The Secret of Hoa Sen

The Secret of Hoa Sen

by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
     
 

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Poems by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Translated from the Vietnamese by Bruce Weigl and Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Nguyen Phan Que Mai is among the most exciting writers to emerge from post-war Vietnam. Bruce Weigl, driven by his personal experiences as a soldier during the war in Vietnam, has spent the past 20 years translating contemporary Vietnamese poetry.

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Overview


Poems by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Translated from the Vietnamese by Bruce Weigl and Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Nguyen Phan Que Mai is among the most exciting writers to emerge from post-war Vietnam. Bruce Weigl, driven by his personal experiences as a soldier during the war in Vietnam, has spent the past 20 years translating contemporary Vietnamese poetry. These penetrating poems, published in bilingual English and Vietnamese, build new bridges between two cultures bound together by war and destruction. The Secret of Hoa Sen, Que Mai's first full-length U.S. publication, shines with craft, art, and deeply felt humanity.

I cross the Lam River to return to my homeland where my mother embraces my grandmother's tomb in the rain,
the soil of Nghe An so dry the rice plants cling to rocks.
My mother chews dry corn; hungry, she tries to forget.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/20/2014
Que Mai, a translator, poet, and winner of the Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association (for 2010’s Freeing Myself), collaborated with poet and translator Weigl for this collection focused on the lingering physical and psychological effects of the Vietnam War. These straightforward, personal poems lament and celebrate with the landscape—the smells, colors, and people of her country—that is their touchstone: “I sing for you the highland’s waves, softening the stone shore./ I sing for you storks’ wings of the south./ I sing for you the northern sunlight’s grassy fragrance/ carrying you towards your river home.” But Nguyen also sings for the alienated orphans of the Vietnam War; for garment workers in Bangladesh; for the victims of Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines; and for mothers across the globe in perilous circumstances. “The curves of the village temple,/ the Persian lilacs’ purple,/ the sunset with low-flying stork wings,” Mai writes with a nostalgic yet detail-oriented eye. “Because I keep my homeland in my heart,/ my harvest is rich,/ all year round.” Dual-language edition. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"The Secret of Hoa Sen, translated by the author and Bruce Weigl, takes us along the streets of Vietnam where we meet women bearing 'stars in the shape of carrying poles' and women who are the collectors of garbage who 'mend their lives whole from debris.' Que Mai takes us deep into the earth with 'earthworms who know how to sing the eternal song of emerald grass.' She brings forth the music in each rice plant blossoming in the lullaby of her grandma who died during the Great Famine. Through the suffering of war and greed and the celebration of life, these poems originate in the depths of mud and rise, like the lotus flower whose petals magically take flight, bringing us its truth and freedom." —Teresa Mei Chuc, author of Red Thread: Poems

"Que Mai, a translator, poet, and winner of the Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, collaborated with poet and translator Weigl for this collection focused on the lingering physical and psychological effects of the Vietnam War. These straightforward, personal poems lament and celebrate with the landscape—the smells, colors, and people of her country—that is their touchstone ... But Nguyen also sings for the alienated orphans of the Vietnam War; for garment workers in Bangladesh; for the victims of Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines; and for mothers across the globe in perilous circumstances ... Mai writes with a nostalgic yet detail-oriented eye." —Publishers Weekly

"Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s poetry collection is firmly rooted in the Vietnamese tradition, though her poems—or, rather, full-blown songs—also travel to Bhutan, Bangladesh, and other locales. The Secret of Hoa Sen is a collection about the earth-born: family, feeding, sustenance, and how these are intimately connected to the earth. This is what makes the poems stand out from the recent trend in writing about the urban familial settings, but this is not to say that the poems are limited to pastoral settings. Nguyen’s co-translator Bruce Weigl rightly describes the collection in the introduction as 'a global poetry, necessary for our troubled times.' ... Ms. Nguyen’s voice is simple, but full of compassion, and there is both the quality of the earth and the wind in her poetry, an embracing lushness." —Asymptote

"The author writes eloquently about family, femaleness and the sensual beauty of her country. When she writes of place, I feel that I am walking past the rice shoots in a long ago world." —Omaha World-Herald

"While there are dark, gritty elements at play, Que Mai’s work does not lose itself to despair. She crafts subtleties in sentiment without being overly sentimental." —Los Angeles Review of Books

Library Journal
11/15/2014
Born in 1973 in Vietnam's north but raised in the south's lush delta, award-winning poet Nguyen writes precise, vibrant poems that give voice to her country's present, grounded in tradition and dark history. Guavas and mangos sometimes blossom here, but Nguyen is just as inclined to speak without overwhelming polemic of the "collapsed royal dynasties" of Vietnam and "the blood of its division bitter in our mouths." One poem, dedicated to BW—presumably poet/translator Weigl, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Vietnam veteran—states bluntly, "He can't explain the reasons for the war." Important, especially to those still contemplating that question.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781938160523
Publisher:
BOA Editions, Ltd.
Publication date:
11/11/2014
Edition description:
Translatio
Pages:
148
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

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Meet the Author


NGUYEN PHAN QUE MAI: Born in a small North Vietnamese village in 1973, Nguyen Phan Que Mai is the author of three poetry collections and translator of six. Her literary awards include the Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association; First Prize in the Poetry about Hanoi competition from Vietnam's Literature Newspaper and Hanoi Radio & Television; the Capital's Literature & Arts Award from the Hanoi Union of Literature & Arts Associations, among others. Her poems have been featured at major international poetry festivals including the First Asia-Pacific Poetry Festival; the Qinghai International Poetry Festival; and the International Poetry Festival of Medellin, Colombia. Que Mai is the Honorary Fellow of Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University.

BRUCE WEIGL: Bruce Weigl's most recent poetry collection The Abundance of Nothing was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2013. The author of thirteen poetry collections, and the best-selling memoir The Circle of Hanh, Weigl is past President of the Associated Writing Programs, and has been Chairperson of the Judging panel in Poetry for the National Book Award. He has received such literary awards as the Poet's Prize from the Academy of American Poets; the Lannan Literary Award; the Robert Creeley Award; and a Medal for Significant Contributions from the Vietnam Union of Literature & Arts Associations and the Vietnam Writers Association. Weigl is currently a professor of poetry at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio.

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