On the Subject of Lust

An excerpt from the Author Q & A session for The Suburban Review #8 on the subject of lust and the poem “Fourteen” by Samantha Lê.

By: Dinu Kumarasinghe, associate editor. 

lust

On the subject of lust and the poem “Fourteen” by Samantha Lê.

DK: How is lust dangerous? How does youth affect that danger?

SL: Whether it’s a lust for life, art, food, sex, or adventure, lust is one of the main ingredients of passion, which enhances its attractiveness. It makes the palms sweat and causes the heart to beat faster. It encourages risk-taking. I think in every life, there should be a little room carved out for lust. But, lust can become dangerous, especially when it’s given a place at the altar in one’s life, where it manipulates ethics and reason and negatively influences the decision-making process. When this happens, cravings become obsessions, acting as the erosive agent that destroys a person’s connection to the world. As lust spins out of control, the identity is absorbed, and the moral center is set askew. The by-product that this type of lust inevitably spits out is always chaos. No one can live a balanced or meaningful life that’s 100% motivated by lust.

Often, youth calls lust by the wrong name, confusing lust for love, intimacy, sexual awakening or even empowerment. But, without the necessary life experience to act as a guide and an unwavering understanding of the relationship been cause and effect, actions and consequences, it’s easy to lose oneself to such an intoxication. As the result, youth is often exposed to the dangerous nature of lust because youth innocently and willingly puts a mask on such danger and calls it friend. [Read more.]

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From:  “Q&A with Samantha Lê,” The Suburban Review, No. 8, Melbourne, Australia.  Dinu Kumarasinghe, asso. ed., 5 November, 2017.

Quote: Kurt Vonnegut

“Here is a lesson in creative writing.

First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I’m kidding.

For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I’m kidding.

We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I’m kidding.

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

~ from A Man Without a Country

“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

perfume-river-5-1-cover1perfume-river-5-2-cover

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.

Desert Places

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by Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less –
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

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Second Name

1.

When the revolution ended,
history was rewritten.
The victor penned Sài Gòn
her second name—
her boulevards relabeled,
buildings gutted, new
monuments erected,
and a yellow star dipped
in blood unfurled
above her rooftops—
but those who loved her,
will always love
her as Sài Gòn. To those
who conquered her,
she became the Other.

 

2.

When history was rewritten,
I had just learned to walk.
In Sa Đéc, they called me
bourgeois enemy. Nine years of silent
disobedience. Waiting.
I learned the cost of freedom.
At Phanat Nikhom they tagged
me refugee. In blind, immigration
lines across a foreign continent,
they stamped my chest alien.
Seven years with a new tongue
before America certified
me her citizen. I carried
on my person the baggage
of a second name
for my second self, finding
small remembrances in the kitchens
of old San José: salty clay pot
catfish, bitter melon soup,
and sweet jasmine rice.
A splash of nước mắm added
homesickness to every bite.

 

3.

When I returned to Sài Gòn,
they classified me Việt Kiều
that emotional limbo
between native and foreigner.
Names and labels inked
my passport pages. Not one of us,
they claimed. Aren’t I
Lê Mỹ Huyền Trân—
con rồng cháu tiên?
Four words that stretch
like a river back
to the beginning. Its source,
ancient cave trickles.
Its bed, stinky black mud
where lotus roots burrow.
Its mouth, the roar of typhoons.
My river dammed, rerouted
each time I was rewritten,
but I’m no Other.

~ by Samantha Lê

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First published in Spring Mother Tongue

Copyright © 2017 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.