Poetry by U Sam Oeur, translated by Ken McCullough
May 1, 1998 • 7 x 10 • 150 pages • 978-1-56689-069-4
Using myths, stories, and history as ironic counterpoint to Cambodia’s present-day situation, Oeur foretells freedom's return.
In 1975 U Sam Oeur and his family along with 2.8 million citizens of Phnom Penh were driven out of the city by the Khmer Rouge. During the next four years, the family survived life in six different concentration camps.
Sacred Vows retells the recent terror of Cambodia and the beauty of its culture. A survivor of the Pol Pot regime, Oeur hopes to inspire young Cambodians to reacquaint themselves with their heritage and make it once again vibrant.
About the Author
U Sam Oeur grew up in a Cambodian farming family. After studying in the US, he served in the Cambodian government, becoming part of the Cambodian delegation to the UN. When Pol Pot assumed power in 1975, Oeur, along with his wife and son, survived the killing fields while feigning illiteracy in six forced-labor camps. A devout Buddhist, Oeur now lives in Texas.
Poet and translator Ken McCullough’s recent books include Walking Backwards and Obsidian Point. He has received numerous awards for his poetry including a Pablo Neruda Award, Galway Kinnell Poetry Award, and New Millenium Poetry Award. He translated U Sam Oeur’s Sacred Vows and wrote the lyrics for the chamber opera, “The Krasang Tree,” based on Oeur’s poetry and experiences.
“The poems evoke the lush, rural culture of Cambodia. . . . U Sam Oeur records the transformation of Cambodia into a Dantesque hell.” —New York Times
“An elegantly printed, deeply personal, magisterial bilingual volume. . . . One is stunned by the multilayered meanings of the poems. This is sheer poetic virtuosity.” —World Literature Today