World Poetry Day with the Last Hoisan Poets + Friends

The Last Hoisan Poets

The Last Hoisan Poets at the de Young museum, 2023. Photograph by Theo Schear

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World Poetry Day, observed on March 21, was established in 1999 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) “with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.” 

This celebration, hosted by the Last Hoisan Poets (Genny Lim, Flo Oy Wong, and Nellie Wong), welcomes you to consider how poetry builds bridges that bring people together. Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values. The simplest of poems can be a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace. 

Join the Last Hoisan Poets for a series of pop-up readings in the de Young galleries.


11 to 11:30 am

  • The Last Hoisan Poets and Rafael Jesús González, Gallery 4 (Art of the Americas), 20 min
  • The Last Hoisan Poets and Alaina Gupta, Gallery 5 (Contemporary art), 10 min

11:35 am to noon

  • The Last Hoisan Poets and Rebecca Nie, Gallery 15, 15 to 20 min
  • The Last Hoisan Poets, Gallery 17, 5 to 10 min

1:30 to 1:55 pm

  • The Last Hoisan Poets and devorah major, Gallery 40 + 50 (Art of Africa + Lhola Amira: Facing the Future)

2 to 2:30 pm

  • The Last Hoisan Poets and Marcus Shelby with devorah major, Galleries 28, 29, 50a, 60, 61, 62 (Kehinde Wiley: An Archeology of Silence)

About the Last Hoisan Poets

The Last Hoisan Poets — Genny Lim, Nellie Wong, and Flo Oy Wong — trace their roots to China’s Toisan villages, home of the Hoisan-wa (a.k.a. Toisanese/Taishanese) Chinese dialect. They hold special poetry readings in English and Hoisan-wa, to pay homage to their mother language which is at risk of fading from collective memory.

Genny Lim is the recipient of two lifetime achievement literary awards from PEN Oakland and the city of Berkeley. She has also served as San Francisco Jazz Poet Laureate and San Francisco Arts Commissioner. Lim’s award-winning play, Paper Angels, the first Asian American play to air on PBS’s American Playhouse in 1985, has been performed throughout the US, Canada, and China. She is the author of five poetry collections, Winter Place, Child of War, Paper Gods and Rebels, KRA!, La Morte Del Tempo, and co-author, with the late Him Mark Lai and Judy Yung, of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, winner of the American Book Award in 1980. 

Flo Oy Wong, co-founder of the San Francisco-based Asian American Women Artists Association, is an artist, poet, and educator. She is a recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts awards, and has been a visiting artist at various colleges and universities. She has also been featured in articles in multiple publications. Growing up in Oakland Chinatown, she spoke her family’s ancestral dialect, Hoisan-wa. In 2018, Flo published her art and poetry book, Dreaming of Glistening Pomelos, inspired by her childhood. Contemporary Asian Theater Scene presented Wong with their 2022 Image Hero Award.

Nellie Wong has published four books: Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park, The Death of Long Steam Lady, Stolen Moments, and Breakfast Lunch Dinner. Her poems and essays appear in numerous journals and anthologies, including This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, and excerpts from two poems have been permanently installed at public sites at the San Francisco Municipal Railway. A building at Oakland High School is named after her, she is co-featured in the documentary film, Mitsuye and Nellie Asian American Poets, and a poem of hers was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She traveled to China in the First American Women Writers Tour with Alice Walker, Tillie Olsen, and Paule Marshall, among others. She taught poetry writing at Mills College and women’s studies at the University of Minnesota, and is the recipient of the 2022 PEN Oakland/Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award.

About the special guests

Rafael Jesús González, native of El Paso, Texas, taught creative writing and literature at Laney College, Oakland where he founded the Mexican and Latin American Studies department. He was a poet in residence at Oakland Museum of California and Oakland Public Library in 1996. Four times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English for his writing in 2003. In 2013 he received a César E. Chávez Lifetime Award, and in 2015 the City of Berkeley also honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, he was named the first Poet Laureate of Berkeley. Learn more.

Alaina Gupta, now 11, has always been an avid reader and writer. Thanks to a serendipitous introduction to Flo Oy Wong by her second grade teacher, she picked up poetry. With encouragement, she read her poem “Hope During Pandemic” on the NPR California report in January 2021. Her poem was also featured as part of De Anza College’s public art project, “Hope and Solace” in Cupertino. Her poem, “The Mountain,” was selected for the Union School District Writers and Artists Showcase across all Bay Area public schools. She collaborated with Flo Oy Wong in Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s 2022 Asian American Festival Showcase in Japantown. Her poem, “A New Spring,” won first place in the 10 to 12 year old category, for the San Jose Public Library 2022 Spring Poetry Contest. Her pride and joy is her first published poetry book, A Potpourri of Playful Poems. Alaina goes to elementary school in San Jose, California.

Rebecca Nie is a Chinese American Zen master, scholar, and award-winning algorithm and new media artist. Rebecca Nie now serves as the Buddhist Chaplain at Stanford University. Chinese literature and cultural heritage are some of Nie’s lifelong passions. As a Zen master of the Korean Jogye Order and the founder of Mahavajra Seon Sanctuary, Nie is dedicated to unleashing humanity’s full potential through artistic expressions and offering systematic training in Eastern wisdom–spiritual traditions. Yin Mountain: The Immortal Poetry of Three Daoist Women, translated by Nie and her co-author Peter Levitt is published by Shambhala Publications. Learn more.

devorah major served as San Francisco’s Third Poet Laureate. She has seven poetry books (the most recent: califia’s daughter), two novels, four chapbooks and a host of short stories, essays, and poems in anthologies and periodicals. In 2022 she received Italy’s Regina Coppola International Literary Award and toured in Sardinia, Northern Italy, and Southern Italy. In June 2015 major premiered her poetry play Classic Black: Voices of 19th Century African-Americans in San Francisco at the San Francisco International Arts Festival. major performs her work nationally and internationally with and without musicians. Learn more.

Marcus Shelby is a composer, bassist, bandleader, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco, California. His work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and music education. Shelby is the artistic director of Healdsburg Jazz, an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, and a past resident artist with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Shelby has composed several oratorios and suites including Harriet Tubman, Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio, Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues, Green and Blues, and a children’s opera Harriet’s Spirit produced by Opera Parallel 2018. Shelby also composed the score and performed in Anna Deavere Smith’s off-Broadway play and HBO feature film Notes from the Field (2019). Shelby is also the voice of Ray Gardener in the 2020 Oscar-winning Disney Pixar film SOUL. Learn more.

COVID-19 guidance 

Masking is strongly recommended, but no longer required for members of the public or employees while in the museum.

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