry’s or rap’s own aesthetics, these trailblazers have a dual identity, equally at ease when writing stanzas in notebooks or spitting bars over a track. Whether your cup of tea is more Blake than Big Daddy Kane, or if you prefer Aesop Rock over Angelou, this Lowertown Reading Jam is for you.

About the curator

saymoukda-vongsaySaymoukda D. Vongsay is a Lao American poet and playwright whose work has been published by literary journals, lifestyle magazines, almanacs, newspapers, anthologies, and scholastic journals nationwide. Her experience in literary arts and community engagement has been invaluable to the work and programming of organizations like the Smithsonian Institute, the MN Historical Society, Paj Ntaub Voice Literary Journal, and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang, Laos. She is the recipient of the 2010 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry (NY), the 2012 and 2011 Jerome Foundation/Mu Performing Arts Fellowship in Theater, and a 2012 Storytelling Fellowship from the MN State Arts Boards’ Folk and Traditional Arts Grant. She has been recognized as a 2011 Change Maker by Intermedia Arts, was the only Honorable Mention named for the 2011 MN Emerging Writer Grant, and has received scholarships from the Loft Literary Center (MN/prose seminar), the Joyce Foundation/Alliance of Artist Communities (IL/arts administration), and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (DC/public policy). She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Intermedia Arts, The Saint Paul Almanac (literary), the Saint Paul Foundation’s Asian Pacific Endowment Fund (philanthropy), and the Dispute Resolution Center. Her play, Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals, is being produced by Mu Performing Arts and is slated to premiere in Fall 2013.

About the performers

Fres Thao is a Hmong American Hip Hop artist and poet. daydreamer and evening stargazer. He loves all sorts of sounds, visuals, motions, thoughts, and philosophies. Learn more at

Desdamona has helped pave the way for female MC’s in the Twin Cities and was the first female MC widely known for not only rockin’ mics but as a promoter, community organizer, and teaching artist. She co-founded B-Girl Be, a celebration of women in Hip Hop that hosted women from around the world in the four elements of Hip Hop at the yearly festival held in the Twin Cities. For years, Des has toured the US and abroad. She recorded and collaborated with Grammy Award winners, Sly & Robbie (Jamaica) numerous times. She is featured on European-based jazz group Ursus Minor’s most recent album and has spent the past two years touring France with the group as well as releasing the Ill Chemistry self-titled release with partner Carnage the Executioner on the label Hope Street/Nato Records. In the community Des has worked in over 200 schools throughout the Midwest and France and has lead workshops and residencies in Shakopee Women’s Prison, Stillwater Prison, Oakpark Prison , Red Wing Juvenile Facility, the Juvenile Detention Center, Minneapolis and Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, WA. Find Desdamona at and and find Desdamona’s music on iTunes!

Dubbed as the “Afrika Bambaataa” of Minneapolis, Truthmaze is one of the originators and premier hip hop artists in Minnesota, beginning in 1983, as a vocal percussionist (beatboxer) known as B-Fresh. He was part of one of the first hip hop recordings from Minnesota to reach national presence as part of the I.R.M. Crew, and has been recording since 1986 with such groups as I.R.O.C., Brown Mark (of Prince and the Revolution), Mixed Breed and The Mighty Micronauts, whose infamous debut album was re-released on Rhymesayers Entertainment. In 1989, he embarked into the genre of spoken word and has excelled there as well. He is one of the most dynamic spoken word artists on the scene, with his performance infusing everything from African drumming, jazz, hip hop, to neosoul. He has been a member of a number of bands and collectives, in addition to the ones mentioned above, including Trektah Beam Express, Blak Pham, Moveable Feast, and the Dijonettes. He sings, plays percussions, rhymes, beatboxes, and has been compared to Gil Scott Heron, Saul Williams, KRS One, the Last Poets, among others.

DJ Kool Akiem is a music producer and DJ. As one half of the legendary Micranots, he has had 100+ performances (national and international) and 3 world-wide album releases. He’s held club residencies in New York, Atlanta, and Minneapolis and has played at every House of Blues; has had 7+ international and national tours (MF Doom, Musab, RSE/Hieroglyphics); and has been a product tester and consultant for the New Zealand-based software developer, Serato Audio Research, for the last decade.


The “When Poets Found Bass” Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street in Saint Paul.

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