I am grateful for A Mere Rica (Chax, 2017), the recent collection by Vietnamese-American poet Linh Dinh, who chooses to live street-level, writing among the working class people I once thought I wanted to transcend. The last part of the book is an interview in which Dinh says, “Instead of schmoozing and networking with other writers, I’ve been getting drunk with plumbers, roofers, cashiers, jailbirds, and cops.” He adds, “If given a chance to spend an afternoon with a National Book Award winner or manicurist, I’d choose the latter.” He sees himself outside of the Poet Class, and his poems present a nation that is not on the brink of apocalypse, but already in the middle of one. The work is bald and easy to understand; it wastes no time with ambiguity or wordplay in its politics and social criticism. Dinh even goes so far as to take down football, an absurd expression of American barbarism devoted purely to gaining territory. In this work I am finding a fresh sense of permission to go there in my own writing, to put aside fears of didacticism, to be sad and angry about everything, to engage a more intimate and direct poetics of protest and outrage. To stand closer to all that is busted and ugly. To be a poet and working class, not one or the other.
Monday, April 9, 2018
- Linh Dinh
- Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, and have returned to my native Saigon. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems soon to be released from Chax Press. 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). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.