Eleven Miles to June, a debut poetry collection from Oakland, California author, Ha Kiet Chau, focuses on a womanâs journey from childhood to adulthoodâher movements, her nuances in black and white, in technicolor and sound. The poems explore themes such as self-identity, gender, assimilation, culture, womenâs issues, and social challenges.
âIn a voice that is resilient, buoyant, and strong, Ha Kiet Chauâs poems deal with longing, displacement and connection.Â Eleven Miles to June is intensely intimate; the voice is confiding yet bold: no experience is off-limits. Every moment of happiness as well as dismay is recorded in lines as beautiful as they are memorable.â
âJohn Skoyles, author of Suddenly Itâs Evening: New & Selected PoemsÂ
âEleven Miles to June is an impressive debut, an intimate look at building and re-building various paths toward and through adulthood. Gifting its readers with surprising imagery and idea, this collection stuns with a precise but unique sorrow. Ha Kiet Chau’s poetry never wavers in its strength and is a welcome intrusion on the senses. The result is a beautifully written book that’s easy to fall for and into.â
âApril Michelle Bratten,Â Editor-in-Chief, Up the Staircase Quarterly
âHa Kiet Chauâs poems are surreal, tender, volatile, sometimes brutal, but always blisteringly beautiful.Â Eleven Miles to June reads like a Chinese-Vietnamese-American creation mythâepic, chaotic, and harrowing in its movement from nothing to something.Â Chau captures the ignominy of a childâs being caught in a vise between the old country and the new country, but also the emergence like a gorgeous butterfly of the rebellious youth to sexual and artistic awakening. Resilience is power. As the speaker says in âA MĂ©lange at 12:19,â âLetâs not look for a happy ending. / Thereâs more to our story.ââ
âAnn Neelon,Â Former Editor, New Madrid
âHa Kiet Chauâs poetry is a vivid synesthesia of images and lyrical syntax fused with something reminiscent of Rimbaudâs most carnival moments. There is a hunger here packed with tension as well as a curious and hilarious spirit thatâs funtastic to follow. The âgurgling stomach, / lunging wolf mouthâ of this verse reverberates through a phantasmagoria of dreamlike journeys, family stories, human interactions and cultural reflections that can be tangibly tasted. Call it surreal, call it the new millennial Chinese-Vietnamese-California experience, call it an imagination that can âoutrun wolves but canât escape / the lost child,â or call it Eleven Miles to June. In the poetâs own words, âa lioness has broken / out of her cage.ââ
âMark Spitzer, Toad Suck Ăditions
âThe alchemy of helplessness and hope sets the tone of this collection: though its world is heavy with threat, Chau distils the brutality of alienation through the alembic of a poetic sensibility and sees what might perhaps be grains of gold.Â Everyone is alien in the promised land. Strangers are felons, fathers bring âblack thunderâ and mothers fail. In âStillbirthâ thereâs a heartbeat and then the anguish of silence.Â Though this world has moments of delicate colour, the poetâs voice insists: âI must keep roaming / âtil I see goldâ. We might see it too. But first, âWe stare at our impending futures through beaten eyes.âÂ Thereâs no easy redemption: the speaker can âoutrun wolves but canât escape / the lost childâ. Nevertheless, she discovers that âThere is a freedom to my strideâ and, at last, âThe city is not in shambles, / it is dressed in crimson and gold.ââ
âMartin Alexander, Editor-in-Chief of the Asia Literary Review
âIn this collection, Ha Kiet Chau’s poetry takes you with herâcorner-turns in stories, arresting still-shot images, inventive metaphorsâcombining the pleasure and challenge of surprises with the confidence to let you keep up. Her diction’s strict accuracy combines with playful honesty to wring power and delight out of remarkable economy. Through supple, illustrative descriptions and lessons, readers will come to know and appreciate the voice and character of this deep-perceiving, wonder-embracing poet who sees and represents American life from the essential perspective of someone accessingÂ andÂ bridgingÂ cross-cultural experiences of natives, immigrants, travelers and visitorsâ temporary inhabitants all.â
âChris Weidenbach, Creative Writing instructorÂ &Â English departmentÂ chair,Â Laney College, Oakland CA
âHa Kiet Chauâs poetry weaves together exquisite language with an ample supply of hope and heart. In Eleven Miles to June, we travel alongside her through city streets and clashing cultures, to old memories, dreams, and realities, until we see and understand herâand ourselvesâjust a little bit more.Â With a sure hand, she guides us through these disasters, ecstasies, and everyday moments, noticing everything, and treating each one with the sensitivity and thought it deserves.Â Haâs poems are a joy to read, taking your breath away one moment, making you lean in for the next line, and then ultimately putting a new resolve in your step. I love every word of this book. I want to keep it nearby for the moments I need courage, inspiration, or just to read some amazing poetry.â
âAmy Keller,Â Editor, The Lincoln Underground
âIn Ha Kiet Chauâs fearless first book, Eleven Miles to June, she opens by declaring, âIâm nobodyâs daughter, / nobodyâs womanâŠ/ Iâm untouchable / indestructible,â and through this fierce lens she shows her familyâs immigration to an America where all the survivors âstare at our impending futures through beaten eyes.â And yet it is Chauâs clear eye for the key telling detail that makes the poems both uncomfortably visceral and beautifully delicate as they stand âat the crossroads of reality and make-believe.â Sheâs willing to look anywhere between exile and home, cut and stitch, loss and hope, and this is Chauâs great gift: gathering and reconciling all these broken parts to make them whole again with this remarkable collection.â
âLindsay Wilson, author of No Elegies
âHa Kiet Chauâs Eleven Miles to June offers poems of great breadth and small intimacies. It is almost too rich to review properly, or at all. This is a collection of love poems that spans places distant in cultures and time. Chau explores worlds and moments of possibilities unrealized: the lives her Vietnamese ancestors might have led in their homeland, the losses a mother lives with after war, the suspended moment between love and desire and the missed opportunity for fulfillment. She shows all of this through pin-pointed images, often startlingly recognizable, making us resee common events, like traveling through a bridge tunnel:
Patterns of light and geometric shadows,
slip on and off our clothes, shoes,
(exerpt from â100 Storiesâ)
Chau’s characters are real in their love and hurt and strength and aloneness, and oneness with us. In Chauâs poems happiness is one option, but not a necessity. These poems have a wiry strength that forces us to look hard and acknowledge lifeâs most difficult realities and know we will ‘begin second chances.’
