The Book of Knowing

Truong Tran

  1. It is as though everything is broken and everything I say and do is about piecing things back together. These are fragments. They serve as materials. They are what I have to work with in these times.

  1. I am about to contradict myself. This is by no means an attempt to not take responsibility or an effort to be artistic, writerly or mysterious. I contradict myself because this is what happens when I’m working in between image and text. They are ways of thinking, ways of being. They are not always aligned.


  1. At times they feel diametrically opposed. They are at odds and yet they want to be in proximity, they want to be the same.

  1. When I was first invited by Naropa to speak at this symposium on text and image, It was October, a month from the election. I could feel the fuckery coming at me from all sides. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be seen as a person of color. I accepted immediately. I panicked shortly there after and spent the next four months avoiding the subject. I resisted the idea of talking, articulating my work in its current iteration. My fear was this. If I talked about it, I would take the risk of talking myself out of the act of doing making, writing. I would find my thinking to be false and flawed.


  1. This is what I do. I’m not entirely comfortable explaining myself.

  1. I am an artist and I am a writer. I cannot fully articulate why I work in these genres other than to say that I move between worlds, ways, materials and methods out of necessity, These shifts in consciousness happens when one fails to accommodate what the other is willing.


  1. I began as a poet. I was interested in words. Words and poems as containers. They once held my hopes, desires and eventually and inevitably my anger. The poems took shape. They contained. They overflowed and then they broke.

  1. I got to a point when poetry could not hold. It felt false. I did not trust it. I did not trust what other poets were doing with poetry. It felt false. My own work felt false.


  1. I’m always asked to explain myself.

  1. I believe that art be it painting, sculpting, writing a poem, the book or cooking dinner for someone, your community are all ways of thinking. I think I said this already. I really believe this. I think it is worth saying again.


  1. I am a Vietnamese gay man. My image is the text whether I choose it or not.


  1. Writing is rage. I make art as a way of tempering that rage.


  1. I don’t want to be angry. It is expected of me. I resist and yet I am.

  1. I will never forget what he said on that day. He said that slavery was and is an ecological disaster. I believe those words to be true.


  1. I became a citizen and as such I inherited the history of this place. I am informed by it. I am shaped by it. I am haunted by it.


  1. I mean what I say I mean what I do I mean what I make I mean what I write I mean what I am.


  1. I am interested in the color black as a starting point of inquiry

  1. This is not the art that one goes to a studio and make in a disciplined effort of developing one’s craft. This is the art that one makes, sometimes in bed in an effort to induce exhaustion in the hopes of falling asleep.


  1. I want to make something and then lose it in that very thing that I made.

  1. The poem is seen but it is lost to the
  1. Text as material as image as language


  1. I’m running out of patience.
  1. The poem implicates. It is met with silence. The silence is broken with the policing of grammar. Order is restored. Authority is asserted and I am reminded of my place in text and image.

  1. In direct response to what I just said, fuck that and fuck you for making me think it.
  1. I cannot seem to sleep anymore. Sleeping is a metaphor. I tend not to trust metaphors.


  1. Human endeavors are cruel by nature. Art and poetry are no exceptions.

  1. I’m running out of things I can say.


  1. I am running out of time to say it.