Do I Plunge

Literary Hub Poem of the Week

September 9, 2015  By Hoa Nguyen

Hoa Nguyen’s poems often come from a place where animate dreams distill into the discrete space of objects. Like a tarot deck filled with strange and familiar symbols, we’re immediately immersed in her sharp lines and precise images but the poet refuses to do the work for us (rightfully) of orienting ourselves as readers. Her new poem Do I Plunge is no exception. So much has been said and unsaid about surrealist impulses in art. Yet what I find so distinct and alluring in Nguyen’s lyrics are their sense of consequences, sometimes pleasant, sometimes menacing. As with her title, which may sound casual and whimsical on the one hand, or decidedly despairing and grave on the other. The lack of a question mark almost embodies the relationship of all titles to poems: just as we furtively feel ready to secure meaning, we’re rushed forward down over the cliff of broken lines and contoured space. The suggestiveness of poetry is undoubtedly one of its enduring strengths. But Nguyen’s dreamscapes have hard edges that control “where not / to enter.” So we must be careful, a seeming image of Pound locked in his steel-reinforced outdoor cage in Pisa quickly tumbles into “Aphrodite as a splay of hope,” just as about the Horse year, not looking such auguries in the mouth, the speaker wonders are we facing the ass or its tail. Humor, pain, inexorable momentum always seem poised to balance this poet’s elusive imagination. 

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor




Hunched over to walk
drumming and where not
to enter the glass

Imagine Ezra without books
in the open air “tiger cage”
rained-on               old
Aphrodite as a splay of hope

It’s the last day of the Horse year
Does this mean the ass-end
or a wisp of the tail?

My job is to put red-hot candies
into a pale green bowl

It’s true that I saw you
You were slashed with swords


Featured image is a detail from Neo Rauche.

Hoa Nguyen
Hoa Nguyen
Hoa Nguyen is the author of four full-length collections of poetry including As Long As Trees Last, (Wave, 2012) and Red Juice, Poems 1998–2008 (Wave, 2014). She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she teaches poetics privately and at Ryerson University's Chang School.

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