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Poet builds bridges between two cultures

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The New York-based publishing firm BOA Editions is set to release a Vietnamese-English collection of poems, The Secret of Hoa Sen.

A press release by the firm said that the collection of 52 poems by Nguyen Phan Que Mai, which has been translated by the author and Bruce Weigl, would be released as part of its Lannan Translations Selection Series in October 2014.

Mai is among the most exciting writers to emerge in post-war Vietnam. These insightful poems, published in both English and Vietnamese, build new bridges between two cultures bound together by war and destruction. The Secret of Hoa Sen, Mai's first full-length US publication, shines with craft, art and deeply felt humanity.

According to Teresa Mei Chuc, author of Red Thread: Poems, "Nguyen Phan Que Mai's The Secret of Hoa Sen, takes us along the streets of Vietnam where we meet women bearing ‘stars in the shape of carrying poles' and women who are the collectors of garbage who ‘mend their lives whole from debris.' Mai is the first Vietnamese author whose complete book has been published by BOA Editions. She is also the first Southeast Asian poet to be published under the prestigious Lannan Translations Selection Series.

Established in 2002, the Lannan Translations Selection Series publishes two best books of contemporary international poetry in translation each year. The partnership between BOA Editions and Lannan assures that high-quality translations of contemporary international poetry continue to find publication in the US.

In 2013, BOA Editions received nearly 100 fully translated poetry manuscripts from around the world for the Lannan Translations Selection Series. The two collections that were selected were The Secret of Hoa Sen by Mai and Smugglers, a collection of poems by Ales Debeljak, translated from Slovene by Brian Henry.

Mai and translator Weigl have spent the past 20 years translating contemporary Vietnamese poetry. Weigl is the author of 13 poetry collections, with the most recent, Abundance of Nothing, being shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2013.

As per the book's introduction, Weigl wrote: "Nguyen Phan Que Mai's poetry instructs us on how to live more fully in the world, and reaffirms the power of clear-headed and direct poetry to transform even our darkest hours into deeply abiding lessons on the complexities of history, time and love."

Born in a small North Vietnamese village in 1973, Mai has authored three poetry collections and translated six. Her literary awards include the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hanoi Writers Association; and the Literature and Arts Award from the Hanoi Union of Literature and Arts Associations, among others. She is the Honorary Fellow in Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University.

On the occasion of the book's publication, Mai has been invited for a reading tour in the US. In February 2015, Mai will travel to several American states where she will read poetry and attend workshops at universities and literary centres.-VNA
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