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Nhã Thuyên, words breathe, creatures of elsewhere

For Nhã Thuyên, to write poetry is to listen to the lives of words, to sense their heartbeats, to admire their faces. It is an action that is passionate, overflowing, and at the same time, insecure and restless. In Nhã Thuyên’s understanding, the word, as an alive being, is easily vulnerable.

Nhã Thuyên’s poetry is that of one who thrusts herself into an infinite confusion, who doubts the inevitability of every border, who wonders at the clarity of structures. The confusion, doubts, and wonders inside this collection of poetry, are in fact what transform into a great pleasure for the writer, and which in turn, unfurl into a pleasure for the readers, inviting them to play together in the space of uncertainty, confusion, ambiguity, among the drifting words, rhythms, and imaginings.

Nhã Thuyên’s poetry is also that of one who feels a forever urge to disintegrate the self, to break apart the solidity of the self, to be able to see the strangers, the other beings in the dark depths of the self. Nhã Thuyên is listening closely with an acute desire to be in conversation with the creatures of elsewhere, the others. A craving as innocently eager as a child, curious and full of amazed energy, while at the same time as painfully urgent as a person who feels the eternal uncertainty of identity. A craving that, in the end, gives poetry itself a possibility to stir the human heart. For after all, can poetry be anything if not this exposure? – Hi Ngc, literary critic

Nhã Thuyên (born 1986) has authored several books of poetry and short fiction including Writing (2008), The Pinky (2011), The edge of the Abyss (2011), The Transparent green of grass (co-authored, 2012) and some tiny books for children. Her series of essays, Underground Voices (2011- 2013), sponsored by the Arts Network Asia, examines marginalization in Vietnamese contemporary poetry and the avant-garde poets of its Post-Renovation period. Translations of her poetry and writing appear in Poems of Lưu Diệu Vân, Lưu Mêlan & Nhã Thuyên edited and introduced by Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng (Vagabond Press, 2013) and have appeared or are forthcoming in the journals of RHINO Poetry and Asymptote. words breathe, creatures of elsewhere (từ thở, những người lạ) is her second full length book of poetry and her first full length book in english translation. Nhã Thuyên is co-editor of the book of three poets Poems of Lê Văn Tài, Nguyễn Tôn Hiệt, & Phan Quỳnh Trâm (Vagabond Press, 2015). With Kaitlin Rees, she currently co-edits AJAR, a bilingual literary and art journal-press based in Hanoi, an online, printed space for poetic exchange.

Kaitlin Rees (translator), born in the year of the buffalo in Wampsville, New york, translates Vietnamese poetry and makes her own in english sometimes too. Her translations of Nhã Thuyên’s work have appeared in Vagabond Press’s 2013 Poems of Lưu Diệu Vân, Lưu Mêlan & Nhã Thuyên edited and introduced by Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng and the online journal Masque&Spectacle, and are forthcoming in Asymptote. Kaitlin co-edits Ajar in Hanoi with Nhã Thuyên. Her artwork of poetry called Fragments of an Infinite Dictionary will have an exhibition in December 2015 in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary.


Nhã Thuyên, words breathe, creatures of elsewhere
2015. ISBN 978-1-922181-40-4. 118pp
Release date: January 1, 2016
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