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16 Ottobre 2020, 06:10am

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it





By Khe Iem


(Translated by Joseph Do Vinh)

For all the essay read here:

“Poetry as a Window on History and Change in Southeast Asia” is the main topic of a Panel at the 56th Conference of the Association for Asian Studies – Sponsored by Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages, to be held in San Diego on March 4, 2004.  In many respects, poetry is indeed linked to history and change.  History here must be understood in the broader context of linguistic, literary and political developments.  These are the primary elements that make up culture.  When we speak of Vietnamese poetry, we are speaking of the larger category of Vietnamese literature as well, since up until the invention of the Quoc Ngu (Romanized National Script), Vietnamese literature was primarily poetic, absent of novels and essays.  Short stories only began to emerge with the popular use of Quoc Ngu.  The earliest were translations of Chinese and French stories that began to appear in the magazine Nam Phong Tap Chi. Thus, the novel only came into existence after 19211; an example of such work was To Tam, a romantic novel written by Hoang Ngoc Phach.  Novels written after that period followed the structure and expressions of plot and character development of foreign literature, merged with the rhetoric techniques of classical poetry.  Changes in Vietnamese literature always begin with changes to poetry, since poetry is at the heart of Vietnamese literature.  But poetry as a mechanism for change historically has been subjected to the whims of political power, tracing back a thousand years.  Changes in government, the written script and other historical changes have also affected the evolution of Vietnamese poetry.  As such, we must study Vietnamese poetry from many different angles:  the linguistic, historical and cultural influences of foreign civilizations such as China and the West, in order to understand the change and continuity in Vietnamese poetry typical of Vietnamese literature in general.


The Background  

As to Vietnamese history, China2 dominated Vietnam for nearly one thousand years (from 111 B.C.E. to 938 C.E.).  In modern times, Vietnam endured eighty years of French Colonialism (from 1863 to 1949).  Those years of foreign domination instilled upon Vietnamese people foreign cultures that deeply affected their customs, daily lives and literary traditions.  The Chinese rulers brought to Vietnam their distinctive traditions such as marriage reforms, education, agriculture, and many other aspects of civilization aimed at assimilating the Vietnamese.  For instance, they taught Chinese script for use in daily administrative offices because at that time, although the Vietnamese people had their own verbal language, no writing system existed.  After the great Ngo Quyen gained Vietnam’s independence from China (939 - 965), the Dinh Dynasty3 (968-960) took over and started to emulate the monarchist system from the Chinese Dynasties and continued to use Chinese script in administrative offices and diplomatic exchanges with China. Vietnamese poetry in Han Chinese script emerged under the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225), written mostly by Zen Buddhist monks because only Buddhist monks had the privilege of the formal education provided by the monasteries;  such writings were usually in the form of Sayings (katha).4   Buddhism arrived in Vietnam via two routes: by way of China and from India.  Many of the Buddhist texts were written in Han Script.  Therefore, Vietnamese monks were quite fluent in Han Script, and Sinology became popular with the spread of Buddhism. 

As of the tenth century, most Vietnamese social, political, cultural, religious, artistic, and literary traditions reflected Chinese influence. In the year 1075, the Vietnamese emperor Ly Nhan Ton established the first mandarinate exams in Vietnam.  The purpose of the exams was to recruit able civil servants into the emperor’s courts.  Despite its political independence, Vietnam still relied on Chinese script and general culture until the reign of Tran Nhan Ton (1279 - 1298).  Han Thuyen5 used Nom script, which was the unofficial Vietnamese script graphotype using Chinese characters, to write his famous poem ‘Van Te Ca Sau’ (Ode to the Crocodile).  Nom script was transcribed phonetically from Vietnamese pronunciations.  Like Han script, it proved very difficult to write.  Only civil servants, scholars and students could write in Nom, since it was not popular with the common people.  Nobody knew exactly how the Nom script originated.  Nom script may have developed from the need to describe daily activities and objects more clearly than in Han script.  This Nom script was not conventionalized.  Every user adapted it according to the needs at hand.  The reader had to rely on guesswork to comprehend the text. 

In the sixteenth century, during the Trinh-Nguyen Lords’ demarcation period, foreign merchants and missionaries began to arrive in Vietnam.  Since Nom script was difficult to learn, the missionaries devised an alphabet writing system based on Vietnamese pronunciation to facilitate the teaching of the Bible and to spread the Christian religion.  This was called Quoc Ngu (national script), and it combined the work of many Italian, French and Portuguese priests.  In 1651, a Jesuit Priest named Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660) published the first Quoc Ngu-Portuguese-Latin dictionary in Rome, marking the beginning of modern day use of the Vietnamese National Script, Quoc Ngu.  In 1863, the French invaded Southern Vietnam6 and by 1884 had conquered the entire country, making the South its colony and the North and Central areas its protectorates.  During the early years of French colonialism, the French had to quell many rebellions, including the Can Vuong7 (King Restoration) Movement.  The French were not able to abolish the entire mandarinate exam system in the North until 1915 and in Hue (in the Central area) around 1919.  Afterwards the French opened their own schools to train a new generation of colonists to work for them.  They also established the Khai Tri Tien Duc Association (Progressively Open-Minded Association) to advance French culture and Quoc Ngu script.  

