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Sensible Bridge


Phiulavanh Luangvanna

Sensible Bridge
Selected Poems

ISBN: 978-0-939378-08-1

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The award-winning writer and scholar, Phiulavanh Luangvanna, who serves as vice president for the Lao Writers Association, has emerged as a central figure in her region's literature. Her debut English-language collection provides a colorful, deeply felt perspective on settings, traditions and aspirations in her Southeast Asian nation.

In Sensible Bridge, Thidachan voices a devotion to the causes of life, free speech and affirmative outreach. Reflecting these commitments, her poems are reverently down to earth, mindful of both humanity and nature, and strong-willed in support of embodying connections and higher truths. The book's steadfast commitment to bridging, like that of any literature, is a gift meant for all people. Thidachan's writing reflects the unique characteristics of Laos, a mountainous country contoured by Southeast Asia's Mekong River.

Her poems portray harmonious scenes from the country's still largely agrarian countryside, as well as dynamic, festive vignettes from the capital, Vientiane. The Lao people's indigenous music, dances and rituals exert a fundamental influence on Thidachan's poetry. In Sensible Bridge, she professes her love for her region's ancient Khaen music — named for its instrument, a bamboo mouth organ — and enumerates varieties of the music found in certain parts of Laos. Khaen music was certified in 2017 as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

In Laos, poetry is often combined with song, dance, theater and other arts. Appropriately, Thidachan includes imagery from a range of folk traditions which inspire her writing. She has sung her Lao poems for international audiences.

Inseparably from showing the enduring beauty of Laos's scenery and customs, the writer memorializes the struggles of the long civil war that followed the end of colonialism in the country. One poem recalls the "living legend of Viengxai," the "cave city" where the future architects of a sovereign Laos took shelter during years of heavy bombing by the United States during the Vietnam War era.

Sensible Bridge will remind readers that the world must accommodate diverse ideologies and allegiances. In one poem, to personify goodness, the author names men whose ideas catalyzed the revolutions in her region: socialist theorists Frederick Engels and Karl Marx, along with Ho Chi Minh, the leader of Vietnam's independence movement. Another poem pays tribute to the accomplishments of Laos's longtime socialist government.

Above all, Sensible Bridge manifests a compassionate vision that should find crucial resonance anywhere. Informed by spiritual practice, Thidachan expresses values — love of justice, community, culture, work and worship — that help foster unities in how we view our world and our own lives. With her writing, she sends out a message of dialog and hope from Laos to the whole world.

The book is translated by Sengchanh Soukhasem, with assistance from Athithouthay Chatouphonexay. Editorial advisor James Manteith provides an introduction to the poems.

The ISBN number for the paperback edition of the book is 978-0-939378-08-1


Phiulavanh Luangvanna Phiulavanh Luangvanna, also known as Thidachan, is a Lao poet and writer. She received an advanced degree in Lao language and literature from Vientiane Pedagogical Institute in Laos.

Thidachan has produced numerous literary works, including short stories, poems and children's literature. In addition to collaborations with other poets and writers, she has published 13 books. Thidachan has also written short prose poems, literary criticism and articles, published mainly in Vannasin and other national magazines.

Her work has been translated into Thai, Vietnamese, Russian and English. She has won national short story awards, the Mekong Award for writers from six Mekong subregion countries, and the SEA Write Award for writers from ten Southeast Asian countries. She has received the Laos government title of Outstanding Artist. At present Thidachan is vice president of the Lao Writers Association, advisor at Vannasin, a guest lecturer on literature, and editor of Lao Writers Publishing Press. Thidachan lives with her family in Vientiane, the capital of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.


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