US publisher to release Que Mai's poetry collection

Update: August, 04/2014 - 14:37
The Secret of Hoa Sen, published in both English and Vietnamese, is expected to help people around the world know thoroughly about Viet Nam and its people.

NEW YORK (VNS) — 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.

Que Mai is among the most exciting writers to emerge in post-war Viet Nam. 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, Que 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 Viet Nam 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.'

"Que Mai takes us deep into the earth with 'earthworms who know how to sing the eternal song of emerald grass.' She brings forth the music in each ripening rice stalk in the lullaby of her grandma who died during the Great Famine. Through the sufferings of war, greed and the celebration of life, these poems originate in the depths of mud and rise like the lotus flower whose petals magically take flight, bringing us its truth and freedom."

Que Mai is the first Vietnamese author whose complete book has been published by BOA Editions. She is also the first South-East 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 series is named after the Lannan Foundation, which funds the production and marketing costs as well as gives generous author and translator honorariums. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Lannan Foundation is dedicated to promoting cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects which support exceptional contemporary artists and writers. The partnership between BOA Editions and Lannan assures that high-quality translations of contemporary international poetry continue to find publication in the United States. Among the very few authors from Asia who have been selected for the Lannan Translations Selection Series, is South Korea's Ko Un who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Nguyen Phan Que Mai. — Photo Vu Thi Van Anh

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 Nguyen Phan Que Mai and Smugglers, a collection of poems by Ales Debeljak, translated from Slovene by Brian Henry.

According to Peter Conners, publisher, BOA Editions, "I couldn't be happier about adding Que Mai to our list of authors! The fact that the author herself co-translated the book with American poet/translator Bruce Weigl assures me that we're bringing the best possible translation of Que Mai's work to our readership. I am always looking for translations by authors who haven't yet had a full-length collection published in the United States. I am particularly interested in languages and cultures that are under-represented in this country. However, as with all of our books, the first criterion is always the quality of the poetry. I selected The Secret of Hoa Sen because it fits all of the above criteria and, quite simply, I think that Que Mai is a wonderful poet whose voice should be heard and read by our BOA audience….

"BOA Editions is certainly interested in seeing more poetry translations by Vietnamese poets who deserve a worldwide audience. I'd also be interested in considering manuscripts from throughout South East Asia. For whatever reasons, we don't tend to get submissions from that part of the world, but perhaps Que Mai's wonderful new book will change that!"

Que Mai and translator Bruce 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, Bruce 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, Que 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; First Prize in the Poetry about Ha Noi competition from Viet Nam's Literature Newspaper and the Hanoi Radio & Television; the Capital's 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, Que Mai has been invited for a reading tour in the United States. In February 2015, Que Mai will travel to several American states where she will read poetry and attend workshops at universities and literary centres.

The Secret of Hoa Sen will be available across the world. Copies can also be purchased directly through BOA Editions' secure online bookstore at

BOA Editions, Ltd. is a premier independent publisher of contemporary poetry and literary fiction. Founded in 1976 by A Poulin, Jr to provide an avenue for both new and established poets to be published, BOA has released more than 300 titles, including more than two dozen books of poetry-in-translation. Many BOA titles and authors have been recognised with literary awards, including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. — VNS