The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts

Issue 7: Summer/Fall 2015

Poetics of Resistance

by Lý Đợi, Translated by Kelly Morse and Nga L.H. Nguyen

Special Guest Judge, Dan Bellm

“Boiled – Steamed – Raw,” poet Lý Đợi’s biting trio of diatribes against many forms of repression and violence in present-day Vietnam, plays brilliantly with the metaphorical structure of traditional recipes from the north, center, and south of his country. In his hands, these become the doctrinaire instruction manuals of hell, complete with helpful slogans for chanting along. But the tonal shifts, word play, and cultural and political references readily accessible to any native speaker of the language must have made this work especially daunting to translate. Kelly Morse skillfully interweaves a range of registers from high bureaucratic doublespeak and textbook blandness to Buddhist meditation, street slang and song to allow us entry into an underground, officially banned view of Vietnamese society we are unlikely to get anywhere else but in poems. “Boiled – Steamed – Raw” is very fine work.

Dan Bellm, poet, translator, and author of Practice and Buried Treasure