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February 28, 2006

Vietnamese Poetry and Music to be Presented at Smith

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—The Smith College Poetry Center will present an evening of Vietnamese poetry and music, featuring poet-translator John Balaban and friends at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. This event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

Balaban’s visit to Smith celebrates “Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuân Huong” and will include special guests Nguyen Boi Co, “singing” the originals, and Ngo Thanh Nhan, providing accompaniment on the “dàn tranh,” a 16-chord stringed instrument.

A distinguished poet in his own right and recipient of many honors, including the Academy of American Poets’ Lamont Prize, a National Poetry Series Selection, the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, and two nominations for the National Book Award, Balaban is also one of the preeminent authorities on Vietnamese literature. His translations of Ho Xuân Huong bring alive the voice of an 18th-century Vietnamese concubine and one of modern Vietnam’s most beloved poetic voices. The spare, nuanced language of the translations allows the poems to retain the playful rhythm and frequent double entendre essential to their effect.

Balaban served as president of the American Literary Translators Association and currently teaches English and serves as poet-in-residence at North Carolina State in Raleigh. A conscientious objector in Vietnam during the war, his poetry combines the personal experiences of war, nature and family life with the landscapes of other poets across history and continents. He has published 11 books of poetry, translation and prose since 1974, and a 12th book, “Path, Crooked Path,” is forthcoming. W.S. Merwin writes: “Balaban’s gift for language has been wholly devoted to his need to face directly and mine sense from the bewilderment and anguish being implicated in the history and suffering of our time.”

A conductor by training, Nguyen Boi Co made her highly acclaimed debut with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra at the Hanoi Opera House in July 2002, making her the first woman ever to lead the 50-year-old ensemble. A native of Hanoi, Nguyen returns regularly to perform and to give master classes. She is currently a recipient of the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation Scholarship in Orchestral Conducting at the Juilliard School.

Ngo Thanh Nhan is a visiting scholar at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. A specialist in medical language processing (syntax, semantics and web technology) and automatic encoding of clinical narratives for a variety of Indo-European languages, he also works in computer character encoding and, since 1992, has been involved with Vietnam’s efforts to standardize “quôc ngu,” ideographic-based “Nôm” script, and indic-based “Chàm” script. Ngô serves on the board of The Institute for Vietnamese Culture and Education (N.Y.) and is a director of The Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation and a founding member of Peeling, a New York Asian-American performing arts collective.

This evening of Vietnamese poetry and music is supported by the Smith College Lecture Committee and will be followed by book sale and signing in Wright Hall. For further information, contact Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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