An Asymptote review is calling the poems in Nguyen Phan Que Mai's The Secret of Hoa Sen “fine memorials” for the historical struggles faced by the Vietnamese people. "There is both the quality of the earth and the wind in her poetry, an embracing lushness." The poems in the new collection are translated from the Vietnamese by Que Mai and Bruce Weigl. "Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s poetry collection is firmly rooted in the Vietnamese tradition, though her poems—or, rather, full-blown songs—also travel to Bhutan, Bangladesh, and other locales. The Secret of Hoa Sen is a collection about the earth-born: family, feeding, sustenance, and how these are intimately connected to the earth. This is what makes the poems stand out from the recent trend in writing about the urban familial settings, but this is not to say that the poems are limited to pastoral settings. Nguyen’s co-translator Bruce Weigl rightly describes the collection in the introduction as 'a global poetry, necessary for our troubled times.'" According to the review, Que Mai's voice is "simple, but full of compassion ... history of the Vietnamese people is mapped via vegetation, food, artisans’ work songs, lullabies, and folk poetry, thus keeping the oral tradition alive in the printed form." Acknowledging the magnitude of Que Mai's project, the review notes the "historical rootedness" of the collection, and its "recurring attempts to use poetry as a means of coming to terms with the past and handling the tragedies of the present." Click here to read the full Asymptote review. The Secret of Hoa Sen is available now at the BOA Bookstore.
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