• Teresa Mei Chuc on stage with Kathabela and Rick Wilson (Photo - Ben Ben).

      Teresa Mei Chuc on stage with Kathabela and Rick Wilson (Photo – Ben Ben).

      Beautiful poet Teresa Mei Chuc came to us on a boat from Vietnam as a small child. She is now a teacher in the Los Angeles area, and a wonderful poet, inspiring all of us with her amazing stories and poems. She recently visited her motherland. Now she is collaborating with Japanese tanka poet Mariko Kitakubo, translating some of each other’s poems. They will give small intimate performances in Pasadena during Mariko’s visit from Tokyo, until October 25. Teresa will also be reading her poetry for the launch of the 2015 Southern California Haiku Anthology at the USC Pacific Asia Museum on November 1, 2015 at 2 p.m., and she will be the featured poet at Tia Chucha’s Central Culturo & Bookstore on January 22, 2016 at 8 p.m.

      Teresa Mei Chuc is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Red Thread (Fithian Press, 2012) and Keeper of the Winds (FootHills Publishing, 2014). Her poetry appears in many journals and anthologies and is forthcoming in the anthology, Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees. Teresa’s third collection of poetry, Lotus Seeds, is forthcoming from Many Voices Press.

      Kathabela Wilson

      By Teresa Mei Chuc

      A proposal by someone to my mom
      after the Vietnam War: Why don’t
      you sell your baby, you don’t have
      anything to eat?

      A response by my four-year-old brother:
      No, don’t sell my sister! There are lots
      of cockroaches for us to eat!

      When I returned to the country
      eighteen years later, I saw them –
      large, brown shiny tanks on the wall,

      evidence of my brother’s love for me.



      Sau chiến tranh Việt Nam đã có người
      đề nghị với má tôi rằng: Sao không bán
      đứa bé đi? Các người chẳng còn
      cái gì mà ăn.

      Người anh trai mới bốn tuổi của tôi trả lời:
      Không! Không được bán em đi! Chúng ta
      còn có rất nhiều gián để ăn!

      Khi tôi quay trở về nước mười tám năm
      sau đó, tôi đã nhìn thấy rõ chúng –
      những cỗ xe tăng lớn màu nâu sáng bóng
      phi trên tường,

      Những chứng tích tình yêu của anh trai tôi.

      *Translated into Vietnamese by Dang Than



      akanbou wo naze uranunoka kuu tameni hitowa haha ni iu Veiet sen no nochi

      “imouto wa uranai yo! taberutame nara boriburi de juubun!” to 4sai no ani

      18nen nochini kaereba hei giwani hikaru ookina cha no tank gun

      (watashi henno ani no ai no akashi)

      *Translated into Japanese by Mariko Kitakubo


      Teresa Mei Chuc and Kathabela Wilson

      Teresa Mei Chuc and Kathabela WIlson

      An interview with Teresa Mei Chuc, a musical and emotional Poet of ancestral Vietnamese heritage and contemporary lyrical sensibilities.

      By Kathabela Wilson

      A telescope on the poet

      How do you see the performing poet in the world, what can she give and how do you see yourself doing that?

      It is incredibly healing for me when an audience listens deeply. When I am reading my poetry about my family’s experiences immigrating to the U.S. from Vietnam, or about the Vietnam War, it is deeply healing for me when I feel the audience listening. I realized this when I began to feel a physical change in my body. I think sharing one’s work can be a healing part of the writing process for both the writer and the reader.

      Mapping the Poet

      Teresa Mei Chuc @ Moonday East open mic

      Teresa Mei Chuc @ Moonday East open mic

      How does the place where you were born, and the place you grew up, nourish and ignite your work?

      My birth country, Vietnam, is full of my ancestral memories, forests, mountains and rivers. Our family came to Pasadena. This is where I grew up and spent almost my whole childhood. I am grateful to be in the belly of a mountain. In times of much needed retreat, I seek sanctuary in the silences of the San Gabriel Mountains. And from this deep solitude and silence, something emerges that becomes poetry.

      A microscope on the Poet

      Teresa Mei Chuc at Vromans poetry reading

      Teresa Mei Chuc at Vroman’s poetry reading

      What has made you a poet, what propelled you from the beginning and what continues to light the creative fire in you?

      It was a relief when I discovered poetry as a child in elementary school. I finally found a way to express myself in a language that I didn’t really feel was mine for a long time. Vietnamese and Cantonese were my first two native languages and English was my third language. The grammar, sounds, pronunciation, and differences from my native languages were hard for me. Writing poetry, I was able to express myself without worrying about punctuation or grammar. Through poetry, I was able to reclaim a part of me that was fragmented and fractured through war, immigration and exile. Poetry empowered me and helped me to transcend language, giving me a way to understand and express myself and my connection with the world.

      A metronome on the Poet

      Teresa Mei Chuc reading her poetry.

      Teresa Mei Chuc reading her poetry.

      How did music come to you and how does it relate to your poetry?

      When I was in third grade, there was a school assembly and a girl played a solo piece on the violin, “The Young Prince and Princess” from Scheherazade composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. As I was listening to the girl play the violin solo, I fell in love with the violin and with the song. After I heard her play, I was so moved that I pleaded with my mother to let me play the violin. I had discovered a way to express myself with sounds. I began to feel in the sounds of words and language, their arrangement, like musical notes, the ability to touch the human heart.

      Pulse of the Poet

      How does your family, your music, and your poetry work together in your life now?

      Composing poetry helps me to make sense of the world and helps me to document my family’s history through the Vietnam War, the war itself and the continuing consequences of the war. Poetry allows me to transcend myself in a dance with life and death. Life as well as death lights the creative fire within me. I feel that my work, my family, my poetry community, my travels are all a part of me, my being. So, I do see them as a whole…they are an intricate part of the circulatory system in my body…and my family being the heart.

      The Bomb Shelter
      by Teresa Mei Chuc

      When bombs are exploding outside,
      it means that there are implosions.

      Vibrations travel through air and liquid.

      My amniotic fluid is imprinted with airplanes
      dropping bombs and screams and fire.

      In the bomb shelter in Saigon,
      my father teaches my two-year-old
      brother French. “Je m’appelle Chuc Nai Dat.”

      “Je m’appelle….”


      You can learn more about Teresa Mei Chuc on her website.

      > Check out more of Teresa’s books:  Year of the Hare, Year of the Hare / Nam Cua Tho, and the needle can, Gravity: Poems.

      We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.

      Some wealthy, hedge fund owners, and local journalistic charlatans, have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.

      While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.

      You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.

      Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)


        • Kathabela Wilson

          Kathabela Wilson is a local poet/writer/artist and musician. Her Poets Salon has become an international respected must read in the poetry world. She's the creator and host of the Pasadena-based group, “Poets on Site.”

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

        • Latest posts by Kathabela Wilson

          See all articles


      1. haikutec says:

        Great feature!

        warm regards,


      2. Toti O'Brien says:

        Microscope, telescope, metronome: I like those changes of pace and perspective. Thank you Kathabela and Teresa

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *