Written as a conversation, 100 Words is an exchange of ideas, dialogues, burdens, and ideals between someone White and someone Brown. Two poets, Damon Potter and Truong Tran, write to each other about one hundred powerful words—like “proximity, “shame,” and “hope”—each of which is an abstraction rife with socially inscribed beliefs and denials. They turn to each other in an exchange, a negotiation, and a series of discoveries as they write of their individual histories, share their burdens, and learn to carry weight together. Tran explains this project, saying “it is occurring to me even as I am writing this now that this is not an experiment, or case study or collaboration or partnership. Damon is not the subject nor am I. This is a shared endeavor, a lived experience between two very different lives trying to understand what it means to be, to see the other.”
About the Author
Damon Potter lives and works in San Francisco. Potter’s poems have previously been published in Elderly and Mirage #4/Period[ical].
Truong Tran was born in Saigon, Vietnam. His poems have been translated into several languages, and he is the author of five previous collections of poetry: The Book of Perceptions, Placing the Accents, Dust and Conscience, Within The Margins, and Four Letter Words. He lives in San Francisco and teaches at Mills College, Oakland.
"In the engaged and perceptively engaging 100 Words, white poet Damon Potter and gay Vietnamese poet Truong Tran hold a conversation about the import of explosive words like proximity and hope." — Library Journal: Poetry Titles To Watch 2021
“To enter this book is to witness in stark rarity and beauty, intimacy built by and between two strangers. Word by word, line by line, a shelter, a burden, a shared knowing is constructed by their hypnotic, addictive volley and an instruction manual/ode to the dismantling of systemic racism is assembled in the spaces in between. Tran and Potter write defiantly, tenderly into the most raw and private moments, which when made public, light and flash to show us the way to breaking through any facade to get to what’s really burning inside.” — Jennifer Hasegawa, author of La Chica's Field Guide to Banzai Living
“In 100 Words, Tran and Potter enter into a pact of vulnerability. Tran approaches Potter, an acquaintance in a café, with a proposition: share this burden. The burden of consciousness, pain, desire, survival. Tran, a gay man from Vietnam whose family fled the war when he was a child, asks Potter, a straight white man born a decade after the war, to collaborate in a call-and-response project. Tran sends Potter a list of 100 words—shame, home, family, weight—and the two trade off responding to the words in short passages. Each writer searches himself and the other to enact what Tran calls a ‘transference of consciousness,’ about race, privilege, othering, belonging, being. What began for Tran as an effort to ‘see this weight on someone else’ becomes a form of shared subjectivity. As Tran remarks in an afterword, ‘This is a shared endeavor, a lived experience between two very different lives trying to understand what it means to be, to see the other.’” — Mary Burger, author of Then Go On
“Language as a way of seeing, of reading, the other. A coming to terms with what one is, and is not, in the world. ‘this weight, this shame, it is not mine to carry.’ A simple statement through which the American-Vietnamese poet and visual artist Truong Tran, extends an invitation for the writer Damon Potter to help carry the weight of our shared existence in the world, of being in it, with words. A challenge to become past, memory, identity; to share a difficult sense of intimacy: ‘I have this overwhelming desire to clean your kitchen but I can’t. You would know that it was me.’ Intersected between poetry and conversation, 100 Words reveals a process defined by Truong as ‘the practice of doing,’ writing words, chasing them as they appear.” — Jessica Diaz, author/translator of Happy Endings
“100 Words begins with an uneasy conceit: two poets each deeply committed to linguistic precision and nuance, each with a visceral terror of how language obfuscates and betrays, enter into ‘honest’ conversation in order to ‘shift the weight’ of white bodied supremacy, to excavate the racist legacies of their lived engagement--word by word. . . . As each poet works through curiosity, rage, desire, refusal, despair, confusion, and reckoning 100 Words stunningly exceeds its conceit to become intimate communion ~ devastating, feral and luminous.” — Rebekah Edwards, author of Then’s Elsewhere