I read Song Vinh’s journal every day. Once in a while, he reveals a poem or two; therefore, I’ve already gotten a glimpse of his work. When he announced the release of Huong Mua, I was excited and could not wait to get my hands on his book of poems.
Huong Mua is a gift from Song Vinh to many of us, expatriate Vietnamese, whose bodies are living in other lands but whose hearts and souls will never leave our homeland. In “Thang Tu, XXIX,” he shares, “Toi thanh goc My coi long Viet Nam.” Even when he becomes an American citizen, his roots are still in Viet Nam. He uses the words “luu vong (in exile)” and “tha huong (release from homeland)” repeatedly throughout his poems to describe our lost state of mind. His words speak eloquently the reality of our lives in other countries. In “Than Phan,” he expresses, “Gom thay cai canh tha huong / hai muon nam van khong thuong que nguoi.” Twenty years later, he still cannot fall in love with another ground. I am sure many of us feel the same way.
Beside the love for our homeland, Song Vinh is also a kind-hearted man who appreciates everything around him. In “Dem o B645/E207,” he describes his bitterness, witnessing an elderly Vietnamese man who takes out the trash from his office, even though there is nothing wrong with being a janitor. He reminds us in “Thi Tham Voi Nhau” to dream of simple life instead of desiring the whole heaven. He goes into his personal life in “Thinh Thoang” as an orphan child who misses his mother.
From reading his work, I truly respect Song Vinh for his use of language. His rhyme schemes are minimal yet he is able to paint images that are both aesthetically beautiful and easy to visualize. I like his use of personification in “Chuyen Mua” as he describes, “Xe lan nhip moi qua cau / Cham cay den do cho lau cung danh.” He gives the car human characteristics as she rolls tiredly over the bridge, hits the “tree” (a red light) so she must stop. Many of his wordplays are artfully constructed. In “Thang Tu 2” he forms a line of eight words consisting of Trinh Cong Son’s song titles such as “uoc mi bien nho mot loi chia tay.” The technique is both innovative and clever.
Christmas is around the corner and what could be better than a gift filled with beautiful poetry in your native language? Huong Mua is unquestionably a perfect present for any overseas Vietnamese. For those, including me, who would like to learn and broaden our native language, this book is highly recommended. His words are simple yet they are filled with emotion and liveliness.