Artist’s Statement

for As Though We Are One

“I grew up in war-torn Vietnam, under conditions of extreme poverty and hardship. I was born after my father returned home from serving seven years in Communist concentration camps in Dong Nai Province, Vietnam, after which he continued to serve three more years under house arrest.

As the youngest child of this South Vietnamese Army officer and prisoner, I witnessed up-close the punishing vestiges of war that my father carried, which remained perfectly intact throughout the years thereafter, leaving deep impressions upon our family. This is the place I write from, to call out the memories I have stored in my body that have been so weighty and persistent, to capture that world in the most visceral ways possible, exorcising in words the distillation of my dreams and imagination via the rite of passage of time.

Each of my poems coalesced quickly. However, I have often re-written and painstakingly edited, spreading my work over the period of ten years. These are poems about violence, hunger, desperation, loss, bewilderment, the wish for non-division, and the havoc political structures impress upon ordinary human lives. They are songs that marry peaceful pastoral scenes with some of the most lightless moments.

One day I left my home and woke up in another county as an exile. Nevertheless, these poems caught up and squeezed themselves through the years, writing themselves out of me. Every step of the way, I felt life funneling me towards poetry and what I urgently needed to lay down onto the page. I am deeply humbled that my parents’ sufferings have allotted me the inheritances of a second language and country, which have opened the doors for these poems to tumble through.”