"As with many kids longing for belonging, books were [Bryan Thao] Worra's refuge and escape — 'speculative literature,' he says, in the realm of fantasy, horror and general sci-fi. By the time he moved to St. Paul in 1998 with an opportunity to work for The Hmong Tribune, he had already written a large body of fantastical poetry.

"Worra has published much of it in an online chapbook titled Monstro, a collection spanning 15 years of work Worra calls 'a meditation on fear.' "In the preface, he writes:

"'The things we fear, the things we
shouldn't, the things that fear us, and those gray zones where all bets are off. It's a global romp through a world with boundaries that are blurring to the point of nonexistence. It's fair to even say: A cosmic romp.'

"Some of the poetry in
Monstro reads like lyrics from vintage Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs. In "Song of the Kaiju," the second stanza reads:

In raging moments
Fists become claws
Our small tales lost beneath the crushing weight
Of epic bloodshed
Cities toppling
Amid the screams
So out of touch with time

"Other poems are direct bows to classic Japanese horror: 'Destroy All Monsters!,' 'Mothra,' 'Why Did Rodan Travel to the West?' But if you read between the lines, Worra laces even his sci-fi work with metaphor tilting to the mysteries and frustrations of his own life. There are quiet musings, the unfolding of love and other discoveries of the spirit, with references spanning Hitler to American Idol. Most of his horror writing is set in Frogtown.

"'For a writer, it's a very rich place to tap into,' he says. 'The fantastic elements are a way to dive into deeper social concerns, like racism.'"


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