Upcoming Event

Nam Le at Harvard Book Store

presenting

36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem

in conversation with WYATT MASON

Date

Mar
11
Monday
March 11, 2024
7:00 PM ET

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes NAM LE—award-winning author of The Boat—for a discussion of his debut book of poetry 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem. He will be joined in conversation by WYATT MASON—award-winning contributing writer at the The New York Times Magazine and translator of the complete works of Arthur Rimbaud.

About 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem

In his first international release since the award-winning, best-selling The Boat, Nam Le delivers a shot across the bow with a book-length poem that honors every convention of diasporic literature—in a virtuosic array of forms and registers—before shattering the form itself.

In line with the works of Claudia Rankine, Cathy Park Hong, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, this book is an urgent, unsettling reckoning with identity—and the violence of identity. For Le, a Vietnamese refugee in the West, this means the assumed violence of racism, oppression, and historical trauma.

But it also means the violence of that assumption. Of being always assumed to be outside one’s home, country, culture, or language. And the complex violence—for the diasporic writer who wants to address any of this—of language itself.

Making use of multiple tones, moods, masks, and camouflages, Le’s poetic debut moves with unpredictable and destabilizing energy between the personal and the political. As self-indicting as it is scathing, hilarious as it is desperately moving, this is a singular, breakthrough book.

Praise for 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem

"Each poem in 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem stings as if Nam Le burned syllables onto the page with a pyrographic pen. These poems seethe and sing; they restlessly shapeshift as Nam Le tries to find a mode of speech or form that could capture the violent history of war and the experience of deracination. But the English language stops short and he captures that gap—and the unspeakable realms of racialized consciousness—with virtuousic and ineffable beauty." —Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings

"With a cool outsider’s eye, Nam Le takes the English language to pieces and reassembles it with a virtuoso ease not seen since Finnegans Wake. There is wit aplenty, of a dancing, ironic kind, but the fury and the bitterness that underlie 36 Ways come without disguise, as do its moments of aching love and loss. Nam Le is a poet working at the height of his powers. Each of the poems comes with its own explosive charge; taken together, they are capable of shaking Western self-regard to its foundations." —J.M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate 2003

"Exquisitely crafted fire bombs of incandescent rage. Moving and powerful." —Nick Cave

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Nam Le
Nam Le

Nam Le

Nam Le's poetry has been published in Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Paris Review, Bomb, Conjunctions, Boston Review, Lana Turner and The Monthly. He has received major awards in America, Europe and Australia, including the PEN/Malamud Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the Melbourne Prize for Literature. His short story collection The Boat has been republished as a modern classic and is widely translated, anthologized and taught. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Photo Credit: Nam Le

Wyatt Mason
Wyatt Mason

Wyatt Mason

Wyatt Mason is a journalist, essayist, critic and translator. His work has been published in Harper’s, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, GQ, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine, where he is a contributing writer. His journalism has won the National Book Critics Circle Nona Balakian Prize and a National Magazine Award. His translations of the complete works of Arthur Rimbaud are published by the Modern Library in three volumes. He teaches for the Bard Prison Initiative and is a writer in residence at Bard College, where he has taught since 2010.  

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