• Teresa Mei Chuc and Kathabela WilsonAn 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

      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. Teresa Mei Chuc @ Moonday East open micThis 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

      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. Teresa Mei Chuc at Vromans poetry readingThe 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

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

      Teresa Mei Chuc reading her 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. Also, check her two books, Red Thread (on Amazon) and Keeper of the Winds.


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      Contributor

        • 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

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      Comments

      1. dalton perry says:

        Terese’s work is so moving in ways I could never expect to communicate. It takes me to a place I fear to imagine, somewhat of guilt.

      2. Maja Trochimczyk says:

        Thank you for posting information about our upcoming readings on January 10 and January 25 – I’m looking forward to learning more about Teresa’s poetry and I’m happy with our shared love of our mountains! The Foothills are miraculous – gold, orange, bronze, and purple at sunset…

      3. Susan Dobay says:

        Since each individual is part of the collective humanity , yes it is wonderful to be able to share one’s art (in any form : music, poetry, literature or visual ) and to know that you contributed something to the growing awareness . It is even more wonderful when you do get response.
        Theresa Mei I like your philosophy on life and expressing both joy and pain in your poetry and music.
        Hope I can share my art with you some day.

      4. Toti O'Brien says:

        What a mature and linear reading of how art realigns our lives

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