"Paul Tran's debut collection of poems is indelible, this remarkable voice transforming itself as you read, eventually transforming you." --Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
"A stunning debut." --Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author of Memorial Drive
A profound meditation on physical, emotional, and psychological transformation in the aftermath of imperial violence and interpersonal abuse, from a poet both "tender and unflinching" (Khadijah Queen)
Visceral and astonishing, Paul Tran's debut poetry collection All the Flowers Kneeling investigates intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, and U.S. imperialism in order to radically alter our understanding of freedom, power, and control. In poems of desire, gender, bodies, legacies, and imagined futures, Tran's poems elucidate the complex and harrowing processes of reckoning and recovery, enhanced by innovative poetic forms that mirror the nonlinear emotional and psychological experiences of trauma survivors. At once grand and intimate, commanding and deeply vulnerable, All the Flowers Kneeling revels in rediscovering and reconfiguring the self, and ultimately becomes an essential testament to the human capacity for resilience, endurance, and love.
"'Who / can deter- / mine what's inside / another? What is risked / when we enter?' asks Paul Tran in their masterful debut All the Flowers Kneeling, an elegant meditation on many things--history, inheritance, language, trauma, how the self tricks the self, defiance--but maybe especially about penetration in its doubleness, both as violation and as relentless inquiry, an insistence on knowing. In poems as virtuosic in their thinking as in their prosodic inventiveness, Tran interrogates meaning itself. Do suffering and knowing go together--must they? Can a story about surviving be the same as a story about love? 'Wasn't the word for injury the same in Vietnamese as the word for love?' Do we survive the past, or merely leave it behind? The gift of these poems lies in their heroic refusal to accept--or indeed to offer up--the usual, too-easy answers. 'A poem is a mirror / I use to look / not at but into myself. / My story. / Mystery.' All the Flowers Kneeling maps the journey past bewilderment, to knowing, to, finally, the mystery of unknowing, where history falls away, where--bravely, stripped equally of regret and apology--the life we get to choose for ourselves begins."
--Carl Phillips, author of Pale Colors in a Tall Field
"Ravishing was the word that came to my mind the first time I read Paul Tran's impressive debut collection-- Ravishing, as in gorgeous; ravishing, as in carried away; to ravish to drag off by force; to plunder. All the Flowers Kneeling is an extended investigation into what William James called traumata, 'thorns in the spirit, ' and Tran is our compassionate, exacting, guide: 'By my own / Invention, I found a way. I'm no artifact. Between art and fact: I.' Formally inventive, psychologically acute, unafraid to address the complex dynamics of relational trauma both inherited and experienced, Tran's debut demonstrates the capacity of poetry to tell the truths which will set you free."
--Dana Levin, author of Banana Palace
About our Speakers
Paul Tran received their BA in history from Brown University and MFA in poetry from Washington University in St. Louis, where they were the chancellor's graduate fellow and senior poetry fellow. They have been awarded a 2021 Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Currently a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University, Paul's work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry, and elsewhere.
Adrian Matejka's most recent collection of poetry is Somebody Else Sold the World. His other books are Map to the Stars; The Big Smoke, which was the winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and a finalist for both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize; Mixology, which was selected for the National Poetry Series; and The Devil's Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), winner of the New York / New England Award. Among Matejka's other honors are fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. He served as Poet Laureate of the state of Indiana in 2018-19 and lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Dana Levin is the author of four collections of poetry. Her debut, In the Surgical Theater, was selected by Louise Glück for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize. The New Yorkercalled her third book, Sky Burial (Copper Canyon), "utterly her own and utterly riveting." A Guggenheim and Rona Jaffe Fellow, Levin currently serves as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Maryville University in St. Louis.
All you need to do to participate is log in to your personal Facebook account, go to Left Bank Books' Facebook Live Page, and wait for the livestream to begin on the page (you may need to refresh the page periodically until the stream begins). You may also watch the simulcast on Left Bank's YouTube channel.