A Plucked Zither explores what happens to language and thus emotions and relationships under conditions of migration, specifically refugee migration from Vietnam and its aftermath. Crisscrossing between making a home in the US and home in Vietnam, the speaker tries nonlinear, multilingual voice(s) that demonstrate the disparate nature of memory and the operation of other ways of knowing. Efforts to speak reflect the severing created by historical forces of war and imperialism, while speaking makes connection possible and remains tied to that very history. Vuong leans on the anti-war Vietnamese singer and songwriter, Trịnh Công Sơn, for a poetic lineage on grief, longing, and justice. Rather than being sunken with loss, the speaker(s) move with it, leaping across gaps.
“A Plucked Zither beautifully reckons with the ghosts of war and the emotional turmoil of being othered in a new land, while shedding greater light on the Vietnamese diaspora. In poems that thread the richness of her native tongue together with familial history and ancestral voices, Vuong ventures into the grief to reclaim the losses. Both exquisite in language and enduring in spirit, this collection pulses forward to demand a new remembrance.”
—Mai Der Vang, poet and author of Yellow Rain
“Engaged in the relational and polyvocality, the poems here speak across time and space, address generations, and disrupt linearity. Animated by ghosts, memory, and speaking across silences, multiply: ‘the sound of hovering / singing ready/ to swing into a world / picture it carving.’”
—Hoa Nguyen, poet and author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure