Linh Dinh/ Signing Horse Press

City Paper
December 11, 1998

"There are a lot of writers here who are not getting national exposure," explains Gil Ott, founder of the long-standing Singing Horse Press. Ott's newly-created Philadelphia Publishing Project addresses this problem by printing one book by a Philly poet each year. Ott looks for people who are "stepping outside the accepted notions of language" and have a "willingness to take risks with the material itself." The first title of this series, Drunkard Boxing, not only reflects Ott's high standard, but also captures a passionate, individual voice. Linh Dinh writes with authority and a flair for the unexpected; his is a strange montage in which overlapping images flicker inscrutably on the page. "Garlic: attentive listening; a bus ride; a ridiculous hat; a drowsy face in a rain-flecked window," he writes in his "Guide to Odors."

Dinh, an erstwhile visual artist who emigrated from Vietnam to the United States in 1975, addresses political issues in many of these poems with a highly inventive personal style. A poem like "O Hanoi," for instance, functions not only as political commentary but also as a personal dialogue and a rumination on poetry and popular culture. "We live in a culture of glamour," Dinh says. "Everything is so glossed up and so beautiful in the media. I think there's a tendency in some people, like myself, to rebel against that, because in our daily lives, we're conscious of much more...I incorporate filth or uncleanliness to make the picture more healthy - not to defile anything."

At times, Dinh links eroticism with the grotesque, beauty with violence. "I think that I'm learning to be a little more light-handed, not so blatant. But it's still sort of in your face; maybe that's just my temperament." Dinh's appearance this Saturday at the Kelly Writers House will serve not only as a reading and signing, but also as a kickoff for the Philadelphia Publishing Project.