Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees

980bc04e50f7eba0586b67f750fe2c01edited Laren McClung
foreword by Yusef Komunyakaa
W.W. Norton & Company, 2018

Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees answers questions that have remained unanswered for over fifty years: what is the difference between history and the past, how do people come to terms to what they have inherited, who is given a voice and who remains silent, and what resolutions result from examining the past. This anthology by descendants of Vietnam veterans and refugees―American, Vietnamese, Vietnamese Diaspora, Hmong, Australian, and others―confronts war and its aftermath. It is an affecting portrait of the effects of war and family―an intercultural, generational dialogue on silence, memory, landscape, imagination, Agent Orange, displacement, postwar trauma, and the severe realities that are carried home.

While Inheriting the War depicts the burdens of the war, and refuses to deny brutal realities, it presents literature that unifies. It crosses cultural and generational boundaries, and connects veterans, writers, and readers. (Adapted from publisher’s description and press release)

Laren McClung teaches at New York University, and is a poet and the author of Between Here and Monkey Mountain. Her father served one tour in Vietnam (1968-1969) deployed with the 173rd Airborne. Her poetry has appeared in several journals and reviews, and she has been the recipient of a Teachers & Writers Collaborative Van Lier Fellowship, an Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Workshop Teaching Fellowship, and has led workshops in poetry at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

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On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood

OnNotLosingMyFather'sAshesintheFloodby Richard Harrison
Wolsak & Wynn Publishers, 2016

In 2013, Richard Harrison feared that his father’s ashes were lost in the flood that had devastated Alberta.

Using elements of memoir, elegy, lyrical essay, and personal correspondence, as well as showing his appreciation for haiku and comic books, Harrison has written a book of mourning for his father. Despite dementia, Harrison’s father died without forgetting the poems that he had memorized as a student and taught his son. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

A Canadian writer and professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, Harrison is the author of seven books of poetry, including Big Breath of a Wish, a volume about his daughter’s acquisition of language, and Hero of the Play, the first collection of poetry launched at the Hockey Hall of Fame. His poetry has been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.

The Conference of the Birds

51fzz9mvysl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Translated by Sholeh Wolpé
W. W. Norton & Company, 2017

Considered by Rumi to be “the master” of Sufi mystic poetry, Attar is best known for his epic poem The Conference of the Birds, a magnificent allegorical tale about the soul’s search for meaning. The poem recounts the perilous journey of the world’s birds to the faraway peaks of Mount Qaf―a mythical mountain that wraps around the earth―in search of the mysterious Simurgh, their king. Attar’s beguiling anecdotes and humor intermingle the sublime with the mundane, the spiritual with the worldly, and the religious with the metaphysical. Reflecting the entire evolution of Sufi mystic tradition, Attar’s poem models the soul’s escape from the mind’s rational embrace. (Publisher’s Description)

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet and writer. She is the recipient of the PEN/Heim Grant, the Midwest Book Award, and the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize, among others.

Year of Reversible Loss

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by Norma Farber
El León Literary Arts, 2012

Year of Reversible Loss is an exquisite cornucopia of meditative insight and poetry, pondering the trajectory of grief and capturing its changing rhythms through gemlike poetry and sustained passages of remembrance and reflection. Norma Farber traces the turning of the seasons as a deeply felt metaphor for the journey of the grieving heart in this journal of the year following the death of her husband, Sidney Farber, dedicated pioneer in the field of pediatric oncology.

Where once a leaf clung,
the ashtree wears a scar,
a moon halted at half.

Her observations of the natural world as well as the hidden recesses of the heart are startling, fresh, and brilliant, at once keenly personal and sublimely transcendent.

Sign your name on the wind.
Then I’ll know which way
to follow you.

This is a book to be savored for its insight and surprising humor, and for its passionate, astounding beauty.

Reviewed by Lillian Howan, author of The Charm Buyers.

Coyote Traces: Aku Wuwu’s Poetic Sojourn in America

coyote-traces

Foreign Language Publications, The Ohio State University, 2016

Coyote Traces author Aku Wuwu, of the Yi ethnic minority in Southwest China, shares his real journey through both nations and the internconnection of cultures and languages.

In the words of author Aku Wuwu: “In these poems, I have tried to record the tangible and intangible heritages of Native Americans as I perceive them. In the process, I occassionally invoke my own Nuosu heritage. Imbibing the fresh air of other peoples’ cultures, I ponder over my personal spiritual life and the home of my soul. I wish to combine these shattered fragments into some serious ideas and thoughts. While writing these so-called cross-lingual and cross-cultural texts, I have attempted to explore the real nature of humanity, which has occassionally turned out to be a spiritual pilgramage back to my own native civilization.”

The collection of 80 poems, written in both Chinese and English translations, includes 9 full-color photo plates from the author’s journey. Paperback, 377 pages. (Publisher’s description)

Ruined City: A Novel (Chinese Literature Today Book Series)

41lj7pwnbhlby Jia Pingwa
University of Oklahoma Press, 2016

Originally published in 1993, Ruined City (Fei Du) was banned by China’s State Publishing Administration for its explicit sexual content. Since then, Jia Pingwa’s novel of contemporary China’s social and economic transformation has become a bestseller. The story of a famous contemporary writer’s sexual and legal tangles, the novel uses comedy and parody to comment on issues of intellectual seriousness, censorship, and artistic integrity in a changing Chinese society. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Jia Pingwa (1952- ) stands with Mo Yan and Yu Hua as one of the most prominent and prolific novelists in contemporary Chinese literature. His novels, short stories and essays have a large readership in mainland China, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The French translation of Ruined City won the French Prix Femina in 1997.

Steep Tea

by Jee Leong Koh
Carcanet Press, 2015

koh-jee-leong-steep-teaSteep Tea is Singapore-born Jee Leong Koh’s fifth collection and the first to be published in the UK. Koh’s poems express many of the harsh and enriching circumstances of a postcolonial queer writer, in a voice both colloquial and musical. Like the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, Eavan Boland and Lee Tzu Pheng, Koh’s writing is forged in the pleasures of reading, cultures and communities. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

“Here are short, deft narratives that map the mismatched patterns of male and female desire grounded in partial understandings of love. The author’s native Singapore sounds out sharply, often ironically, in counterpoint to the intimate domestic interiors that help to constitute what will surely be recognized as some of contemporary poetry’s classic love poems.” -David Kinloch

Jee Leong Koh was born and raised in Singapore and moved to New York in 2003. He has a BA in English from Oxford University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. He is the curator of the website Singapore Poetry and the cochair of the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York City. He lives in New York City.