Samantha Lê ~ Featured Poet in the Aurorean, Spring/Summer 2017 issue

I’m honored to be a Featured Poet of the Aurorean Spring/Summer 2017 issue, and that my poems “La Comédie,” “Tongue Tied,” and “Your Absence” were selected for publication.

[This issue of the Aurorean is now available for purchase.]

About “La Comédie”

A villanelle.  The refrains in this French form create a sing-song quality that contrasts with the bleakness of the poem’s subject matter: the search for relief from loneliness.  I made the allusion to Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaine to speak to the superficiality of  social ambitions in a world where other more urgent challenges exist.  [page 60]

About “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.  [page 61]

About “Your Absence”

A woman waits for her man to return from war.  His absence is an oppressive presence in her life.  Haunted by memories of him, she spends nights reassuring herself that he’s still alive by combing through fatality lists for his name.  There’s a silent sacrifice and courage in the act waiting that’s seldom addressed.  When it comes to understanding the intangible subject of war, a writer must find a way to make the political personal.  Only one story can be heard at a time in order for the collective sounds of all the hearts breaking to have an impact.  [page 62]

About the Aurorean

One of New England’s premier poetry journals, The Aurorean, an Encircle Publications, is a biannual poetry journal.  Focusing on poetry of New England and poetry of the seasons, The Aurorean has been published continually since 1995, featuring the work of over 1,300 poets worldwide.  Digital issues are $3 each.  Printed issues are $11 each.  [visit website]

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My Father’s Son

Your brown and raisin foot is watching me.
It mocks my innocence and naiveté;
it kicks and pokes and jabs and pinches me,
with every move it labors bitterly.
It speaks in a stranger’s tongue, so wise and old,
the tongue of someone who has tasted gold,
but swallowed dirt instead, and never told
of pain and misfortune life could hold.

My brown and raisin foot once smooth and pale,
now cracked and aged with crooked dirty nails—
it tells your tales of forgotten cities:
strange women, crowded streets and darkened alleys;
of women who put this very foot and nails
into their mouths and moaned with ecstasy.

~ by Samantha Lê

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First published in Corridors

Copyright © 2001 by ​Samantha Lê
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, without the prior written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please use the contact form.

“Second Name” by Samantha Lê published in the anthology Spring Mother Tongue, May 2017

Thank you Arlene Biala and the office of the Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County for putting together this inspiring project.

About “Second Name”

My journey started with the fall of Saigon when my family became refugees in a country that was once our home.  During the decade of waiting and failed attempts to leave, we wore many labels.  From the refugee camp in Bangkok to the immigration office in San Francisco, everywhere I landed, I was stamped with a new word for my identity.  And when I became an American citizen, like most immigrant children, I was given a second name—a new American name for my new American life.

I employed the poetic sequence for this narrative because it allows me to imply connections without making transitions.  The abrupt shifts in time and space show how memory invades the present without conforming to the order that we try to impose onto life.  And the form also speaks to the splintering aspect of an identity spread across continents and cultures.

About Spring Mother Tongue

In the spirit of the “My Name, My Identity” campaign, poets were invited to submit original works that honor their names.  Twenty-three poets were selected for this anthology by Arlene Biala, Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County.  Cover art by Trinidad Escobar and graphic design by Jerrick McCullough.  Books are $10 each.  [Available for purchase.]

From the Platform on First Street

a dispassionate rain sprinkles colors
onto glassy morning tracks
faded creatures in shapes of blue and sleeplessness—going

gone the warning whistles of the watchful conductor           gone
the smoke that caught the wind
and stained the air

~ by ​Samantha Lê

First published in the anthology Invention: Poems that Celebrate Who We Are and What We Do in Silicon Valley, a “Poetry on the Move” Contest, Spring 2012

Copyright © 2011 by ​Samantha Lê
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, without the prior written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please use the contact form.

“Last Bar in Okinawa” and “Home from College” by Samantha Lê published in Two Thirds North, 2017 issue

I’m happy to announce that my poems “Last Bar in Okinawa” and “Home from College” have been selected for publication in the 2017 issue of Two Thirds North.   To read the online version, please click here.

“Last Bar in Okinawa” and “Home from College” is also be included in the 2017 print issue of Two Thirds North,  available for purchase.

About “Last Bar in Okinawa

A man, with pockets stuffed with stones to insure that he’ll sink when he steps into the water, stops at bar for his last drink while outside the ocean waits for him.  This poem was inspired by a photo a friend had taken of a bar in Okinawa.  I was reading about suicides in Japan at the time, and the idea for the poem came together quite spontaneously… and then months of edits followed.

LastBarOkinwana

“Bar in Okinawa” photo by William Karstens

I originally structured this as a long narrative poem.  I built an entire life for the man to explain how he’d come to be in this bar; but through the revision process, I decided to discard the narrative and keep only the emotions.  The months of trying to whittle this poem down to the essential truth led me to conclude that it no longer mattered to the man how he had arrived at this moment in his life, it only mattered that he was there and how he felt.  [read poem, page 40]

About “Home from College

This poem is about twin brothers, home from college, finding their old bedroom transformed into a gift-wrapping room.  Perhaps it’s the newness of a familiar place, perhaps it’s because they’ve been apart and have missed the closeness they once shared, but events unfold with the older brother taking his twin’s virginity.  The younger twin feels that he’s “made” into a man by this act and surrenders to the pleasure.  [read poem, page 65]

About Two Thirds North

Two Thirds North is a high-quality, annual print magazine produced by the Master Class in Creative Writing and Editing at the Department of English, Stockholm University.  Issues are $10 each.  [visit website]

“Six Year Old Boy with Lost Tricycle Looking at Mural on Museum Wall” published by Quatrain.Fish

Thank you Quatrain.Fish for publishing “Six Year Old Boy with Lost Tricycle Looking at Mural on Museum Wall.”  To read the poem online, please click here.

About “Six Year Old Boy with Lost Tricycle Looking at Mural on Museum Wall”

For this poem, I wanted to capture the abstraction of the mural art in language form, and I was thrilled when the editor of Quatrain.Fish pointed out that I had succeeded at it in his acceptance letter.

This short poem with a long title was inspired by a workshop exercise given by Matthew Woodman at the 2016 Central Coast Writers Conference and the mural outside the Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California.  [read poem]

About Quatrain.Fish

Quatrain.Fish publishes small poems, poetry of four lines or less.  [visit website]

“Reeducation” by Samantha Lê published in Pamplemousse Magazine, Spring 2017 issue

I’m honored that my poem “Reeducation” has been selected for publication in the spring/summer 2017 issue of Pamplemousse.   To read the online version, please click here.

“Reeducation” will also be included in the spring/summer 2017 print issue of Pamplemousse, which will be available May 2017.

About “Reeducation

The speaker in the poem is a war veteran trying to reenter civilian life.  Having lost the language of the civilized world, he’s “wordless” and sees everyday objects through a distortion caused by prolonged exposure to violence.  He drifts from place to place, carrying the images and smells of war with him—violence has a way of burrowing in and laying eggs.  My father fought in the Vietnam War and spent a few years in a reeducation camp.  I never heard his stories, but his silence is my inspiration for this poem.  I hope you’ll enjoy it, and that it’ll spark a dialog on the subject of returning vets and their families.  [read poem]

About Pamplemousse 

Pamplemousse, published biannually, was founded in the fall of 2001 by the BFA program at Johnson State College.  The magazine publishes high quality, forward thinking, innovative, and well-crafted writing in a variety of genres and styles.  Issues are $7 each.  [visit website]