Celebrated Vietnamese poet Hoang Hung is the centerpiece of an ambitious local poetry reading reflecting on the war in Vietnam

echoes for hung
Poster đêm đọc Thơ của HH và các bạn ở Santa Cruz, Mỹ, 2012


Ellen Bass visited Vietnam for the first time last December because, well, she was invited. A family member had invited her to tag along, she had an open spot on the calendar, and away she went.

“Once we decided to go,” said the acclaimed Santa Cruz poet, “that’s when I decided to seek out poets and writers and it was very much the most interesting part of the trip for me.”

The result of that trip is a rather sizable local event, to take place March 21 at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. The event, called “Echoes of Vietnam: Poetry & Memoir,” will feature Bass as the host for a number of poets and writers on the subject of Vietnam and the aftermath of the U.S. war there. At the center of the event is well-known Vietnamese poet Hoang Hung, whose work has been translated into English in several literary magazines. Hung happened to be in the U.S. for a residency in Chicago and was visiting the Bay Area on his way back to Vietnam, so the date was made.

“I was very taken by Hung’s poetry,” Bass said. “He spent about three years imprisoned after the U.S. left Vietnam, during the war. And this is something I knew almost nothing about, that is, the experiences of those who worked for the South Vietnamese army or for the U.S. during the war.”

Bass added that several of Hung’s American translators will be on hand, including poets Paul Hoover and Nguyen Do, as well as Bass herself, who has taken up the task on translation.

Also part of the evening will be memoirist Andrew Pham, the celebrated author of “Catfish and Mandala: a Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam,” the story of a young man whose father was imprisoned by the Viet Cong and whose family came to the U.S. as “boat people.”

Also on board will Dick Guthrie, a writing student of Bass, who is himself a veteran of the Vietnam War and who has written a memoir of the war years called “Gone to Soldiers, Every One.” Mike Abkin will be on hand to present drawings done by Vietnamese children about the aftermath of the war, as well, part of a project called “Speak Peace.”

“The whole thing really mushroomed like crazy,” said Bass of the event. “Everybody I talked to had somebody else that they wanted to invite, involve or have read. I got a bee in my bonnet about this and I’ve really gotten a kind of contagious energy from it.”

The event is co-sponsored by the Poetry Library of San Francisco, Innovent Transmedia, the National Peace Academy, Poetry Santa Cruz and the Resource Center for Nonviolence.

{ WEDNESDAY 7 p.m. Resource Center for Nonviolence, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. $5-$10 suggested donation. $25-$40 reception and reading. 408-480-1828 }


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