An UnPHOgettable Poem by Jennifer Lu

“An UnPHOgettable Poem”

We are in the break of dawn

The bird’s songs have filled the air,

I wake up groggy

The mornings are bright.

In this situation,

I can only think of one word: pho!


Fragrant as fresh banana leaves from the forest,

White as the meat of a coconut,

Their aroma will salivate your mouth before the noodles touch your lips

And your eyes will shoot open at the mere sight of them.



  1. What piece did you choose to imitate?
    1. I choose to imitate “A Noodle Poem” by Cheng Ji.
  2. Why did you choose this piece?
    1. I chose this dish because it really reflected more of the situation and sensory details of the dish rather than the individual ingredients or preparation. It opens up the conversation about food being eaten based on a time of year. This poem opens with the image of the time of year being the “second month of autumn.” In this case, my imitated poem discusses the morning environment and eating pho, a traditional breakfast food in Vietnam. This was important as both dishes are eaten around specific times. Also, the original literary work focuses on the appearance of the bing dish by comparing it to fine jade powder from Huashang and white silver paste Liangfu. In the author’s poem, the places like Huashang and Liangfu are mentioned in the assumption that readers would understand their location. I compared pho to fragrant banana leaves and white as coconut meat in order to compare the smell and appearance to someone who would understand the comparison.
  3. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?
    1. In their original poem, the author compares the dish to “Fine as jade power from Huashan, White as silver paste from Liangfu.” This comparison leads me to believe that these products were considered high-quality goods from foreign areas. Comparing the dish to these expensive goods emphasizes the rich quality the author is trying to convey of the dish.
  4. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?
    1. In my own poem, I replaced the author’s example of jade power and silver paste with banana leaves and coconut meat. I replaced these examples because while writing I realized the author chose those places and examples since their readers would know these places back in the third century. I realized that in Vietnamese cuisine we used a lot of banana leaves and coconuts in our diet. I thought comparing it to those things would relate it to an audience who understands Vietnamese cuisine.

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