Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong and Viet Lê
Monday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 PM
SPC at 1719 25th Street
Host: Rebecca Morrison
Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong is a multi-media poet and software developer. She has lived in nine states and two continents. Writing is a way for her to traverse seen and unseen geographies. She has a B.A. with Honors in Comparative Literature (Japanese and English) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her book-length poetry manuscript, Ravel, has been listed as a finalist for the White Pine Press Poetry Award and the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project. Her poem “Cartographies” was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Ravel is to be published as a poetry collection in early 2015.
Encase a globe in a cylinder,
illuminate from within, watch
continents cast shadows
on a curved wall: intimate
where the wall is tangent,
the rest, variously distorted.
datum: a touch
on the back of my hand
Though the imperial scale of a map
offers direct proportion, the length
of this coastline will grow
if I measure every volute:
inbite, rock, grain of sand…
Tell me, roughly, how far apart we are.
We will find each other on faint trails.
White crowned sparrows
cry wit wit as I draw near.
I would have mistaken
their alarm for song
had I not eavesdropped earlier.
I search for a scale
to notate their whistle.
Feather boa kelp, bull whip kelp,
green pin cushion, surf grass, sea lettuce,
Turkish towel, sea palm, and scouring pad algae
know nothing of the names we give them.
Some drift. Others vie for rock
as nations dispute islands in open sea:
Senkaku/ Tiao Yu Tai
Nansha/ Spratlys / Cijin/ Truong Sa / Kalayaan
I watch a woman write calligraphy
on the floor of a Luoyang square:
strokes evaporate within steps.
What’s left is breath.
femur, tibia, fibula, anvil—
bones nominally distinct;
joints, fulcrums of logic.
Surgeons run scalpels
along specified striae:
Lovers do not delineate
the smooth gradient
from neck to shoulder,
heel to ankle, waist to thigh.
Flatten an orange peel with care:
insert slits at regular intervals;
carve an icosahedron, perhaps;
tear, unfold, compress.
Show the flattened peel to someone
who has never seen an orange.
What lies in the stolen dimension?
Earth throws its bulge
While words coalesce,
What is your name, again?
Don’t stop here—
this photo graph
by Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong
Viẹt Lê is an artist, writer and curator. He received his M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine, and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. He is an Assistant Professor at the California College of the Arts in the Visual Studies Program. He has been published in magazines: asia critique; Crab Orchard Review; Art Journal; and the anthologies: Writing from the Perfume River; Strange Cargo; The Spaces Between Us; among others. Lê has received fellowships from Fulbright-Hays (Việt Nam), William Joiner Center, Civitella Ranieri Foundation (Italy), Fine Arts Work Center (USA), Art Matters Foundation, and PEN Center USA. His poetry collection was a 2013 Crab Orchard Review First Book Award Semi-Finalist. Lê’s artwork has been exhibited internationally and his writing has been translated into Khmer, Italian, Vietnamese, German and Korean. vietle.net.
Ghosts are not what you imagine,
they don’t take forms, inhabit their dispossessed,
aren’t recognizable, nor loved.
Not the naked girl burning burning bones,
concave skin running running sweating Napalm glory
screaming in your memory
(Do I look like her? She’s still alive, you know);
not the grass and wire and skeletal piles,
Tuol Sleng, clumps of dirt, weeds, night forests, bright fires;
not the small teeth, high cheekbones
black gun blasting VC—
none of these things.
of trauma, the image’s aura: stereotypical, stereoscopic,
grainy black and white—atomic, indelible, spectral.
I have been looking for the uncanny
in daylight, afraid of the dark’s secrets (the night
mother was raped on the way to Thailand,
years before my birth; she never told me,
I always knew). Marrow guided, I have been searching
for glimpses, hunting for my parents’ ghosts
in imaginary countries.
Haunting is mute, barely
perceptible, your breath’s heave and sigh.
It comes as this: small coincidences, signs,
a candle flaring at noon, obscure headlines, blood
in water, slight chills.
by Việt Hô Lê