Speak Hanoi!

by aengelson | December 6th, 2011

Reading from my novel in progress at Noi Hanoi (Speak Hanoi).

Last Sunday marked the first installment of Noi Hanoi, a new spoken word series here in Hanoi. I’m one of a group of organizers, and we’re hoping to put on a regular series of literary readings in both Vietnamese and English. It was a rollicking, seat-of-your-pants performance, and over 70 people turned out. Clearly, there’s a demand for literary events  in Hanoi. (To see a gallery of pictures from the event, click on any photo in this post or visit this link.)

It was an eclectic mix of readings. Vietnamese poet  Bao Chan read some of her lyrical poems in both Vietnamese and English. Jacob read a surreal fable about a Vietnamese pig with giant testicles trying to score some heroin. There were young Vietnamese poets talking about love, and expats evoking the sounds of Hanoi. Kaitlin read about tasting and sharing her heart, while Duc read a selection of poems from French, Vietnamese, and Moroccan writers. Nathan read a drunken online chat (complete with an animated PowerPoint) he’d had with his girlfriend. One teenage Vietnamese poet shared her work in public for the first time.

More than 70 literary-minded guests turned out!

We broke things up with a little interactive audience participation. Folks were asked to grab several words from a bowl and write a line of poetry in either English or Vietnamese. The results were  compiled into a patchwork poem that was fun, if a little bizarre. I was really pleased to see the Vietnamese guests also taking the plunge and creating their own group-sourced poem.

For my part, I read a brief snippet from my novel in progress. It’s a scene I’d written quite a while ago and it describes a jazz night club in Seattle circa 1941. It was a fun piece to read, and I was honored to have a chance to share it. You can read it (in PDF format) here if you’d like.

The first in what we hope to be a regular Hanoi literary series.

A big thank you goes out to Canopee Cafe at 60 Hang Trong for hosting. Plus, thanks to Stephanie Wang for designing an amazing poster and photographer Nguyen Duc for taking the photos. And thanks to Kaitlin, Anh, Mai, and Vi for their fantastic organization skills. And judos to all our brave readers!

We’ll keep you posted on when the next Noi Hanoi is happening…

One Response to “Speak Hanoi!”

  1. I was just wondering when the next addition of Only Ok! would come around. I loved your piece and really enjoyed the photos. What a fine time! And the poster is fantastic!

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About This Site

Andy Engelson is a writer and editor who lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. He's currently working on a historical novel set in the Northwest United States during World War II. He's also a freelance writer, essayist and member of the Hanoi Writer's Collective. In a former life, he edited Washington Trails magazine for six years and before that was freelance journalist. He likes to hike, travel, and play with his family.


the unfortunate human disorder
a palate that’s never weary
of steamed piglet with garlic sauce
roast duck with pepper and salt
deboned raw fish mince
unskinned cooked pork cheek
unaware of the bitterness of others’ lives
as long as their own are sweet
— Cold Mountain, “Poem 201”


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