Saturday, January 26, 2008

Black Dog, Black Night

With the Vietnamese poet Nguyen Do, I’ve edited and translated the anthology, Black Dog, Black Night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry, which will be published by Milkweed Editions on January 28 and launched on Saturday, February 2, 1:30-2:45, at the New York City meeting of AWP (Hilton Clinton Suite, 2nd Floor). The event is a poetry reading by contributors Mong-Lan, Truong Tran, Hoa Nguyen, and Nguyen Do. The book will be available at the Milkweed table in the book exhibit. You can also order it online from

The book contains the work of seventeen contemporary poets from Vietnam including Dang Dinh Hung, Van Cao, Hoàng Cam, Nguyen Khoa Diem, Xuan Quynh, Thanh Thao, Hoàng Hung, Nguyen Duy, Nguyen Quang Thieu, and the younger poets Nhat Le and Vi Thuy Linh. In addition to those appearing at the AWP event, a generous selection of work by the Vietnamese-American poet Linh Dinh appears in the anthology.

The publication of our anthology will change the U.S. view of Vietnamese poetry, especially relating to the range of expression practiced since the “Nhan Van” development of the 1950s, when members of the Writers Association demanded freedom of expression, for which they were punished with loss of their jobs, loss of publication privileges, and, in some cases, prison. In the early 1980s, the poet Hoàng Hung, whose poem 'Black Dog, Black Night' provides our title, was placed in prison and reform camps for three and a half years simply on the suspicion that he had passed a manuscript of the banned poet Hoàng Cam to someone at the French Embassy. Banned from publication for 51 years, the surviving Nhan Van writers were officially forgiven in 2007 in a highly publicized ceremony; they were also awarded the nation's highest literary award. Three of the leading Nhan Van poets, Tran Dan, and the highly experimental Dang Dinh Hung, are featured in our anthology.

Vietnamese poetry has the same range of writing practice as the United States, from modernist experiment to the use of Quan Ho folk songs. This variety includes Te Hanh’s touching lyric, “The Old Garden,” the expansive modernism of Dang Dinh Hung’s “The New Horizon,” and the bold personal poetry of younger women such as Nhat Le and Vi Thuy Linh. Also included are two major long poems, Thanh Thao’s “A Soldier Speaks of His Generation” and Nguyen Duy’s “Looking Home from Far Away.”

Please also come to the Omnidawn (hosted bar) Reception on Friday, February 1, 7 p.m., Hilton Nassau Suite, 2nd Floor. There will be brief readings by Chris Arigo, Justin Courter, Paul Hoover, Laura Moriarty, Bin Ramke, Donald Revell, Randall Silvis, and Tyrone Williams.

I will also be participating in the panel, Newlipo: Proceduralism and Chance-Poetics in the 21st Century, Thursday, January 30, 10:30-11:45, Hilton Nassau Suite, 2nd Floor. The other panelists are Christian Bok, Jena Osman, Patricia Carlin, and Joan Retallack. Moderator: Sharon Dolin.


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