Poet Teresa Mei Chuc shares experiences with Vietnam War at Kellogg Writers Series

Poet Teresa Mei Chuc shared her poetry as part of the University of Indianapolis’ ongoing Kellogg Writers Series on March 16 at 7:30 p.m.

The reading featured 24 published poems written by Chuc that all relate to her connection with and her family’s feelings towards the Vietnam War.

“I focus on an image, emotion or a moment and try to magnify that moment of emotion,” Chuc said.

According to Chuc, these come from sources such as her family’s experiences during the war.

“I think part of me carries the memory [of the war] of my parents,” Chuc said.

Chuc’s book of poetry “Red Thread” focuses on cultural identity. Chuc was born in Saigon, Vietnam. She emigrated during the war with her mother and brother, while her father was left behind in a re-education camp, which were prison camps operated by the Vietnamese government after the war ended.

During the reading, Chuc prefaced the poems with some background on key moments in history or experiences that influenced the poems’ subjects. She presented themes she believed were not commonly talked about in connection with the Vietnam War, which, according to her, were detrimental to overcoming the war’s aftermath. Some of the subjects Chuc mentioned were the My Lai Massacre in her poem titled “Song of Massacre,” experiencing bomb shelters in the poem “Bomb Shelter,” the dangerous journey of emigration in the poems “Immigration” and “Cockroaches,” her father’s being taken into a Viet Cong camp in the poems “Not Worth a Bullet” and “Vietnam Ghost Stories” and more about her family, experiences and the war. Chuc also spoke about why she wrote her poetry and wanted to share it with others.

“The process has been very healing for me to write these stories. I had to let it out. I had to physically separate it from my body. I couldn’t carry around these memories,” Chuc said.

Freshman history major Mary Anne Schneider was moved by the impact of the poems.

“The material was very powerful. And through her imagery, I could picture Vietnam during the war,” she said. “I felt like I learned about a different perspective of the war that I’ve never known. Very striking and powerful.”

To end the reading, Chuc left the audience with a final message.

“We’re all healing together through this. To break the cycle of violence, we have to heal together,” she said.

The next presentation in the Kellogg Writers Series will be a reading by poet Alice Friman on April 1 at 7:30 p.m.