“Down River” by Samantha Lê published in The Journal

A young girl watched her big sister from across the riverbank as she threw their pet dog into the water, where he was carried off and drowned.

His rag body swung
into the swells
of her rage.

The big sister denied this memory, but the young girl insisted on remembering.  And though time marches on, it cannot erase this betrayal that has wedged itself between them once upon a time when they were both still young.

Big sister and I stood
on opposite banks
The phantom stink of water
coated the inside of our mouths.
We tried to gag it out,
but it lingered.

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“Down River.”  The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 48. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology.  Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.

“Phôi Pha (Wither)” by Samantha Lê published in The Journal

“Phôi Pha (Wither)” is a poem about old age, about being the only one left to tend to the dead, about there being no one left to send you off when your journey begins again.

no one left to burn spirit money
and paper houses
incense dust grows into ant hills

The subject of the poem remembers her youth, when she once was the “village beauty …body pink and firm as pomelo flesh.”

[…] she recalls
girlhood dreams the way a fictional
woman remembers love faithful
to an altered truth

If all that she is are her memories, then how is her existence defined now that all the witnesses to her life are gone?

grayscale photography of brown and black bench

“Phôi Pha (Wither).”  The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 47. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology.  Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.

“Watching Dad’s Porn on the VCR” by Samantha Lê published in The Minnesota Review

In “Watching Dad’s Porn on the VCR,” a poem about girlhood, the speaker of the poem searches for her identity in the images reflected back at her from the television screen “…Mouth of a prophet, tongue of a poet….” Her sense of self is tangled up in what she believes to be the definition of a man—the one for whom the women on the screen carry out their performances.

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Watching Dad’s Porn on the VCR.” The Minnesota Review (Virginia Tech, Duke University Press), Durham, NC, Issue No. 90, Spring 2018, pp. 15. Publishing contemporary poetry and fiction as well as reviews, critical commentary, and interviews of leading intellectual figures, The Minnesota Review curates smart, accessible collections of progressive new work.

“Border Crossing” by Samantha Lê published in The Minnesota Review

In “Border Crossing,” the speaker of the poem laments about being labeled an “illegal.” She remembers a life, before the change in geography, where she was a complete person, “but between the leaving and entering they changed how they look at me—objects once labeled can’t be relabeled, you know.” Somehow in the border crossing, her existence was reduced to one word, a word that carries with it all the weight of past and future discriminations.

photo of woman walk through pathway

Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Border Crossing.” The Minnesota Review (Virginia Tech, Duke University Press), Durham, NC, Issue No. 90, Spring 2018, pp. 14. Publishing contemporary poetry and fiction as well as reviews, critical commentary, and interviews of leading intellectual figures, The Minnesota Review curates smart, accessible collections of progressive new work.

“That Other Guy” by Samantha Lê published in Outlook Springs

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Who hasn’t secretly wanted to be that other guy?

the one
made up of consonants
and super hero punches
the guy with a secret name
no one can pronounce […]

We live in an age of comparisons.  We write farfetched narratives for the lives of strangers, friends and acquaintances, then find ourselves, by comparison, to be as soft and unappetizing as a croissant in a microwave.  It is madness.

“That Other Guy” is published in Issue No. 4 of Outlook Springs, Spring 2018, pp. 71, a literary journal from another dimension devoted to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction tinged with the strange.

“Visions of the Aging Poet” by Samantha Lê published by The Lullwater Review

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In “Visions of the Aging Poet,” the young writer glimpses visions of her aging poet teacher outside the halls of academia where he’s god.  Under the light of an ordinary day, she realizes the evolution of their relationship, how she’s poised to take his place on the world’s stage, but he’s not ready to let go.  He struggles against history to remain relevant.

[…]
At the podium, you sprout beak without heart.
Smoky breaths; velvet tongue.
Face chapped
with unwritten lines. Desperate
for love, you chase away the audience […]

The complete version of this poem is published in Vol. XXVI of The Lullwater Review, Winter 2018 issue, pp. 23.  The Lullwater Review is Emory University’s nationally recognized student-run literary review founded in 1990.

 

“Tongue Tied” by Samantha Lê published by Tule Review

A short and punchy poem about the cannibalistic nature love.  In “Tongue Tied,” the speaker of the poem laments about being devoured by her lover, yet she accepts it and goes along with it, continuing to insist on “nothing” until she manages to forget what she tries to deny.

“Tongue Tied” is published in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Tule Review.  Tule Review is the publication of the Sacramento Poetry Center (Sacramento, CA). Publishes once a year, the journal showcases new writers and award winners from the region and across the nation.

“Fourteen” by Samantha Lê is published in Melbourne’s The Suburban Review #8

Suburban#8

I’m honored to announce the publication of my poem “Fourteen” in The Suburban Review #8, Summer 2017 issue.  Available now online.

About “Fourteen

The sonnet is one of my favorite forms—a compact love song that packs a punch.  In “Fourteen,” I used this traditional form to explore a contemporary subject.  This poem is about a fourteen year-old girl whom, motivated by boredom, decides to experiment sexually without grasping the magnitude of such acts or her own developing sexual powers.  [read poem, page 27]

About The Suburban Review

The Suburban Review is a literary collective based in Melbourne, Australia.  A quarterly digital journal of short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and art.  Digital issues are AU$7.00 each.

