Interview, Local Flavor, Poetry, Upcoming Boston Hassle Shows

5 Questions for Poet & Educator Nico Pang



BOSTON HASSLE: When did you start writing? What initially inspired you?
Nico PANG:  I started writing poetry when I was 19. Growing up, I was a theatre kid but never got the chance to play Asian characters, or roles that reflected any part of my own experience. When I got to college, I was disappointed to find that the theatre opportunities and groups were still extremely White and limiting. Around this time, a friend introduced me to spoken word poetry spaces and open mics on campus and in the Boston area. Poetry became a way to me to perform, but on my own terms.

BH: A lot of your work deals with queerness and gender identity- in which ways do activism and advocacy inform your writing?
NP: While I don’t think of my poetry as activism first, I do see poetry as a way to self-advocate and advocate for the communities I am a part of through storytelling and education. If to organize and advocate is to dream of better worlds, then I believe poetry is a challenging and healing tool to do that work.

BH: What has been your most memorable experience so far as a teacher? 

NP: A few years ago, I facilitated a poetry workshop with Asian and Asian American high school students at a community organization in Chinatown. We watched a video of the poem, “Stubborn Inheritance” by Hieu Nguyen and wrote off a prompt about a time in our lives when we disclosed/shared a part of ourselves with someone. What followed was a really rich discussion on mental health, generational gaps, and the messages we learned about gender and sexuality from our immigrant and refugee families. Many of them also left the workshop feeling like poetry was an accessible tool they could use to explore their identities and make sense of their experiences. Which is something I hope more young people can feel! It was one of the moments that made me realize how much I love working with youth.


Mixed media collages from a collaboration with artist Dee Moore, based off stanzas in Pang’s “Ghost Point”.

BH:  What future projects are you most excited about right now?

NP: I’m hoping to create a series of videos for my poems on family and queerness/transness in that “visual poem” format that’s been going around YouTube. I really liked photography and video making during school and would love to get back into that.

And in general, I’m also hoping to write more poems about love, joy, and things that make me happy!

BH:  Could you leave us with one of your favorite excerpts from your work?

NP: This is an excerpt from a poem I wrote about my given and chosen names.

in order to thrive, some things must burn
so I clear the thick growth- debris and dead matter
sunlight stretches to reach all the stuck places
maybe I am resilient enough to survive my own arson

a forest burns down and a wildflower starts to bloom
a match ignites and my mother no longer recognizes me
I am both the decay and the bloom
a rebirth illegible to my own blood and kin

Nico Pang is a queer Asian American poet, youth worker, and teaching artist based in Boston. Born in the year of the dog like their grandmother, Nico’s writing explores queerness, family histories, gender, and the ghosts of trauma. Nico is a Pink Door Fellow, 2017 FEM Slam finalist, and founding member of Disrupt Slam at Tufts University. Their work is published or forthcoming in Winter Tangerine and Crab Fat Magazine (selected for Best of Year Three print anthology).

Nico teaches poetry workshops with teens at GrubStreet, and coordinates leadership development programs at BAGLY, one of the longest running LGBTQ+ youth organizations in the country. You can find Nico reading queer fiction, hiking, or eating noodles. 

Nico Pang will be accompanied by poets John-Francis Quiñonez, AJ Addae, and Lauren Klotzman, along with musical guest Evan Greer at’s RADICAL ACTS.

June 7th/8pm/DAP theater/suggested donation $10

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