Saturday, March 17, 2007

Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry

I'm pasting in below a BBC news item regarding a new acceptance by the Vietnamese government of poets who were suppressed in the 1950s. Because they called for more freedom of expression, they lost their privileged positions as members of the powerful Writers Association; some were imprisoned; and their works were banned from publication. Poems by two of the poets named, Tran Dan and Hoang Cam, will appear in the anthology Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry, edited and translated by Nguyen Do and me, to be published by Milkweed Editions in Spring 2008.

Poems by nine of the twenty-one poets included in the forthcoming anthology can be found in New American Writing 23 (2005): Dang Dinh Hung, Van Cao, Hoang Hung (who was held in prison and reeducation camps, 1978-1983, on the suspicion that he possessed a banned Hoang Cam manuscript), Thanh Thao, Nguyen Do, Nhat Le, Nguyen Quang Thieu, Vi Thuy Linh, and Nguyen Duy. The link is

Vietnam recognises jailed poets
By Bill Hayton BBC News, Hanoi

The Vietnamese government has announced that it is to award a prestigious prize to four poets - 50 years after they were imprisoned and their works banned. Hoang Cam, Le Dat, Phung Quan and Tran Dan were part of a movement which criticised life under communism but which was crushed in the late 1950s. The four, two of whom are now dead, published their work in two magazines. The awards seem to be part of a wider effort by Vietnam to reconcile difficult aspects of the past.
The two magazines, Giai Pham (Works of Beauty) and Nhan Van (Humanism), were launched shortly after Vietnam gained independence from France. However this brief period of openness, in which they called for freedom of expression and debated government policies, ended two years later as the Communist Party, under the influence of China, suppressed dissent.

Now the Communist Party is once again experimenting with greater openness, in an effort to repair relations with some of its critics. It has also given a Buddhist organisation permission to hold services in the next few weeks intended to promote reconciliation between former enemies.

Local media coverage of the decision to award the State Prize to the four poets has also been interesting because of the frank way in which it described how the poets were sent to re-education camps after calling for more freedom.

One of the two surviving poets, Hoang Cam, 86, was quoted as welcoming the prize - but said it was a pity it had not happened earlier. "The prize is beautiful, but late," he said.

To see the story in its original context, use the link: