About the Author
Small Arguments (2003)
Reminiscent of Pablo Neruda’s Elemental Odes, Small Arguments is a stunningly original debut by a gifted young poet. The language of Small Arguments is simple yet there is nothing simple in its ideas. The work touches on the structures of argument, orchestrating material around repetition, variation and contrast. Thammavongsa’s approach is like that of a scientist/philosopher, delicately probing material for meaning and understanding. The poet collects small lives, and argues for a larger belonging: a grain of dirt, a crushed cockroach, the eyes of a dead dragonfly. It is a work that suggests we can create with what we know and with that alone. || “This is the voice of a pilgrim, the one who bends to see, leans to hear. . . Thammavongsa has distilled her meaning from her details so masterfully and with such confident wisdom that she seems to be reading nature. Through her eyes, we can believe we see the true meaning in things.” – Anne Michaels
“A formidable work.” – George Elliot Clarke
“In 1978, my parents lived in building #48. Nongkai, Thailand, a Lao refugee camp. My father kept a scrapbook filled with doodles, addresses, postage stamps, maps, measurements. He threw it out and when he did, I took it and found this.” – Souvankham Thammavongsa
The poems of Found, with their blank spaces and small print, their language so unforgiving in detail that every letter, gesture, break, line and shape becomes for us a place of real meaning, were built out of doodles, diagrams, drawings into a work characterized by the elegance and power of its barenessâ€”to let us see and to hold back much of what we see.
Souvankham Thammavongsa’s third book of poetry, Light, examines the word that gives the collection its name. There are poems about a sparkle, about how to say light, about a scarecrow, a dung beetle, a fish without eyes. Known for her precision and elegance, for her small clear voice, for distilling meaning from details, for not wasting words, Thammavongsa confirms her gifts with these new poems. Light is a work that shines with rigour, humour, courage and grit.
Winner of the 2014 Trillium Award for Poetry