RECKLESS SPRING Bill Sullivan
Reckless Spring ~ poems by Hồ Xuân Hương / pictures by Bill Sullivan / renderings in English by John Towey / translations in French by Juliet Towey / renderings in Nôm and modern Vietnamese by Maurice Durand
Printed in a special hand-bound limited edition of 25 copies this 2nd version of Bill Sullivan’s Reckless Spring contains images and graphics that he created in response to 52 versions of 13 poems by the Vietnamese poet Hồ Xuân Hương. Hồ Xuân Hương is the Patti Smith of classical Vietnamese poetry. Beneath a seemingly tranquil surface of mountain passes, household duties, and traditional foods and games, her poems offer an unblinking critique of women’s place in society, mixed with the frankest eroticism. In more than 60 images that draw on Japanese shunga, Matisse, and Hollywood fan magazines of the 1930s, Sullivan riffs on Hồ's themes of femininity, feminism, sex and sexual politics. Sullivan uses a variety of drawing, painting and graphic styles to respond to Hồ’s verse in 4 forms of text - Nôm, modern Vietnamese as well as new renderings into English by John Towey and into French by Juliet Towey. The 13 poems of Reckless Spring are presented in chapters that function like songs on an album with each chapter presenting a track of shifting text and image that works as a meditation on the structure and theme of Hồ’s original but distant source poem.
Hồ Xuân Hương (1772-1822) today is an oral poet of great renown in Vietnam. She is known as an iconoclast whose life and work challenged the conventions for both a woman and a poet of her day. Formally her poetry followed classical Chinese styles, but she preferred to write using Nôm, a unique and nearly extinct ideographic writing system in which Chinese characters were modified to represent spoken Vietnamese. The renderings of the poems of Reckless Spring follow in the footsteps of the work of Maurice Durand a Vietnamese-French linguist who lived most of his life in Hanoi and died in France in 1968. His extensive yet unfinished book "L'oeuvre de la poétesse vietnamienne Hồ Xuân Hương ” is a translator's guide to Hồ's poetry. John Towey is an American writer and translator who has used Durand’s notes and interpretations to render Hồ's poetry into English with an exteme clarity that underscores the extraordinarily modern quality of her work. Juliet Towey, a French-American translator, has worked with both sources to translate Hồ's poetry into French using a lyrical script that echoes the handwritten poems of Cocteau and Matisse.
11 x 8 inches ( 28 x 20 cm )
Edition of 25 (signed)