About the Event: The Filling Station is a free, monthly reading series hosted by Willie James and Matthew Kelsey. It occurs the 4th Friday of each month (with occasional exceptions) from 6:30-7:30 at City Lit Bookstore.
While the series aims to showcase local authors to a diverse and growing neighborhood, it also endeavors to introduce Chicago to the constellation of talent that illuminates the rest of the country. The Filling Station emphasizes poetry, but will also feature fiction and creative non-fiction periodically.
Regardless of whichever genre is shared on a given night, the series will offer proud neighbors and perfect strangers alike the chance to refuel at the end of the week. Everyone is welcome. This month features Erin Adair-Hodges & Sarabande author Hai-Dang Phan.
About the Author: Hai-Dang Phan was born in Vietnam in 1980 and grew up in Wisconsin. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Best American Poetry 2016, and the chapbook, Small Wars. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry, and the New England Review Award for Emerging Writers. He currently teaches at Grinnell College and lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Reenactments is his first book.
Praise for Reenactments:
“Hai-Dang Phan is a poet of fearless vision. With brutal and exquisite precision, he reveals that the effort to make art out of the real world—history, memory, and experience—often intensifies a feeling of irresolution. The brilliance of his first book Reenactments: Poems and Translations lies in a deft interrogation of mimesis and, in particular, how representing the history of war and migration for Vietnamese Americans can reify silences, erasures, and cultural dislocations. But Phan also builds a powerful stay against despair through translations that spotlight contemporary Vietnamese poetry while slyly suggesting that no language or history is isolate and every poem may very well be a translation. Such remarkable insights accumulate, and by book’s end I was struck by the immense beauty and feeling of Reenactments and had to read it again.”
“In poems that are as intense as they are lucid, Hai-Dang Phan illustrates James Baldwin’s assertion that history is not the past, it is the present. The military hardware transported on the interstate, the vexing public memorials for past and recent wars, the refugees on the TV news, and the punk band named after the Viet Cong—Phan shows the present charged by the toxic continuing of the past. Reenactments is a book of haunted, forensic reckoning. Each poem in this beautiful and bitter book may begin in the intimate stories of the personal, but its ultimate scope is the national story of the broken American self and the havoc of its imperial project.”
“Throughout this wonderful debut, we experience the various modes of reenactment: as memory, as mimesis, as fugue state, as cinema, and as translation. American English can no more turn away from what its Vietnamese citizens speak: "I heard America burp." Hai-Dang Phan, obsessed as he might be with the tenderness of survival and the transmogrification of war weapons, cannot forget that to be Vietnamese is also to remember Iraq and Syria. This book is greater than the interiority of family. It builds rooms in its stories to house more and more people.”
“Haunted by the long aftermath of war and diaspora, Hai-Dang Phan’s poems and translations explore how memory, like language, is never static. Moving from war reenactments to familial narratives to memories of Vietnam, Phan’s language is pliable, attentive to terror, humor, sorrow, and hope. His gaze is clear-eyed and expansive. Reenactments is a gorgeously crafted, deeply moving, and singular debut.”
"This must be the best poetry: the kind that makes you feel that you ought to appreciate your life, then change it, and urgently. Hai-Dang Phan writes what needs to be written, translates what we need to understand, and reminds me to love as much as I said I did. Reenactments deserves to go not just far, but beyond."
Phan is in such command of his versification and powers of telling, it is hard to believe that this is his first book. These beautiful poems and translations dramatize the story of an exodus, the inheritance of memories, and the legacy of war, not only through Phan’s perspective and his family’s, but also through a host of alternate voices, alternate histories. Reenactments is an extraordinary book.