LOS ANGELES, CA – Spoken word artist Kosal Khiev has been chosen to represent Cambodia as a Cultural Olympiad in association with the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, from July 27th through August 12th. During the Poetry Parnassus event, a gathering of 204 poets from around the globe, Khiev will be in the company of world-famous composers/performers of verse, including American former Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. The event will be the largest of its kind to have ever taken place, with poetry from a representative of each nation that is competing in the games.
In his role, Khiev will tour the United Kingdom, taking part in workshops and readings. Furthermore, according to The Guardian, he will contribute a poem in Khmer for a collection called “The World Record,” which will be comprised of one piece from each of the poets in his or her nation’s language. Khiev was overcome by emotion upon hearing the news of his selection. “I remember watching the last Olympics in my cell thinking, ‘One day I want to be there, just to see a game.’ Now, I am going to perform as a Cultural Olympiad. I am humbled and honored,” said Khiev.
Considering his status as a deportee and former United States resident, Khiev’s journey has been a long one: born in a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime, sent to juvenile detention in Alabama, and sentenced to 16 years in prison at age 16 for an attempted murder charge, all before being deported to Cambodia upon his release in 2011 (under the stricter immigration enforcement laws following 9/11). Khiev has admitted his poor choices as a teenager and now lives in Phnom Penh, performing and speaking about his experiences. He is an artist-in-residence at Studio Revolt, a new media lab, where he collaborated with co-founder Anida Yoeu Ali on a series of short films featuring his poetry.
“Kosal is our first and so far only artist-in-residence. We are invested in his success, and we believe he has a greater calling to the world,” Yoeu Ali, who first heard him while traveling in Cambodia, told Khmerican. “I hadn’t been moved that intensely by spoken word for a long time. I knew Kosal Khiev was someone very special to the world.”
He is now developing an autobiographical documentary with Masahiro Sugano, also a co-founder of Studio Revolt. After returning from London, Khiev plans to take his voice to Siem Reap, Battambang, and other Cambodian audiences.