Truong Tran

Truong Tran


   San Francisco, CA

Truong Tran (born 1969) is a Vietnamese-American poet, visual artist, and teacher. His collection dust and conscience (2002) won the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Prize, and in 2003, he served as Writer in Residence for Intersection for the Arts. Tran currently lives in San Francisco, where he teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University, and is Writer in Residence at the San Francisco School of the Arts.


Artist Statement: Day In The Life … On days when I am not working as a poet and teacher, I try to wake up early. I empty my oversized messenger bag of books and papers and the previous day’s half-eaten lunch. I place the strap over my left shoulder, with the bag firmly secured to my back. I begin to walk. I walk for as long as it takes to fill the bag with stuff: branches, findings from the local thrift stores, choice items left in boxes on sidewalks and, if I’m lucky, something I’ve never seen before. Once the bag is filled, I return home, empty the contents from the bag, creating mounds of what some might consider piles of junk. I see them as source materials and the beginnings to my art making process.

I am committed to using these recycled materials as an environmentally conscious artist but also as an artist who strives to make art accessible through both its practice and use of materials. Quite frankly, I get a kick out of forcing these disparate objects to come together, compromising and accommodating one another in their process of becoming something new, something beautiful.

I refer to what I do as art making because I do not paint, draw or sculpt in a traditional or learned consideration of artistic craft. My craft is founded in the doing. I glue things together. I make things fit. I dip things in wax. I cut. I build. I weave. I think. I fill things up with paint using ketchup bottles. I stare at things in hopes that these things will talk back to me. This is what I do. It makes me happy. It allows me to lose myself in the process of doing. It makes me sad. It allows me to find myself in the process of seeing.

I insist on it being called art at the end of the day.


What did the Fellowship or Laureate mean to you at the time you received it?

It was a start to my career as a writer/ poet.

What do you do now? Has your art evolved or changed?

I still teach poetry (San Francisco State and Mills College), although my shift has been towards visual arts. See my work at:

What is one piece of advice you would give to an emerging artist?

Go into it knowing that it will be a tough path but do it if your gut tells you.

Briefly, how would you describe the state of the arts locally, as well as national and beyond?

struggling, difficult, necessary, starved, lacking