First Flowers

Hoa Nguyen

copyright ©2016 by Hoa Nguyen

Wasps out of the birdhouse
for spring     my boys shook
    out the dead wasps

New fly west
New fly west

for spring? To sip it?
Little gatherings of birds

Why does this feel like weeping?

My friends     we love

It is two kinds of lost
that I’m lost in

Notes on the Poem

Let's savour another intriguing selection from 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted colletion Violet Energy Ingots by Hoa Nguyen. At the same time, let's consider the poem relative to insights Nguyen offered in an interview around the time the collection was shortlisted, in the spring of 2017. How apropos that the poem is about spring ... In her chat with Trevor Corkum of 49th Shelf, a lively compendium and celebration of Canadian books, Nguyen reveals this about her poetic practice:
"My practice is one of engagement, an engagement that questions and continues what came before and also attempts an unafraid, messy beauty. I’m after poems that are both rooted and unruly."
Not only does "First Flowers" engage, as it does from the outset as you're both charmed and a bit apprehensive as her boys clear out the birdhouse, its look at simple seasonal milestones does both question ("for spring? To sip it?") and continue what came before. And yes, it's all of unafraid, a bit messy and definitely beautiful. At the end ... "It is two kinds of lost that I'm lost in" is somehow rooted because she's able to admit she's different kinds of lost. In the interview, Nguyen also shares:
"I prefer poems that are sonically compelling and risk saying something. These are the poems that endure for me."
The repetition, the tumble of sentences and sentence fragments, delicious words like "snowdrops", the bittersweet juxtaposition of love and lost and what that might hint at ... her own poem easily fits her criteria and will fascinatingly endure for us, her readers.

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