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Phi was a competitor on the South High speech team in the Creative Expression category in the early 90's, where he began performing his poetry. He attended and graduated from Macalester College, where he was encouraged to pursue creative writing by his Native American Literature professor, Diane Glancy. He has retired from being a pizza delivery boy, and has also been employed as a maintenance worker in a supermarket and in the restaurant industry. Bao Phi has been a featured performer at numerous venues and schools locally and nationally, from the Nuyorican Poet's Café to the University of California, Berkeley.
Phi has twice won the Minnesota Grand Poetry Slam, and also won two poetry slams at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York.
He is the first Vietnamese American man to have appeared on HBO's Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, and the National Poetry Slam Individual Finalists Stage, where he placed 6th overall out of over 250 national slam poets. In 2015, he was a performer in the diasporic Vietnamese blockbuster variety show, Paris By Night.
Bao Phi's vision is to offer an alternative perspective on Asian American community building through the arts. He has been a featured artist in many community events, rallies and functions. He was involved with the Justice for Fong Lee committee and all three protests against Miss Saigon produced by the Ordway Theater.
Phi has taught workshops and performed for youth for organizations from the W.O.C. in Minneapolis to the Chinatown Community Development Center in San Francisco. He was an advisory panel member, workshop moderator, and performer for Intimacy and Geography, the Asian American Writers' Workshop national poetry festival in New York, and a faculty at Kundiman at Fordham University in 2015.
He is also published in various literary magazines, journals, and anthologies, including From Both Sides Now, the Def Poetry Jam anthology, Legacy to Liberation, Screaming Monkeys, and Michigan Quarterly Review. His poetry is included in the EMC/Paradigm line of English textbooks for High School students, and has done voice work for their educational materials. One of his poems was selected to appear in Minneapolis/Saint Paul city buses in the Poetry in Motion program. He is also the author of the chapbook, Surviving the Translation. Billy Collins selected one of Phi’s poems, "Race," for inclusion in the Best American Poetry 2006 anthology.
Currently he works as the Program Director at The Loft Literary Center where he manages and operates several Loft programs, including Equilibrium, a successful spoken word series he created, which invites nationally recognized artists of color/indigenous artists to share the stage with local Minnesota artists of color/indigenous artists. In 2005, he released his new CD, Refugeography, and continues to tour around the country. Equilibrium was awarded the Anti-Racism Initiative award from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits in 2010. In 2011 Coffeehouse Press published Song I Sing, Bao Phi's collection of poems focused on modern Vietnamese-Asian American life with each poem capable of being read for spoken word. His book received a favorable review in The New York Times.
Bao was also a featured listener in the award-winning documentary film The Listening Project.
Bao has a daughter.
- Raphael-Hernandez, Heike; Steen, Shannon (2006-11-01). AfroAsian Encounters: Culture, History, Politics. NYU Press. pp. 257–. ISBN 9780814775813. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- DiMaggio, Paul; Fernández-Kelly, Patricia (2010-11-18). Art in the Lives of Immigrant Communities in the United States. Rutgers University Press. pp. 206–. ISBN 9780813547572. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- Phi, Bao (3 March 2011). "Fong Lee: the human cost and the strength of his family". Star Tribune. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- Jennings, Dana. "Lyrical Renegades". The New York Times. The New York Times.
- Minnesota State Arts Board http://www.arts.state.mn.us/grants/2012/2012-awarded-ai.htm. Missing or empty
- Minnesota State Arts Board http://www.arts.state.mn.us/grants/2015/2015-awarded-ai.htm. Missing or empty
- "About the Author. Bao Phi. Interview". Coffeehouse Press. Retrieved 14 September 2015.