Đinh Linh (born in Vietnam, 1963, Vietnamese – American poet) in my opinion, presents with us a writing that both troubles his readers and provokes their poetic feeling and imagination at the same time. Dinh ‘s poetry is a kind of ludic poetry that knows how to play even with the biggest pressure on human thinking: words. Like an innocent child discovering the “nakedness” of human existence — this is the feeling I get when reading the poetry of Linh Dinh. To be honest, I have more pleasures in reading Dinh’s poem in English than in Vietnamese, even in his own self-translation. For a person who has never come into conflict with life outside of Vietnam, to translate the poems of Linh Dinh is definitely not easy for me, in particular the humorous taste of his poetry.
These following poems come from the collection All Around What Empties Out, Dinh Linh, TinFish Press 2003.
-- Hải Ngọc --
In some languages, the word “blue” does not exist. In others, the word “green”. In my native language, the word “color” does not exist.
A man was given everything in life but the color blue. All would have gone well had he not been told of his deprivation. Thereafter, he vowed to destroy everything in his path: home, country, confidantes, God, all the other colors…
Because I cannot pronounce the word “blue”, whenever my conversation calls for “blue”, I always say “red” instead.
Floods in Quang Ngai
Yes, it floods each year here, and each year we lose all our livestock, all our possessions, and yet we don’t move to another province. We just don’t move.
And each year, the flood becomes more severe, there seems to be more water in the world. There is more water in the world.
What’s worse, the water does not recede completely any more after a flood, but remains and ankle-deep in our houses. As a solution, we raise the floor.
And yet the water keeps rising, and each year we must raise the floor a little higher, a little closer to the ceiling.
At the Coffin Plantation
We were once a very tall race, our bodies exceeded the length of our coffins.
It takes forever to grow one of these fine coffins. So much water, sun, and manure, for each coffin to reach maturity.
Even the smallest coffins have their buyers. The oddest-shaped coffins also have their buyers.
This coffin fits two: a married couple, preferably, one on top of another. This coffin fits three.
Although hardly rare, pink coffins are still very valuable. Poachers are always yanking them from the ground in the middle of the night.
The mind is a hotel with a thousand rooms. When I tilt my head a certain way, I think about certain things. When I tilt my head another way, I think about other things. If I sleep on the right side of my face, for example, I’d dream of a pale rose, the future, or a continental dinner in Passaic, New Jersey. When I sleep on the left side of my face, I’d dream that a hand is squeezing my heart, that I’m in prison, or that I’m watching hockey at an airport bar, about to miss a flight.