behind the image, the imagination









ML piano


ML Tango


[One Thousand Minds Brimming: poems & art] Song of the Cicadas ] Why is the Edge Always Windy? ] Tango, Tangoing: Poetry & Art ] Publications ] Vietnamese Translations ] Japanese Translations ] [Prose]


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 in Borobudur

Mong-Lan reading at the footsteps of Borobudur, Indonesia, at the Utan Kayu International Literary
Biennale, 2007



Mong-Lan reading in NYC


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 accepting everything


From "Trail,"Why is the Edge Always Windy?, Tupelo Press, 2005.




Buy Autographed copies of Mong-Lan's Books / Chapbooks
One Thousand Minds Brimming

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.

ISBN-10: 0982822723
ISBN-13: 978-0-9828227-2-2
Pub date: September 2014
155 pages, 42 illustrations by the artist / poet
Valiant Press

Recordings of poems with Mong-Lan's piano improvisations:

"A Bamboo Knife" with piano improv in C minor.

Link above to buy personally autographed copies . . .

Or buy from Barnes & Nobles or

Mong-Lan's "Love Poem to Ginger"


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

Valiant Press (March 31, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982822715
ISBN-13: 978-0982822715

A link is above to buy personally autographed copies.

Buy at Barnes & Noble or!


Force of the Heart by Mong-Lan


Force of the Heart: Tango, Art, contains drawings, paintings and a poem, all based on the passionate Argentine tango.

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.

Or buy it at Barnes & Noble or now!

Valiant Press (December 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982822707
ISBN-13: 978-0982822708



"Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art" by Mong-Lan


Tango, Tangueando por Mong-Lan

Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art
Poetry and pen & ink drawings of tango dancers and by Mong-Lan
Valiant Press, Spring 2008
Available in major bookstores and at
ISBN: 978-0-6151-8800-3

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

Recordings of poems, bilingual English-Spanish, Mong-Lan reads with bandoneón music.


Edición bilingüe español-inglés--- Bilingual Spanish-English edition
Tango, Tangueando: Poemas & Dibujos (Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art)

ISBN: 978-0-578-03361-7
200 páginas
Valiant Press, Septiembre 2009

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. 

Watch: VIDEO of Mong-Lan reading in English and Spanish


"Love Poems to Tofu & Other Poems" by Mong-Lan

Love Poem to Tofu & Other Poems
Chapbook of poetry & calligraphic art by Mong-Lan
Valiant Press, September, 2007.
ISBN: 978-0-6151-4656-0

Purchase the book now at your bookseller or at . 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.


Why is the Edge Always Windy?

Tupelo Press, 2005
ISBN:  1932195289


Poetry, sketches, calligraphy, cover painting, and photo in book by Mong-Lan

A link is below to buy personally autographed copies.

Or purchase the book now at your bookseller,, or Tupelo Press.


Book Jacket: "Song of the Cicadas" by Mong-Lan

Song of the Cicadas

  • Winner of the 2000 Juniper Prize

  • Winner of the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Awards for Poetry.

  • Finalist for the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award

Published by the University of Massachusetts Press, May 2001. 
ISBN: 1558493077

Cover photo, cover design, & sketches inside book by Mong-Lan.

Purchase the book at your bookseller, or UMASS Press.

A link is below to buy personally autographed copies.


Buy Autographed copies of Mong-Lan's Books / Chapbooks


Fiction & Prose by Mong-Lan




Links to other poems / videos on the web by Mong-Lan


"Love Poem to Soto," 2010, Cerise Press,


"Sentient Figure" Drunken Boat, 2009,


"Bangkok [neon lights]" selected by Judith Hall for the Best American Poetry website, 2008.


"Love Poem to Thick Rice Noodles"; "Love Poem to Banh Cuon,"; "Love Poem to Bun Rieu"; "Love Poem to Spinach," (originally published in The Colorado Review). English and Vietnamese,, 2006.


From "Argentine Tango: Observations While Dancing (Part 4)," Coconut Five, 2006.


"A Bamboo Knife," PRIVATE International, Italy.


"Keel of Earth's Axis," from Why is the Edge Always Windy? featured on Poetry Daily


From Jacket 13, a co-production with New American Writing, "Three-Auricled Heart"


From Jacket 19 — October 2002, in collaboration with Verse Magazine:  "Coyote"


From Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, Vol 11.2, 1999

From Poemcafe--An international network of poets based in Seoul, Korea


From  Mong-Lan, The Interview Hour and Two Poems, September 2001




VIDEOS / Voice

  • Mong-Lan reads at Stanford University, California, April 2012.
  • Mong-Lan reads at Fundación Ernesto Sábato, Buenos Aires, Sept 2012.






  • San Francisco International Poetry Festival: Mong-Lan reads from Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art, 2008

  • 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.

Video of Mong-Lan on reading her poetry in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 2006




  Copyright © 2001-2016  by Mong-Lan. All rights reserved.  Website created by Mong-Lan. 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.