Born in Vietnam, poet, writer, painter, photographer, and avid Argentine tango
dancer, Mong-Lan left her native country on the last day of the evacuation of Saigon
in 1975. Mong-Lan's first book of poems, Song of the Cicadas, won the 2000 Juniper
Prize, the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Awards for Poetry
and was a finalist for the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book
Award. Her other books of poetry include Why is the Edge Always Windy?; Tango: a
Seismology (forthcoming)
and Love Poem to Tofu and Other Poems (chapbook of poetry
and calligraphy, forthcoming). She received her Master of Fine Arts from the
University of Arizona , was the recipient of a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship in
poetry for two years at Stanford University, and was a Fulbright Grantee in Vietnam.
Her poetry has been frequently anthologized to include in Best American Poetry, The
Pushcart Book of Poetry: Best Poems from 30 Years of the Pushcart Prize
; Asian American
Poetry -- The Next Generation; Contemporary Voices from the Eastern World: an Anthology.
Her paintings and photographs have been exhibited for one year at the Capitol
House in Washington D.C., in galleries in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Museum
of Fine Arts in Houston , for six months at the Dallas Museum of Art, in public
exhibitions in Tokyo, Bali and Seoul. Although travelling frequently, she lives in
Tokyo, Japan. Her website:

From "Argentine Tango: Observations while Dancing" (Part 6)


both leader & follower must listen to the music,
for the music contains the keys to unlocking the
tango, the keys to dancing it. without tango music,
there is no dance.


color exists through its absence
black exists to offset white

sound exists only for the perceiver

the tango takes place insidetwo hearts
amongst a multitude of hearts

without anyone perceiving

we do all we can to prevent disaster
assume the robes of laughter
divinely flowing


being love takes reckless dreaming time

what is the figure that prefigures the tango? The ocho
an invisible sign of eternity

the embrace the giro revolving planets

power in the event figure that prefigures

song & heartbeat
such that would hurl voices
into the wind

where do they get their power the women without manicure?


your body moves as an extension of the other's body. the
other's body moves as a response to yours. you are the music,
heart close to the ground, feet touching earth. the music
desires, dreams of a new way to dance, of a new vocabulary.


one has such knowledge
such words made up of gestures series of automatic muscular memories
that life
of movement

impulse lure deliberation step beyond NOW

no response except to what is known
a musical symptom of membranes remembrance

il y a des choses inconnues


when dancing as a follower, you should not use your mind,
but rather your body and heart. if you use your mind, your
dancing will be slowed down, your response time delayed.
your muscles remember everything that your body has ever
learned and done, so let your muscles do everything for you.
you must give into the other, as sand does to water.


the embrace of the tango is spiritual. because you are
communing, dancing, with another human being on a basic
level, often you don't know your partner's name. this is the
beginning of tango, beginning without name, beginning at the
source. one's name is little before the shared sentiment of tango.


lunar chasm
a dance hall you know well

the person with whom you dance

the bandeon weep
tonight in our tangos?


liberty, improvisation, and generosity are elements of the
tango. liberty to feel relaxed, to invent steps, to improvise to
the music. a generosity of spirit that allows energy to flow
easily between two people.


swirling spinning turning
after a shower
the world smells after day
the world whirls on its axisall places at once

your essence planted in my hand
like shooting stars have you seen such
clouds masking?

hair whistling palm's digressions
feet drawing shapes on the ground

have we arrived somewhere? have we sustained?

scent of almonds
read the waves
forced to hit ground from that state of floating

i would skate than walk limp than imitate


wandering in an idyll

of course the hollow could break but what can one do?

read the waves of music
i forced myself to hit the ground

a perpetual whim mistaken identity
in the skate of possibility

of heart
splice clenched why this fire? this fight?

the music wants grace freedom liberty

the music will tell you what to do in lanes of fire


anchoring her to the earth, he is her support, her ballast. he
gives her time to do her adornments. the woman's heel
sometimes touches the ground. but the balls of the feet &
toe will trail the ground, shadow to its shadow. your legs see
& articulate for you. there is the essence of the waves in your
movements; you tread lightly though firmly on the ground.
your hands learn your partner's movements. you are pure
breath, b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g.

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