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     behind the image, the imagination

                                                        --Mong-Lan

                                                     

      

Why is the Edge Always Windy?

Mong-Lan

Tupelo Press, 2005
ISBN:  1932195289

 

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Mong-Lan, a writer, visual artist and dancer, came to the United States as a child with her family the day before the fall of Saigon in 1975.  Her second book of poems, Why Is The Edge Always Windy?, requires that we extend ourselves and dive beneath the surface of reality.  It is a stunning book of revelations, nightmares, and love poems, cross-cultural and historically compelling.  Grounded in the rhythms of the heart and the world, the poems are lyrically intense with an edgy intelligence.  The poet entices you to enter her world, asking questions, drawing you into her visions of the past, present and future.

In Why Is The Edge Always Windy?, the poet finds herself “being” in many cities, whether Saigon, Hanoi, San Francisco, New York City, Paris, Lausanne, Bangkok or Phnom Penh.  Rhythms of the city and countryside, rhythms of disaster, rhythms of the earth, rhythms of desire are manifest in these poems.  Imagistic, surreal and penetrating, her writing cuts to the quick, “nothing less but the world at stake.”  Whether writing of Vietnam or 9/11, Mong-Lan’s language is inventive and muscular, at times philosophical and elegiac.  In these lyrics a concern for the fate of humanity and the world is posited.  The book ends with a play on words, the lover visiting the beloved, from “Trail”, “patterned below the scandent mountains /  they've had a million years to practice their lines.” 

 Featured on Poetry Daily

      

 * "Trail" from Why Is the Edge Always Windy? is included in the anthology, The Best American Poetry of 2002.

      

 

 

Praise for Why Is the Edge Always Windy?

 

“what you’ve lived through    you are,” says Mong-Lan in “Coast,” one of the early poems in this beautiful, spellbinding book, Why is the Edge Always Windy?  One should not be mislead by the title into thinking Mong-Lan’s work will be airy.  The lyricism of her writing sings not of the ethereal but of a hard land; her work speaks not of arrested moments but of the tectonic force of history, which, moving at the pace of geological time, presses cultures against each other, folds moments over each other, edges everywhere and always exposed.  Indeed, Mong-Lan’s are poems of exposure.  Reading them is revelatory.

 

--LYN HEJINIAN

Mong-Lan's Why Is The Edge Always Windy? is a stunning book that turns our "era of exile" into one of lyric possession, the impulses to lament and to praise whirling together into a bittersweet music. I'm amazed at how these poems hold the complexity and contradiction of a global world view that spans from Hanoi to New York, from Chiapas to San Francisco, while still striking notes of intimacy and making formally beautiful sense.
 
--ALISON HAWTHORNE DEMING, author Genius Loci (Penguin Poets, 2005)
 


"Mông-Lan is a remarkably accomplished poet. Always her poems are deft, extremely graceful in the way words move, and in the cadence that carries them. One is moved by the articulate character of ‘things seen,’ the subtle shifting of images, and the quiet intensity of their information. Clearly she is a master of the art."

--ROBERT CREELEY

 

 


Poems from Why Is the Edge Always Windy?

 

"Coast"

 

"Three-Auricled Heart"

 

From "Trail"

 

"Keel of Earth's Axis," featured on Poetry Daily

 

"Coyote," from Jacket 19, in collaboration with Verse Magazine: 

 

 

 

 

From Seneca Review, Spring, 1999.

 

Coast

 

 

1

 

what are ten or a hundred years

                                                                the blink

                                               the wait

 

                                                numb   a nail

                                                                 diligent as wind   

                                 scars tucked in your fists

                   you cross

                           the etched palm of the Pacific

 

 

           the ocean  a letter

                                written over shore   

                                             unread  shred by waves


  

2

 

 

                 your last Tet

                         walls fall like seasons' masks         

    shadows lean back and forth

                                           like paper           drums roll

     police sirens shrill      Buddhists head for pagodas

                                                                              the minute it strikes midnight

 

 

           Sai Gon pick-pockets  

                                 barefoot selling imitation cigarettes

                                                  dusty marketplaces   thick mamas

                                         & svelte virgins at money boxes      

        immortal motorcycles exaggerate the air

                                                                 of shrimp batter

                               

 

                                         the lines on your face

                         don't detail      

   

 

   

  

  

3

 

 

                                                           her legs forced open

                                        moving hands

                                                                                                  ugly mouths

 

   

  

     

4

 

 

    on the shore a walrus

                        head bitten off    barnacles   

                                                   on its fins   a thirsty Caliban

                                 what you've lived through  you are

 undercurrents ripe to capsize

                      everyone  the boat   the dying

                                brother       clothes burnt to flag help

            prisons forged your will

                   

 

                                    where we were

                                                      a terrain created

                      from the coast i see our birthplace at the horizon's

                                 sleeve   a conscious pinpoint

                                               

 

             you trekked the Pacific   Viet Nam's

coasts   Los Angeles     San Francisco    San Jose     Seattle   

                         cities rolled together  

                                                     chain-smoked

 

  

   

5

 

 

                              you drag

                                              your belongings along the coasts

                        your duffel bag   pair of jeans  

                              another shirt    rootless memory

 

 

           a snail sculpts

                            sand down the length of water

 

                                                                    waves come 

                                  

   

   

Copyright © by Mong-Lan.


 

"Trail" was originally published in jubilat.  Reprinted in Best American Poetry of 2002.

 

 Prelude & part 1 of 10.

 

 

 

Trail

 

 

prelude

 

 

                        this age our era i can correctly say this an era of exile   

this satiny desert

on this trail of a thousand years there is us amidst misfits & assiduous trees

 

we have walked 

over sand sick with evening of words spilling

 

                                    what is the remedy for momentum for mania a deciduous heart?

loitering now i speak of nothing no ideas just viet nam motherland inside us

            & between us the air  the arizona sun magnanimous accepting everything

 

an ear of deaths in a polaroid photo & the killing

this age of hyper awareness this time of blue moons

                                                of the year nineteen hundred ninety nine on the seventh day

 

 

the ocean the past we touch

   inside our skin a sterling sound

 

we who have walked alone will no longer

through woods red with evening of dreams spilling

growing old a california sequoia  green &

                                                                sage as the saguaro branching

 

 


 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 1

 

a crab crawls sideways into a polaroid photo tangled you loiter & now you speak of nothing no ideas pushed into hole the fabric mice-chewed

 

 

you have been going back & forth from the border of . . . what was it? 

when upon seeing a person with alzheimer's on tv when a flippant offer of someone buying you something when after a family dinner in which the main conversation was having desires versus shutting them off you wander into the streets eyes wet while you notice how roseate the sky is how demure the heat is not its usual how you should be enjoying such a night but nevertheless you go wherever your blind feet take you places well-acquainted see cars pass & wonder if the headlights expose & wonder if any will stop

 

Copyright © by Mong-Lan.

 


Background drawing of beach at Buchillon, Switzerland, by Mong-Lan. August 2000.

 

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Please respect the fact that all artwork and writing (except where indicated) and poetry on this website are copyrighted by Mong-Lan. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, without her written permission.