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Hoa Hguyen brings "disarming" poems to BIG NIGHT

Hoa Nguyen -- the featured guest at tonight's Just Buffalo Literary Center's "Big Night" event -- writes short, smart, highly specific poems that read like pointillist compositions of idiomatic speech. One reviewer has described them as "disarming little poems: on the one hand, at home with the wacky and large leaps; on the other hand, in search of mystery, gravity, and beauty all at once."  Another critic, perhaps more given to theory, described her most recent collection Hecate Lochia (Hot Whiskey Press, 2009) as "an extended metaphor about the perils of motherhood in the age of late capitalism and neoliberal philosophy."

The best way to get a sense of how language moves, bends, and bifurcates in her work, though, is to read or listen to it.  Take, for example, this telepathic flash from her poem "Line": 

        myself in the movie of my life

        playing

        myself alternatively yellow or brown

        born in a land where people are

        the shape of risk      my daily drink

Hoa Nguyen (pronounced "Hwa Win") was born in Vĩnh Long (near Saigon), Vietnam in 1967.  Her father was an American diplomat who worked for State Department, while her mother, raised by her Buddhist grandparents in the rural Mekong Delta, left home at age 15 to "perform as a stunt motorcyclist in an all-woman, traveling circus troupe."

She grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and studied poetry at New College of California in San Francisco. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, where she leads the Teachers & Writers Collaborative's Virtual Poetry Workshop, curates a monthly reading series in Austin, and co-edits Skanky Possum, the influential journal and book imprint, with her husband, the poet-critic Dale Smith. 

Her other books include Dark (1998), Parrot Drum (Leroy Press, 2000), Your Ancient See Through (Sub Press, 2002) and Red Juice (Effing Press, 2005), and last year's Kiss a Bomb Tattoo, also published by Effing Press.  Nguyen's work has also been featured in An Anthology of New (American) Poets (Talisman House, 1998), and in the 2002 Best American Poetry anthology guest edited by Robert Creeley.

In addition to Hoa Nguygen's poetry, tonight's BIG NIGHT program, which begins at 8 p.m. at the Western New York Book Arts Collaborative on 468 Washington St. (near Mohawk), marks the return (after a brief hiatus) of Buffalo Poets Theater, an ongoing collaborative project begun by David Hadbawnik and Michael Sikkema that taps into the long tradition of poets working with experimental drama, begun in New York in the 1950s by authors such as Diane di Prima, Amiri Baraka and Frank O’Hara.

 Inspired by Kevin Killian's continuation of this experimental genre in the San Francisco Poets Theater, Hadbawnik and Sikkema created a Buffalo-specific version of Poets Theater last year and organized a performance ensemble. Tonight they will perform legendary San Francisco Renaissance poet Jack Spicer's Troilus, his long unpublished (dating back to the early 1950s) mock epic rewrite of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.

Also performing will be musicians Gabriel Gutierrez and Patrick Cain, who when they perform together are known as Cat Flora. As at all previous BIG NIGHTS, a feast will be prepared by Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Geoffrey Gatza, also known to the post avant literary world as the publisher of Buffalo-based BlazeVox Books.

--R.D. Pohl

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