 

“My Father on That Last Day of Summer, 1983” & “Morning Market, Sa Đéc 1981” by Samantha Lê published in Perfume River Poetry Review

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I’m honored to announce the publication of two poems from my Vietnam series in the “Vietnam Forever,” 5th Anniversary double issue of Perfume River Poetry Review by Tourane Poetry Press in San Jose, California.

 

About “Morning Market, Sa Đéc 1981

For this poem, I highlighted the collection of scenes from the market place as representatives of a larger reality.  Post-war Vietnam, where the transfer of wealth from one privileged class to another had created incomprehensible poverty and deficit, was “the worst of times.”  People haggled over the price of one green mango and one liter of fish sauce.  A toy pot made of clay was considered a luxury item.  And when human and cultural survival is under such an attack, sometimes it’s necessary to pretend not to see the disturbing things right in front of you (just as the child in the poem pretended not to see the fly walked across the old woman’s eyes) in order for life to press onward.  By showing these scenes through a child’s lens, I remove politics from the narrative, making the political personal.  War is personal.  Hunger is personal.  [read poem, page 21]

About “My Father on That Last Day of Summer, 1983

This poem is as much a tribute to my wanderlust father as it is a tribute to the place that we both love.  Vũng Tàu on the South China Sea was once bright and full of colors, but now only lives as an ideal backdrop for daydreams.  Written as a blank verse, I wanted to use the structure of the traditional form to capture the rhythm of the sea, which was the constant heartbeat beneath the skin of all our narratives.  [read poem, page 23]

 

About “Vietnam Forever” from Vuong Vo, Editor of Perfume River Poetry Review

I have decided to do a double issue for our fifth anniversary.  One issue will explore Vietnamese culture, celebrate our heritage, and give voice to what it means to be Vietnamese.  The second issue will be a tribute to Vietnam War veterans and survivors, whose stories need to be told and need to be heard—now more than ever.  As there must be time for war and a time for peace, there too must an issue for war and one that allows poems to sing about Vietnam.  Print issues are $15 each.

“Conversations with the Diocese of the Desert” by Samantha Lê is published in 3Elements Literary Review

3elements-S17-coverI’m honored to announce the publication of my poem “Conversations with the Diocese of the Desert” in issue no. 15 of 3Elements Literary Review, Summer 2017.  This issue is available free online.

About “Conversations with the Diocese of the Desert”

For this issue, contributors were tasked to use the words “temple,” “yard sale,” and “visitation” in a poem.  In Biblical writings, a visitation is defined as the divine investigation or inspection of person’s character and deeds with a view to apportioning to them their due lot, whether of reward or of chastisement; divine dispensation of mercy or of punishment. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)  Inspired by this word and a strange dream about abandoned lawn chairs in the desert, I created a narrative about a woman who goes to the desert to seek answers.  On a lawn chair, facing the dawning of a new day and a person whom she believes to be holy, she asks all her relevant and irrelevant questions, but receives no holy answers in return.  Discovery, after all, is only achieved through repeated self-questioning.  [page 47]

About 3Elements Review

3Elements Literary Review is an independent literary journal, publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and photography. Please show your support by visiting the website.

“Summer Sale” by Samantha Lê published in Common Ground Review

I’m honored to announce the publication of my poem “Summer Sale” in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Common Ground Review.

About “Summer Sale”

In this poem, the place—a strange antique shop located in an aging downtown of a forgotten town—is the subject.  The poem points the reader’s attention to the blue-colored objects in the shop and around town—from cobalt plates to tungsten steps to cyan lights, everything blue is priced for a summer sale.  It’s as if the town is trying to rid itself of the “blues.”

To create a sense of nostalgia for a bygone time, I used an iambic pentameter with a traditional rhyme scheme (ababcc).  When writing in metrical verse, I usually employ internal rhymes, slant rhymes and enjambments in order to avoid the hard-hitting repetition of sounds that can come across as sing-song and/or passé, which tends to turn the contemporary reader off of traditional verse.  [page 50]

About Common Ground Review

Affiliated with Western New England University, Common Ground Review publishes well-crafted poems that surprise and illuminate, amuse and inform, and challenge.  Issues are $10 each.

“Cactus Dawn” by Samantha Lê published in Off the Coast

I’m honored that my poem “Cactus Dawn” is included in the Summer 2017 issue of Off the Coast.  This issue is available free online.

About “Cactus Dawn

This poem allows the reader a peak into the internal monologue of the poem’s speaker.  By structuring it as a stream consciousness poem, I’m appealing to the reader to take an active role in getting to know this speaker, to navigate between surreal images and memories, and then decide on what’s real and what’s imagined.  Finally, somewhere in that confusion, the speaker’s relationship with herself and with the man whom she woke to find gone is revealed.  [read & listen to poem]

About Off the Coast

Edited by AE Talbot, Off the Coast is a biannual online literary journal that aims to provide space for diverse and marginalized voices.