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Poems by Lam Thi My Da, one of Vietnam's most important poets, a woman who experienced the Vietnam-American War directly. Translated by Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh.
When Edward Hirsch reprinted Lam Thi My Da's "Garden Fragrance" and "Night Harvest" (from Six Vietnamese Poets) in his column in The Washington Post, he gave special praise to the simultaneous clarity and complexity of Da's poetry. Now, for the first time in English, readers can enjoy a full volume of her selected work.
Green Rice, like Lam Thi My Da's writing career itself, begins in what Americans call the Vietnam War. While her poetry reflects the cost of the war, her poems are grounded in her intimate involvement with the landscape, flora, and fauna of her country, and also explore love, motherhood, women's issues, and the sometimes-difficult movement into middle age.
Born in 1949 in the south central part of Viet Nam, Lam Thi My Da spent the war in Quang Binh province, near the scene of much heavy fighting. Author of five books of poetry in Vietnamese, she is widely recognized one of the Vietnam's major poets.
"A delightful aspect of My Da's poetry--indeed, perhaps the hallmark of Vietnamese writing--is the surprising way it summons human feeling from the ancient landscape, from river and field, from fruit and fragrant tree, culling a contemporary self from timeless images. In carrying this across into English, My Da could not have found better translators than Thuy Dinh and Martha Collins, a poet who has studied Vietnamese, carefully listening to its music."
"Behind the seemingly simple exterior is the delicate tension between Buddhist patience and contemporary anxiety, between quiet sadness and unabashed joy, between the agrarian past and the urban present, between ancient song and modern free-verse lyric, between family and history, between self and nation... The best poems in this collection sound remarkably fresh and nuanced and surprisingly transcendent."
"The poems...are both accessible and subtle, evoking a sense of timelessness and renewal that lingers more profoundly than nostalgia, grief, joy or hope."
"Working closely with each other, [Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh] make the translation sound as natural as if they were written directly in English. To some extent, one can think of these wonderful English versions as second originals."
"Both traditional Asian and familiar Western elements are contained in Lam Thi's poems showing how the ordinary is inflected—but not mutated, obscured, or erased—by events, no matter how tragic or repressive. The ordinary, not only ordinary acts, but also ordinary yearnings, shine out of this poetry on the Vietnam War, the secondary status of women in the society, and other historical and cultural subjects and themes of her country."
—Midwest Book Review