In the past week or so I have been working with a “tutor” to practice reading Vietnamese poetry. Although I couldn’t interview one of Hue’s most highly acclaimed (female) poets, she sent me a little edition of her love poems, which included a beautiful essay at the back. I’ve attempted to work it into English and hope to use parts of it for my video narrative. Feedback welcome!
Impressions on Poetry by Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ, translation mine
Poetry is the new amidst the ordinary. Seeing it is difficult, but expressing it is even harder. One only achieves poetry as when an egg is incubated to the point that the life inside it must peck through, hatch open to the world — to vivacity, to physical reality. If one is rash and peels off the shell before its time, then one will never realize poetry but will only be left with dead phrases.
I remember when I was still young, before I attended school, there was a morning when I was chasing a red dragonfly and suddenly fell. When I sat up, my hand brushed against my chest. I was frightened to discover, in my body, there was curious beating. I rushed home, raising my hand to everyone’s chest, listening intently. After making sure that in everyone’s chest there existed the same beating, finally I was able to relax and breathe a sigh of relief… That was the first time in life I realized that I had a heart.
I have lived by that heart, a heart first discovered in a search for beauty — the red of a dragonfly in those naive days. And I could not anticipate that this very dragonfly would be the spiritual light that would lead me to the marvelous, extraordinary world of poetry.
For me, poetry is beauty — always.
One can’t take any particular poem as a paradigm for poetry. Each genuine poet has her own sparkle, none like another. One who has poetic pluck is one who can accept the challenge of time, nothing else. Indulging in poetry, being mesmerized by beauty, is half the achievement of one who writes poetry.