“In the Presence of the Kitchen Gods” by Samantha Lê published in Copper Nickel

In this simple poem about limitations and boredom, we see a woman’s life reduced to the daily tasks of cleaning a house, but in the mundane minutes of that stalled life there’s still a glimmer of hope, for she dances when she sweeps.

She sweeps evening dust
off grout lines with the straw
broom that hangs like sadness
behind the old fridge.

[…]
The only time she looks
as if she were dancing
is when she stirs air into dirt.
[…]

Read complete poem at: “In the Presence of the Kitchen Gods.” Copper Nickel (University of Colorado Denver), Denver, CO, Issue No. 29, Fall 2019, pp. 130. Copper Nickel is a national literary journal was founded by poet Jake Adam York in 2002 and housed at the University of Colorado Denver. Work published in Copper Nickel has appeared in the Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, Best Small Fictions, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays anthology.

Photo by Steve Rybka on Unsplash

“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.

“The Way to Cái Răng Floating Market” by Samantha Lê published by Bayou Magazine

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The child rides on the backseat of the family’s bicycle and takes stock of Vietnam’s ravaged countryside after the revolution—its people and animals, its landscape and violent history.  “The Way to Cái Răng Floating Market” captures the complicated adult world through the eyes of a child—the humming poverty and hunger, the trembling of the land.  Geography is destiny, and this fact becomes the child’s identity.  She sees her future, and it is the product of a past that she did not help to create.

[…]
A stuck sensation—the way fish
bones dig at the throat—
the old woman sings water-buffalo-
herding songs and breaks
the topsoil with a hoe: a rusty tin turns
upside down, a clump
of clay drops to the ground. […]

“The Way to Cái Răng Floating Market” is published in Issue No. 68 of Bayou Magazine, Winter 2018, pp. 86-87. Founded in 2002, Bayou Magazine is a biannual, national literary magazine published by The University of New Orleans.  Writing that first appeared in this journal has been short-listed for the Pushcart Prize and named in the notable essays list in Best American Essays.

 

“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.

 

“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.

“Making Love on the Roof” by Samantha Lê is published in The Boiler Journal

I’m honored to announce the publication of my poem “Making Love on the Roof” Summer 2017 issue of The Boiler Journal.  This issue is available free online.

About “Making Love on the Roof

On a city rooftop, two people try to find momentary relief from loneliness by surrendering their bodies to each other—to the possibility of something different.  Away from the rooftop, the man writes poetry about a woman named Ruth, and the woman makes mock turtle stew; but on the roof they play the parts of strangers clutching to connect with someone in the world.  [read poem]

About The Boiler Journal

Began by a group of writers at Sarah Lawrence College, The Boiler Journal is an online quarterly that publishes fresh and lively works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from emerging and established authors.

“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.