Ca Dao Viêt Nam: Vietnamese Folk Poetry

Ca Dao Viêt Nam: Vietnamese Folk Poetry

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Editor and translator: John Balaban

Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (2003)

During the Vietnam war, John Balaban traveled the Vietnamese countryside alone, taping, transcribing, and translating oral folk poems known as "ca dao." No one had ever done this before, and it was Balaban’s belief that his project would help end the war.

The young American poet walked up to farmers, fishermen, seamstresses, and monks and said, "Sing me your favorite poem," and they did. "Folk poetry is so much a part of everybody’s life, my request didn’t seem like such a strange proposition," Balaban writes.

The resulting collection—the first in any Western -language—became a phenomenon within the American Vietnamese community, but the book slipped out of print after the original publisher folded in the ’70s. This revised, bilingual edition includes new poems and an eloquent introduction explicating poetry’s importance in Vietnamese culture.