The city is not in shambles,
it is dressed in crimson and gold,
it is gutsy, it is resilient.
It is urging you to step outside again,
finish the walk you started . . .
(excerpt from âCocoonâ)â
âGeorganne Ferrier, former adviser to Oak Leaves Magazine,
Oakland High School, Oakland, California
A review of ELEVEN MILES TO JUNE
The Poetry Foundation/Harriet Books
âIn Eleven Miles to June, Ha Kiet Chau negotiates the volatile rumblings of coming-of-age as a Chinese-Vietnamese-American . . . Chauâs strength in these moments is her understanding that not all âevolutionâ is teleological, progressive, or rational. Instead of a preoccupation with epiphanies and maturity, the poet focuses on nourishment, growth, and seeing oneself as co-evolving with the world around them . . . the poetâs commanding mode works to cinch the collection. In âGlass Reflectionsâ the speaker declares, without frill or melodrama, âI should love her, but I donât // Internal dialogue is cruel,â leaving the reader at the mercy of such mesmerizing certainty and self-possession.â
âMegan Fernandes, poet, author of Good Boys (Tin House)
âReadingÂ Ha Kiet Chauâs full-length poetry collection,Â Eleven Miles to June, published by Green Writers Press, I often felt the same joy of the search I experience while antiquing.Â That feeling of being in a space of overlapping generations, locations, crossed time-periods; the velvety, almost sticky feel of golden, spotted ephemeral pages filled with scrolling, somewhat indecipherable script laid down with care. As one of Chauâs speakers says in the eponymous poem, âthe poet inside me aches for all things gone.â And yet, here is one of the insights of her book: all things are gone, but also present: âI outrun wolves but canât escape the lost child.â They are alive in our dreams and interweave themselves into our days. . . .Chauâs collection does not shy away from speaking truths that come out of her culturally rich heritage . . . Chau is a skillful filmic poet who is not afraid of the montage, of interleaving, of a richly extended metaphor that stretches and invents the way only a skillful poem or film can do. . . . Somehow, Chau helps us understand that life is lived in shifting layers that keep us feeling the roil of the thousands of emotions that rise and fall through us each day; this is just how it is when we have done so much to each other, when we have lived so much in this life, and in our other lifetimes.â
âAna C.H. Silva, Mom Egg Review
âEarly burials on the first/of spring, the poet inside me aches/for all things gone. In woods,/
covered in cinder and ash, I walk and walk,/dreaming of home, roads and roads away.â
âHa Kiet Chau, fromÂ Eleven Miles to June
âEleven Miles to June by Ha Kiet Chau (Green Writers Press) came onto the poetry scene in July. The book is Haâs first full-length poetry collection, and it is full indeed with themes of family, nation, history, destruction, and womanhood. In each of 62 startlingly candid poems, Ha paints a picture of characters from her Chinese-Vietnamese heritage as well as her life in Northern California. She draws on her artistic expertise to craft colorful imagery rooted in urban and rural landscapes alike. The book is divided into three sectionsâstarting with the deeply personal ‘Close-Up,’ veering into the sexy and dangerous ‘Wide-Shot,’ and closing with the quiet and pensive ‘Fade-Out.’ The book spirals in on itself, circling around the same questions of belonging and home. This is a collection with a fresh poetic vision of the world.â
âGreta Hardy-Mittell, Tinderbox Poetry Journal
âThe concepts you ended up producing are complex, utilizing the themes of self-identity, familial identity, and culture in surprising and often colorful ways. . . . The approach you used to voice these poems, often first-person narrative, and the arrangement and order of the poems throughout the book was affective. . . . These poems often illustrated a quiet sort of violence, correlating human emotion and the environment in a way that is both beautiful and unnerving.â
Link to the full interview: https://www.upthestaircase.org/ha-kiet-chau-interview.html
About the Author
Ha Kiet Chau’s poems have been widely published in 80+ literary journals in the UK, US, and Asia. Her publications include Ploughshares, Asia Literary Review, New Madrid, Tule Review, andColumbia College Literary Review, among others. Her first chapbook Woman Come Undone, was published by Mouthfeel Press in 2014. She has also received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net from various print and online literary journals.
Eleven Miles to June
by Ha Kiet Chau
POETRY | Paperback Original
130 pages; 5.5 x 8.5 / Softcover
Pub Date: July, 2021Â
Distributor: IPG; also available through Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and other wholesalers.
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