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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My 9/24/14 reading at Coe College in Cedar Rapids

September 28, 2014 by Coe Review:

“Let’s keep this as informal as possible.”

An exuberant performer reads to a quiet lecture hall at Coe College. He shuffles constantly, pauses to emphasize his statements, lifting an expressive face for eye contact. This turns a four-line poem into an engaging spectacle. He brings the expansive world view of a restless explorer and observer to the modest room in a very interpersonal manner.

Linh Dinh, a Vietnamese writer and artist, brought for us select pieces from his collection and a slice of his curiosity.

When he began, he explained how he travels to heal from the omnipresent plague of screens and acquire more knowledge of the precious faces so often ignored. He claims you cannot know about the everyday person when your eyes are drawn somewhere “more glamorous” by the media. Thus, he depicted the importance of knowing oneself, body and mind, learning through personal experience. This philosophy touches all of his work.

He starts with shorter poems resulting from the “quick publishing” ideas online, to write fast and post even faster. Analysis of the body, metaphorically and in accurate description, holds its part in the majority of his selected poems (and quite a few edible metaphors, such as a woman comparing her body simultaneously to an egg, squid, and ice cream). The topics presented involve everything from untouched spots upon the body and their philosophical consideration, to a piece built by precise literal imagery. Humor meshed with provocative statements, such as an unpublished poem “United States of Underwear” which declares the problem of media dependency for our society to gather opinions and news. He also shared a short story which told of a man in jail becoming obsessed with a dictionary in a language he couldn’t read. It tells of two things that intrigue Dinh: language, and the human experience.

Dinh’s world view emerges more during the second Q and A portion of the reading. It was a display of optimism for individuals, an appreciation for how they have come to where they are now. As he states, everyone has a story, and it’s amazing that everyone has mustered the energy simply to go through each day to end up wherever they are. He wants to know that journey, just as he has walked and commuted so far to hear them. His experiences could convince an audience to purge themselves of their fear of the unfamiliar and welcome in the world. This seems to be of his goals. He titles himself a writer of the underprivileged, and he succeeds in speaking like he has acquired a fulfilling lifetime of tales.

“Everyone is creative…no one is boring.”

-Jenna Kelly, Poetry Editor


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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.