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Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker

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Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker by Phan Nhien Hao


Synopsis | Selected Poems | Reviews
Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker
Phan Nhien Hao


$16.95 Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-932195-31-6
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Synopsis

The work of exile poet Phan Nhien Hao, although he is not permitted to publish in his native Vietnam, is exceptionally well known there. Swaying between poems of the immigrant experience and poems that recollect his homeland's trauma after the war, his strong, sometimes surreal voice is always intoxicating.

This is a dual language edition (Vietnamese and English).

Selected Poems

Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker Night negotiation a plastic spoon on a table littered with fish bones all the illusions have been picked clean Charlie Parker, a piece of bread not yet moldy a black ocean and black notes a few million years, a few small changes at the bend in the road on the horizon grows a strong type of tree the black cat is in labor gives birth to a few blue eggs. The Sea and Vegetables I keep the remembrances returning each night here’s something overly sharp piercing the top of the head to die many times in dreams I sit up evening is already out there water spinach drifts all over the ocean common truths erode the rocks year round and I’m only wearing one shoe to step on the scattered clam shells the other foot hurting my left eye sinks deep beneath the white foam my right eye looks up at the sky to see the seagulls dance in the deep blue sky. To X. and I If I am an immoral sadness then you are the old direction maintaining the night flights I walk on bridges connection two alien shores my hand holding an enduring curse then you are a small dictionary defining secret words for me the brief long-distance phone conversation interrupted by a civil war and coup d’états in the middle of the square there’s a broken bench where I sit holding flowers then you are a tourist photographing me among courteous people arriving from afar.

Reviews

Vince Gotera doesn't so much review as celebrate Phan Nhien's Hao's work in of the North American Review
An overwhelming sense of liminality pervades these poems: "I walk on bridges connecting two alien shores," says the poet; "my country; which country, I asked." Surrealism also suffuses Phan's work, as does jazz: "all I love is jazz jazz jazz and lots of gasoline in my bloody abyss." Phan draws from Vietnamese, French, and American literatures, mixing traditional and modern Vietnamese cultures with French literature, "imbued with philosophy, with lots of experimentations": and American literature "suitable to a consumer society and a pragmatic culture, with that American emphasis on results" (as he told translator Linh Dinh in an interview included at the end of the book). Phan adds, "an investigation into American literature would greatly benefit Vietnamese writers. It would [. . .] improve their sense of humor." All of these qualities are combined in Phan's work, as glimpsed in the book's title Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker—especially humor. Phan's poetry is a distinctly American immigrant text, melancholy and celebratory at the same time. Read this book.

Ron Silliman blogs on Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker.