FUSION 10 Honors Aunts in Collaboration with Vietnam

Filed under: Blog |

Our tenth FUSION brings a stunning and intimate collaboration with Vietnam, exploring the familial ties and cultural resonance of Aunts—maternal and paternal, blood-related or not. Our Editor-in-Chief, Kwame Dawes, and our Vietnamese co-curator, talented poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai, have each written introductory essays to situate the included works within their verse traditions as well as a broader sense of cultural history, and to offer points of entry into the theme. “For thousands of years,” Que Mai writes, “ca dao, Vietnamese folk poetry, has been transformed into lullabies and sung by mothers, aunts, and sisters across Vietnam.” And of the theme, Kwame Dawes writes, “There is nothing profound here, frankly, except to say that the position of the aunt is deeply connected to our parents and the permission they give us to treat other adults as relevant to our lives, and is, in some way, responsible for who we are and how we live in the world.”

FUSION 10 represents our first full-blown venture into translation. The well-known and distinguished working poets from all over Vietnam featured here include Lu Thi Mai, Vo Que, Bui Hoang Tam, Nguyet Pham, Nguyen Thanh Nga, and Nguyen Duc Mau. Their works have been translated by translator Thuy Dinh and translator Thieu Khanh, working in collaboration with curators Dawes and Que Mai. Thuy Dinh, in her translator’s note, offers an explanation of the tonal distinctions present within the Vietnamese language. Calligrapher Chu Giang Phong Trinh brings each of the poems to life through the traditional art of Vietnamese calligraphy, and in his essay, describes the thrill of finding inspiration within a poem.

This translated work harmonizes with poems from our archives—dating as far back as 1954 and as recently as 2006—by well-loved Prairie Schooner contributors including Ted Kooser, Chris Forhan, Karen Swenson, R.T. Smith, J. Ely Shipley, and Helen Conkling. Local textile artist Phyllis Moore of Lincoln, NE, shares her series of great aunts, a paper-pieced series of abstract textiles in the shapes of her aunts. In her essay, she describes the startling realization of hearing herself referred to as a great aunt while at a family reunion, and the inspiration it brought to honor her own great aunts in this way.

Each FUSION combines poems our Prairie Schooner archives with work by a Nebraskan visual artists, featured alongside new writing from poets and work by an artist elsewhere in the world. Check out our FUSION archives, including collaborations with Hong Kong, Iran, Australia, Ghana, and others here.