i hope that if you did look up the vietnamese (hot vit lon) in the title, it did not turn your stomach – i never would have thought of eating such a thing, but then, who am i to speak, having been raised on horse meat, grandma’s wonderful sour and savory oxen tongue ragout, and black pudding. 🙂
truong tran’s collection placing the accents is an interesting read! the vietnamese dish makes an appearance in “recipe 5” which describes it straightforwardly as “baby ducks days from hatching” and counsels children to close their eyes while eating. clearly, this must be delicious, or people would not eat it.
“recipe 4” is another beautiful poem: instructions on how to properly eat an artichoke. i like tran’s simple, uncluttered language not just in both of these poems but throughout the collection.
the collection is split into five parts, and the lines get longer from beginning to end. the form also changes to prose poetry in the last two parts. tran shares family memories, formative moments, in minute details and at times funnily strange, seemingly trivial moments. my favorite poem might be “vinyl”, where
to gain attention the youngest boy farts on the vinyl cushion
the windows in back aren’t made to open.
the poems become less narrative, more dense later in the book:
herself she wears tangerine peel thick to the bones and allthe moons melt fingers toes between and through i whowith but one iris is this boy
(from the poem “lost and found”, p.55)
i really enjoy how truong tran’s intercultural identity speaks through his poetry in vietnamese and english habits, ideas, phrases, and food. i love details, quirky little things, and i like stories. this book tells many different stories, stories of his parents, aunts, brother, of food and faith and love.