On my tombstone, I would like the following words: Vuong Vu was a publisher of poetry.
I’m not even joking. Since 2012, I have published books and a literary journal, Perfume River Poetry Review, through my label Tourane Poetry Press. It may sound glamorous, but the truth is that Tourane Poetry Press is a small, one-man, self-financed endeavor. I don’t make a dime or đồng, and I lose a wealth of sleep. Small press is a rough business to be in, but starting Tourane Poetry Press is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It is fueled by dreams and love of poetry, but mostly by a lot of caffeine. I am especially proud of Perfume River Poetry Review because through it I am able to showcase and share amazing poetry. Over the years, I have watched literary journals come and go, so I am proud that we are on the fifth issue of Perfume Literary Review. For our fifth anniversary issue, I want to do something special. I want to go back to Vietnam. I am looking for poems that celebrate Vietnam, its culture, customs, and people.
When I began Perfume River Poetry Review, I wanted it to reflect Vietnamese culture and sensibility. In fact, the name of the journal is the American name for Sông Hương, the river that flows through the imperial city of Huế. Even though it is Vietnamese in spirit, I wanted to be more inclusive with the poetry, so I included poetry from all people and cultures.
Even for this “all Vietnam, all the time” issue, I welcome submissions from poets from all backgrounds and walks of life. That said, I would really be happy to get poems from Vietnamese writers. It is always gratifying to receive poems from Vietnamese writers, and I am proud that I was able to publish a number of them. The Vietnamese voice and poetic sensibility resonate deeply with me; perhaps it is because that is what is in my heart. Here is a poem that I was privileged to publish in my inaugural issue:
SONG OF ORIGIN
By Quang Vo
"Mơ khách đường xa, khách đường xa,
Áo em trắng quá nhận không ra… "
Hàn Mặc Tử, "Đây Thôn Vĩ Dạ"
I am of you,
sister of the Southern plains!
Of monsoon rains
on the highland plateau of Đà Lạt
that bathe polluting smokestacks
And faceless miners from
holy fields with conical hats
One day when I return
will you wait for me, dear sister
of the southern plains?
You, your dress so white
mid straw houses, lanterns,
and banned firecrackers.
Drifting from the South
bright with chrysanthemums
singing borrowed love ballads,
to the perfumed citadel
or bathing in a village pond.
Will I harvest golden crops in rice patties
and celebrate in village rituals?
Offer tributes to distant blood-lines
embedded into enchanted tales
or gather everlasting on a hill,
tasting the country herbs and mints.
Oh, my sister of the southern plains!
I will clothe my transplanted flesh
in the green of jungles
and mountain tribes
of the delta and river ways:
banana leaves enveloped this far off son.
The poet, Quang Vo, was in high school when he wrote this poem. That fact makes it especially impressive because he was able to command a strong poetic voice and have such a clear vision at a young age. I am honored to have published it. This is the kind of poetry I am seeking for my Vietnam-themed issue of Perfume River Poetry Review.
If you are interested in contributing your poetry or if you would like more information and details about this issue, please visit my website Tourane Poetry Press. I plan to entitle this issue "Việt Nam muôn đời"--Vietnam forever-- to echo the last line of Pham Duy’s famous song, the national anthem of a fallen country, to echo the language that we young Vietnamese-Americans hardly speak, but we still carry in our hearts.
About the Poet:
Quang Vo was born in Saigon, Vietnam in October, 1994. He has been published in the LPS National Poetry Quarterly, Perfume River Poetry Review, Polaris, Catfish Creek, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, and was awarded a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in 2013. Vo is currently enrolled at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where he is poetry editor of Laurels Magazine.
Republished with permission from Perfume River Poetry Review's inaugural issue: Where We Begin (2013 Tourane Poetry Press).
Writer and dreamer, Vuong is founder of Tourane Poetry Press and editor of Perfume River Poetry Review. His work has been published in prominent literary journals, and he is a frequent reader at poetry events in the South Bay. His work is an examination of the Vietnamese-American experience, what it means to be Vietnamese so far away from quê hương. He believes that every Vietnamese is a poet at heart.