In early December 2021, around the time when sleep struggles to bid one goodnight, Hien Tran went out for a walk. Night had fallen on the streets of downtown Fredericton and her only guiding source was the city’s ever-loyal traffic lights, standing immobile and blinking like malnourished Christmas trees. Wind whipped through the frozen air, lifting bits of snow from the rooftops and sprinkling them across the roads. Hien walked with no destination in mind. She passed pitch-black coffee shops and banks, the occasional pair of cars, and a few pedestrians with their necks covered behind puffy coats. She liked the fact that everyone turned turtle-like the moment the weather dropped below zero degrees. This place looks like a ghost town in the dead of the night, thought Hien. But when morning comes, everything will be okay again.
In a couple of hours, the sun would shine through her window and melt the snowfall from the night prior. The world would return to its normal ways: people flooding the streets as they travelled to work, to school, to breakfast, to whatever they had planned. But Hien would only sit behind her desk, scrolling through a list of uninteresting job applications. She’d begin with jobs that were most closely related to her business degree, including Business Administrator for an agriculture term lender in Moncton, and later move on to more tangential offerings, such as After-School Coordinator or Youth Leader. It felt nearly meaningless, the act of sifting through endless job titles and work expectations that she had no true passion for.
All Hien ever wanted to do was write poetry. Everyday, she’d imagined herself publishing a poetry collection or two – three if she were truly lucky. It was a habit of hers to manifest such dreams, no matter how slim her chances sometimes felt. In her journal, the poems of Jenna Lyn Albert, Tammy Lynn Armstrong, and Lynn Davies swam like fish in the Saint John River. For the longest time, she had thought about changing her name to Hien ‘Lynn’ Tran to match the names of the talented poets she so admired. However, Hien put the idea on the back burner after her friends had disapproved of the name. “It stops the flow,” they said. “The flow is everything, Hien.”
Hien Tran kept a page in her journal titled The Poet Appreciation Page. It looked something like this:
Jenna Lyn Albert
– A member of The Fiddlehead’s editorial board and co-host of the elm & ampersand poetry podcast with Rebecca Salazar.
– Their debut collection of poetry Bec & Call won the New Brunswick Book Awards’ Fiddlehead Poetry Prize.
– Jenna served a two-year term as the City of Fredericton’s Poet Laureate beginning in 2019.
Tammy Lynn Armstrong
– Tammy’s 2002 collection Bogman’s Music won the Alfred G. Bailey poetry prize and was shortlisted for Canada’s most prestigious literary award, the Governor General’s Award.
– Her first novel, Translations: Aístreann, won the David Adams Richards Prize, and another collection of poems titled Unravel was nominated for the Relit Award.
– She won the William S. Lewis Doctoral Fellowship (2008), which is awarded to doctoral students from the University of New Brunswick who have the potential to become leaders in their field.
– Lynn won the Lina Chartrand Award, Contemporary Verse, for her 1995 poem “The Flamingo.”
– The Bridge that Carries the Road, her first book, was short-listed for the 1999 Governor General’s Award for Poetry.
– Several of Lynn’s individual poems have been featured on CBC Radio and were later translated into French and Spanish.
– Lynn has also taught creative writing at the University of New Brunswick and the Maritime Writers’ Workshop.
These New Brunswick poets served as Hien’s inspiration, and their achievements reminded her of the necessity to always pursue what mattered most to her. Hien came to their readings and bought all of their books, infusing her mind with the sweet language of Atlantic poetry and always believing that one day her success would tell a similar story.
So on a winter night in early December 2021, Hien Tran returned home from her walk, drank warm ginger tea, and got ready to plow through her job applications as the snow slowly melted. Her poetry journal laid open, Hien could not help but feel pride in her poetic works and the bed that sat unmade beside her.