A series of poetic remixes, WAR IS NOT MY MOTHER might be considered a form of spirit possession.
Each poem in this manuscript takes up another poet’s work— a selection that ranges from Lorca to CD Wright, Hồ Xuân Hương to Sappho, Agha Shahid Ali to Ishrat Afreen— and alters its DNA, infusing it with an other idiolect. This is an idiolect of pleasure (the wordplay, puns, and cadence of the Vietnamese language) and of pain (the long shadow of the Vietnam war in the lives of those who survived, barely survived, and became refugees). Like any possessing spirit, WAR IS NOT MY MOTHER speaks in tongues: using others’ words to articulate a personal pain. Shorn of their original context and content, the poems in this collection— mutant-hybrids who retain a trace of their skeleton while dressed in entirely other clothes— become a play of voices that call into question notions of authenticity and self in poetic production, a postmodern twist for the classical craft.
VI KHI NAO is the author of six poetry collections & of the short stories collection, A Brief Alphabet of Torture (winner of the 2016 FC2's Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize), the novel, Swimming with Dead Stars. Her poetry collection, The Old Philosopher, won the Nightboat Books Prize for Poetry in 2014. A recipient of the 2022 Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize, her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She was the Fall 2019 fellow at the Black Mountain Institute: https://www.vikhinao.com
"Vi Khi Nao’s WAR IS NOT MY MOTHER is a descriptive 'chimerical metal, ferocious ambient voice, [and] saliva-bearing” world; certainly it illustrates its' …Postmodern Twist for the Classic Craft” in how its speech creates astonishing turns and images that give us a sentience, but that turn away from traditional 'crafted' images. To borrow from Cvetkovich, Nao's collection is a 'feel tank.' Poems hold a multiplicity of texts and allusions, and each one is 'wrapped in moisture and rime, like a chthonic present' and teaches us about the underworld’s posterity. Early in the collection we are presented with an essential question: 'To be with me or to toss me in a war zone, does it matter?' It does, because we stay with Nao throughout, even as we unmoor in witnessing the pain here, we see the deepening embodiment of language that excavates a vitality emerging out of survival." -Prageeta Sharma