Drowning Dragon Slips by Burning Plains by Khải Đơn

Poems by Khải Đơn
Publishing Date: October 2023

Drowning Dragon Slips by Burning Plains counters the narrative held in the West about women and the land of the quaintly “lush” and “charming” Mekong Delta. A rice field in the middle of the communist and American-backed government, the delta was an essential resource that fed both sides of the war in Vietnam. The Mekong Delta went through countless massacres on an immense scale. Yet, history wiped the injuries away as if the river forgot. In her debut collection, Khải Đơn explores the meaning of being a woman in a land robbed of its innocence. Through a collage-like approach of personal history and fables, Khải Đơn’s poems present an insidious flow of recollections that young people do not want to remember and that old people avoid discussing. 

In poems that lament and wonder, Khải Đơn reclaims the narrative for her people by unexpected material yielded from social research, CIA documents, and American military evaluations to erode the dominant narrative about the Delta in and after the war. Her poems tell tales of the old bombs turning into mangoes, rice germinating out of bullet holes, and every woman losing her way home.

About the Author

Khải Đơn is a writer nurtured by the Mekong Delta. She explores the destructive effects of climate change on women’s bodies and the fractures that the past leaves in the present existence of human beings. She was a Fulbright student and earned an MFA in creative writing at San José State University.