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Sarabande Books // February 2019

praise for reenactments

Phan's debut unflinchingly presents the trauma inherited through cultural memory as a kind of endless war reenactment. . . . These poems are unadorned and ominous in their vision of memory, a clarion that never ceases to alarm or awe. —Publishers Weekly

Phan’s mixture of original and translated work creates a unique debut that is both singular and anthological.—The Millions

This collection goes far beyond the individual experience of the Vietnam War, as it examines the larger impact of war on history and culture – ultimately culminating in a sense of connection through lived, imagined and remembered experiences. —Bookbar

Hai-Dang Phan is uniquely attentive. . . . Phan’s vantage point is wide, but it won’t do all the work for you. You are going to have to “do something painful each day.” You are going to have to ask the ghost something. And every something will begin to make all the difference. —The Paris Review

[Reenactments] is an ambitious addition to Vietnam War literature and a fearless contribution to the small, albeit energetic, body of verse by the new generation of Vietnamese American refugees. . . . While the urge to impress and show range is common in most debuts, what is uncommon in Reenactments is the level of control that is exercised. It whispers what it needs to say, not necessarily because it is afraid to scream but because it understands that screaming is not always the best way to communicate. —World Literature Today


Hai-Dang Phan is a poet of fearless vision. With brutal and exquisite precision, he reveals that the effort to make art out of the real world – history, memory, and experience – often intensifies a feeling of irresolution. The brilliance of his first book Reenactments: Poems and Translations lies in a deft interrogation of mimesis and, in particular, how representing the history of war and migration for Vietnamese Americans can reify silences, erasures, and cultural dislocations. —Jennifer Chang, Author of Some Say the Lark

Phan is in such command of his versification and powers of telling… Reenactments is an extraordinary book. —David Ferry, Author of Bewilderment

Reenactments is a book of haunted, forensic reckoning. Each poem in this beautiful and bitter book may begin in the intimate stories of the personal, but its ultimate scope is the national story of the broken American self and the havoc of its imperial project. —Rick Barot, Author of Chord

Hai-Dang Phan cannot forget that to be Vietnamese is also to remember Iraq and Syria. This book is greater than the interiority of family. It builds rooms in its stories to house more and more people. —Fady Joudah, Author of Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance 

Phan’s language is pliable, attentive to terror, humor, sorrow, and hope. His gaze is clear-eyed and expansive. Reenactments is a gorgeously crafted, deeply moving, and singular debut. —Eduardo C. Corral, Author of Slow Lightning

This must be the best poetry: the kind that makes you feel that you ought to appreciate your life, then change it, and urgently. Hai-Dang Phan writes what needs to be written, translates what we need to understand, and reminds me to love as much as I said I did. Reenactments deserves to go not just far, but beyond. —Tarfia Faizullah, Author of Registers of Illuminated Villages