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Why the separation? His grandmother was also worried they might be stolen and taken out of Vietnam.

As the daughters of a US serviceman they would have been eligible for Operation Babylift , a project to evacuate children and put them up for adoption. If the girls had been together, they might also have provided a family ticket for dissidents hoping to travel to the US, he says. By the time the family were reunited, his mother was an adult. The whole family was evacuated to the Philippines while the Salvation Army processed their claim for admission to the US.

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One of the pleasures of his poems is the interplay of myth and reality. How, for instance, can his collection be so full of fathers when Vuong grew up in a household of women?

An Immigrant Who Crossed the Border as a Child Retraces His Journey, in Poems

The Japanese have a word for it: yugen , when you have so little you have to imagine it. I admired that audacity to invent. In inventing he preserved history. Although Vuong lost his father, he regained his grandfather, who was by then married to a university academic and living in Florida.

Vuong was expecting to follow his mother into work at a nail salon, but was persuaded to enrol at the local community college, where his life changed course on the very first day. By the time he left he was reading Baudelaire and Langston Hughes, and knew that he wanted to be a poet even if it was destined to be a dream deferred as he worked out a way to support his mother. More by luck than judgment he won a place at Brooklyn College, where he walked into the English faculty to find himself face to face with portraits of two of his heroes: Allen Ginsberg and John Ashbery.

I was seen for the first time. He was living in a cheap New York apartment, down a long, narrow hallway, which he papered with poems, moving them around into different sequences. I could see how they grew and started to gain resonance and meaning.

Remembering Grandpa Poems

He put together Night Sky With Exit Wounds for an open competition that promised to send a personal rejection to every entrant. He shares a little house nearby with his partner of 10 years, Peter, an ex-lawyer and the one good thing to have come out of his eight weeks at business school. Best of all, he says, he has just bought his mother a house. She always wanted a garden — and she got it through poetry.

Poems about Grandpa

Facebook Twitter Pinterest. The Indonesian army created and armed militia groups that tried to derail the vote by intimidating people, killing some, injuring others, and deporting many to Indonesian West Timor. Barreto Soares soon returned to Timor-Leste and was reunited with his family and his people. He went on to become the official interpreter for Taur Matan Ruak, president of Timor-Leste from to , where former colleague Bella Galhos also worked as an advisor.

Barreto Soares praised Galhos for her role as founder of the Leublora Green School in Maubisse, a town in the mountainous interior country to the south of Dili. Photo: David Webster. Now, the impossible dream had come true. Amidst celebration, Barreto Soares and others also dreamed of building a new literary culture that combined Timorese oral traditions with international written and musical influences.

They had worked to maintain Timorese cultural identity in exile while it was often restricted in Indonesian-ruled Timor. After independence in , these poets, musicians and storytellers continued to dream. In , he fulfilled that dream by establishing a cultural study club. A music club followed soon afterwards. He published poems and encouraged younger writers, and performed remixed versions of Tetum-language songs first written in Canada.

Image via Facebook. Radio is crucial. Radio plays a very important role…. It gives me hope that poetry will continue to flourish, that the flame of poetry will continue to burn. Poetry, Barreto Soares believes, needs to be taught in schools.


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Barreto Soares in the radio studio. Flourish is a word Barreto Soares returns to. Peace, in this image, emerges from a devastated and desolate land which grows green again — where the land can flourish. He points here to a poetic inspiration much closer to home: Francisco Borja da Costa, a Timorese poet and composer of the national anthem who was killed as Indonesian paratroopers landed in Dili on 7 December Poetry has the power of revolution. Poetry has the power to rock the boat. Poetry is a revolutionary act. The land, its connection to the people, and its sacred character, resound in Flourish Everlastingly.

Barreto Soares offers a quick Tetum lesson. Humans and the environment are linked, inseparable. So too, he says, in Timor-Leste.

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Timorese traditions often evoke the uma lulik , the sacred house — a theme that Timorese scholar Josh Trindade has explored. You glorify the essence of the land, your connection with the land. While rooting his work firmly in Timorese soil, Barreto Soares also looks outward. I am from four ethnic backgrounds, I have Makassae blood in myself, Bunak blood in myself, Kemak blood in myself, Galole blood in myself.

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I am fluent in Bunak, I am fluent in Galole. His work also helps shape the future of the Tetum language, which lacks a strongly-developed written or scientific literature but which is developing fast. In the years after independence was restored in , Timorese activists could be seen translating from Tetum into Indonesian on a regular basis, because the latter had more technical terms. That has changed as Tetum takes a firm hold. In an essay written in , Barreto Soares called for remembrance of Timorese literary history and its role in the nationalist struggle and the building of a Timorese nation.

This theme stays with him today. Without linking yourself to the past, you will not get anywhere. So you have to play this three-dimensional role at all times, you are a man of the past, of the future, of the present…. A visionary is a man of three-dimensional time. So the poet feeds the soul of the nation. The poet is the soul-keeper of the nation.

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If a nation loses its soul, that is the suicide of that nation. All quotes from the poet come from this interview.


  1. Browse by Poet.
  2. Applied Linear Programming. For the Socioeconomic and Environmental Sciences.
  3. The Full Text of “Climbing My Grandfather”.
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  6. On Timorese history, see among other sources Chega! See Ramos-Horta, Funu. Berger and S. Scalmer eds. Leublora Green Village web site.