Mong-Lan's poems beautifully reflect the displacement of her life and that of countless others with refugee experiences, constructing a new identity. Born in Viet Nam, along with her family, she evacuated from her beloved Sai Gon one day before its fall (or liberation). Having been educated in the United States, she returned to Viet Nam for the first time in 1995. She traveled from north to south, Ha Noi to Ha Tien. The journeys she depicts in poetry are long and winding, the words, terse and spare. Her poems often deal with the struggle of constructing an identity for oneself through language, using language to sift through and sculpt the layers of being and consciousness. She writes of the new Viet Nam, after it opened its doors to the world in the '90s: Ha Noi, the capital, and Sai Gon, or officially called Ho Chi Minh City. Whether writing of the war or of love, she sings directly to the heart. Her later extended experiences from living and traveling in numerous countries such as Argentina, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan, form the fabric from which many of her poems draw lyrical and artistic inspiration. Her books, Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art (and the bilingual Spanish / English edition, Tango, Tangueando: Poemas & Dibujos) reveal and illuminate her love of and passion for the Argentine tango. Her latest book, One Thousand Minds Brimming: poems & art, is a culmination of ten years of work, poetry & visual art that encompasses many of her travels and modes of existence in Asia and elsewhere, exploring also her personal ancestral history of war-time Viet Nam. She has finished a novel, with an excerpt currently in the North American Review.
Mong-Lan reading at the footsteps of Borobudur, Indonesia, at the Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale, 2007
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
. . . .
what is the remedy for momentum for
mania a deciduous heart?
loitering now i
speak of nothing no ideas just vietnam motherland inside us
& between us the air arizona sun magnanimous
From "Trail,"Why is the Edge Always Windy?, Tupelo Press, 2005.
BOOKS & CHAPBOOKS
New Book Released:
In Mong-Lan's new collection of poems, One Thousand Minds Brimming: poems & art, desire, love and mayhem are laid bare reality’s vicissitudes. Mong-Lan’s observations about personal history and past wars in Vietnam and Cambodia are poignant, indeed heartbreaking. These poems defy gravity and darkness, and emerge undiminished; more so, like diamonds. They illuminate the spirit, and dissect the human heart with grace, humor and clarity. Mong-Lan's artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States and in public exhibitions in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Seoul and Bali.
". . . A true original, unafraid of sentiment and at the height of her artistic prowess, Mong-Lan’s new book proves she remains one of our leading poets.”—Ravi Shankar, editor of Drunken Boat.
“Mong-Lan’s poems are fresh and real as a street, full of the seriousness of pleasure. She has the same sense of joy that Kenneth Koch loved in the courage to sing, happiness of St.-John Perse. . . . I praise these poems of praise which collapse distance and makes us feel, as O’Hara seemed to say, poetry is just a telephone call away.”—David Shapiro.
Pub date: September 2014
155 pages, 42 illustrations by the artist / poet
An alluring gem of a chapbook, Love Poem to Ginger & Other Poems: poetry & paintings follows Mong-Lan's much-lauded Love Poem to Tofu & Other Poems. An absolute treasure tapestry of poems and paintings, this pocket-sized edition calls joy by its true name and makes pleasure an art. "Mong-Lan's poems are fresh and real as a street, full of the seriousness of pleasure. She has the same sense of joy that Kenneth Koch loved in the courage to sing, happiness of St.-John Perse. The courage of Frank O'Hara who said that the smallest idea in one's own head was better than an old idea in some other brain. . . . The Chinese speak of the three perfections: poetry, painting and calligraphy. But Mong-Lan speaks of the great imperfections that are better for being so. Her poems are full of the bright primaries of her brushstrokes. . . . I praise these poems of praise which collapse distance and makes us feel, as O'Hara seemed to say, poetry is just a telephone call away."--David Shapiro
Mong-Lan once again brings us her tango art, full of sensuality, vigor and loveliness. Based in Buenos Aires, Mong-Lan shares with us her tango vision, a world of lines, flowing bodies in motion. A world of great heart, a blossoming love, and a ision all her own. Reminiscent of Picasso, Matisse, and the great artists of this century, Mong-Lan's pen and inks on paper are like performance pieces on the page, a moment captured. Floating, yet grounded in a ferocity of the mind along with Mong-Lan's impeccable technique of the hand and eye, the dancers tango in a centrifugal force of the heart.
A link is above to buy personally autographed copies.
Welcome to the tango, sensual, elusive and alluring. Mong-Lan’s award-winning poetry and elegant pen & ink drawings reflect and reveal her love of the Argentine tango.
"A mesmerizing accomplishment - four voices at their climax: the dance, if we can call it that, the physics of being, the history and manual of dark beauty and the voleos of line, ink, stanza and voice, layers of loss, desire and the body in ecstatic explosions. Three drops of Lorca, one tincture of María Luisa Bombal and a full vasija of Mong-Lan, a masterpiece, señores y señoras. A mathematics of fire."
-- Juan Felipe Herrera
Bienvenidos al tango, sensual, escurridizo, y seductor. En Tango, Tangueando: Poemas y Dibujos, Mong-Lan extiende una invitación a explorar el sensual mundo de tango argentino a través de la poesía y el arte. Su impactante poesía y sus elegantes dibujos a pincel y tinta de bailarines de tango argentino iluminan y revelan este mundo de una manera original que cautiva e intriga, y nos deja “sin aliento por sus apasionadas creaciones y por la intensidad de las imágenes.” Poeta galardonada, artista visual, bailarina y profesora de tango argentino, Mong-Lan combina sus talentos y conocimiento en un libro bello y luminoso. Entre sus galardones se cuentan el Premio Juniper, una beca Fulbright, una beca Stegner para la Universidad de Stanford, la inclusión en las antologías Best American Poetry y Pushcart Prize. Sus obras de arte han sido expuestas en el Capitolio en Washington D.C., en el museo de Bellas Artes de Dallas, en el museo de Bellas Artes de Houston, en galerías en los Estados Unidos y en exposiciones públicas en Buenos Aires, Bali, Bangkok, Seúl y Tokio.
Purchase the book now at your bookseller or at Amazon.com . A link is below to buy personally autographed copies.
In this highly unusual chapbook, memorable poetry and beautiful calligraphic art are married to exquisite tastes. One immediately identifies with Mong-Lan’s poems, while with her calligraphic art, one wishes to linger. And, the tastes remain, even after the pages are closed. Whether Mong-Lan is singing of her love to food or writing of Southeast Asia (particularly Vietnam and Thailand), her poetry is quick-witted, humorous, vibrant , intoxicating and worldly. One sips the words slowly, imbibes to smell, not only to taste; then to devour wholeheartedly of what the soul sings.
Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale at the foot of the spectacular temple, Borobudur, in Central Java, Indonesia, 2007. Mong-Lan reads from her poetry, 10 minutes.
Buenos Aires International Book Fair, (La Feria del libro de Buenos Aires), American Embassy Stand, May 2008. Mong-Lan reads from Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art (Tango, Tangueando: Poemas & Dibujos) 10 minutes.
Charlottesville, Virginia, 2006. Mong-Lan reads from Song of the Cicadas, the poem, "The Golden Gate Bridge," 5 minutes.