Introduction to a reading by poet Hoa Nguyen

Lauren Rile Smith
September 19, 2002

I first met Hoa when I was eleven years old, and I thought I knew how to write poetry. I was lucky enough to be a student in the Virtual Poetry Workshop for highschoolers she conducted through Teachers & Writers Collaborative Online. Of course, back then, I was jacking up my age on the internet. Do you think she noticed that I was thirteen years old for a year and a half?

Years later, I still know Hoa as an inventive and thought-provoking poet, who can compress a world of images into ten lines. I've taken seven workshops with Hoa. Her poetry exercises and prompts come at you from surprising angles, and she's not afraid to use procedures, or to poke a writer of long lyrical narratives into trying new, more experimental ways of writing. Working with Hoa I've learned invaluable techniques for abstract or surrealist poetry, as well as general lessons about punctuation and linebreaks.

Imagine how excited I was to learn that Tom Devaney, here at the Writers House, not only knew of Hoa and her husband Dale's work, but was beginning plans to bring them to Philadelphia.

Hoa lives in Austin, Texas. She and her husband Dale Smith, also reading tonight, co-edit the poetry journal Skanky Possum, with its distinctive individually-hand-painted covers and irreverent attitude towards preconceived notions of poetics. They have a baby son, Keaton Thomas, who as far as I am aware does not have any responsibility in editing the journal. Milk Magazine said, "An impressive journal [...], Skanky Possum never fails to round up the best in up-and-coming poetry."

Hoa appeared in An Anthology of New (American) Poets (1998), and her chapbooks include Dark (1999) and Parrot Drum (2000). Small Press Traffic has said of her writing, "Her poetry is small in its physical space but looms large in the psychic state, condensing [...] a variety of domestic and political details into a web so fine you could pass it through a wedding ring." This year Subpress published Your Ancient See Through, a full-length collection of her poems with drawings by Philip Trussell.

Her poems have been published in journals including 5_Trope, readme, Duration, and Fence Magazine. Hoa taught a Lost Language Workshop at the Naropa University's 2002 Summer Writing Program, and on September 21 will speak at the St. George Poetry Festival in New York.

It isn't often that one's virtual world gets to intersect with real life. For years I've known Hoa as voiceless text; I can't tell you how happy I am to at last meet her in person, and hear her poems read aloud.