Around the same time, in 1906, the Vietnamese revolutionary Phan Boi Chau organized the Phong Trao Dong Du8 (Go East Movement) to send Vietnamese students to Japan to acquire advanced education.  He recognized how strong and prosperous Japan had become by modernizing itself.  In early 1907, a number of young patriotic Vietnamese scholars with mixed Confucian and Western backgrounds, including Luong Van Can, Nguyen Quyen, Hoang Tang Bi, and Duong Ba Trac, opened the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc (Free School of the Eastern Capital).9 These scholars favored the use of Quoc Ngu over the archaic Nom and advocated Vietnamese nationalism, modernization, and mass education while resisting foreign cultural assimilation.  At the end of 1907, the French closed down the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc by negotiating a treaty with Japan discontinuing the harboring of Vietnamese students.  With the failure of the Phong Trao Dong Du and the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc, many Vietnamese scholars were disappointed and disheartened.  They returned to working under French administrators, serving as researchers and analysts to reconcile differences between the French and the Vietnamese.  

As part of its propaganda, the French authority assisted Nguyen Van Vinh in publishing Dong Duong Tap Chi 10 (Indochinese Review, 1913-1915) which specialized in the translation of Chinese and French literature into Quoc Ngu.  Another publication, Nam Phong Tap Chi11 (Southern Wind Review, 1917-1932) edited by Pham Quynh, appeared in 1917 in three languages:  Vietnamese (written in Quoc Ngu), French and Chinese.  Articles chosen for publication were on revolutionary thoughts and academic research and were educational in nature.  Nam Phong Tap Chi published widely in order to attract a large audience, from the Confucian educated to the western educated, in order to spread both ancient and modern studies.  In 1928, Nguyen Van Ngoc published his modern collection of Vietnamese “folk and custom” verses12 of some eight thousand verses following such ideals.  This collection laid the basis for harmony between Tho cu (old poetry) with Tho moi (new poetry).  Here we can recognize the importance of the written word.  Alphabet writing was easier to learn and write, similar to English or French. It helped to change the influence on Vietnamese culture from the Chinese to the West.


By 1932, a new generation of writers had emerged.  Those new writers no longer subscribed to the East-West reconciliation views of the Nam Phong Tap Chi and Dong Duong Tap Chi generation.  They revolted against the old, and promoted the new.  The first of this new generation was author Nhat Linh, who published Phong Hoa magazine12 (Customs and Morals) and founded Tu Luc Van Doan (the Self-Reliant Literary Group) in 1933 that included Khai Hung (1896-1947), Thach Lam (1910-1942), Hoang Dao (1907), Tu Mo, Nguyen Gia Tri (1908-1993) and The Lu (1907-1989).  These writers used Quoc Ngu to compose poems and novels.  Many other writers later joined them, including Xuan Dieu (1916-1985), Huy Can, Vu Hoang Chuong(1916-1975), and Dinh Hung (1920-1967).  Together they started an enlightening literary epoch called Tho van Tien Chien14 (pre-war literature).  These writers shared a Confucian scholar background, with a penchant for Western education.  Combining traditional Tang poetry with popular oral traditions, they composed a particular Vietnamese-style poetry.  Up until this time, all literature was reserved for city-dwellers who were educated since the majority of the common population was still illiterate.  It was this period that marked the departure of Vietnamese literature from its heavily Chinese-influenced traditions.  

Prior to this, Vietnamese traditions were ingrained in an authoritarian monarchist system modeled after China’s.  This system, based on Confucianism as its basic social-political-cultural philosophy, aimed only at controlling the populace.  Confucianism became prevalent under the rule of the Confucian mandarins.  Confucianism dictated loyalty above all else.  The King had complete authority over his subjects just as a father has complete authority over his household.  This authority over life and death matters was total and was not to be questioned.  The King relied on his mandarins to control his subjects, while the mandarins were bestowed power and privileges in return.  In order to attain the status of a mandarin, candidates were qualified through mandarinate exams.15  During these exams, candidates composed poetry and written texts in accordance with set rules of composition based on difficult formal and complicated Chinese literature.  Should candidates fail to comply with these strict regulations or corrupt the process in any way due to their ineptitude, they would face imprisonment.  

Thus, Confucianism became a competition-examination system.  From the King to the mandarins, all were career poets who specialized in the flowery style. After some 2000 years of Chinese influence, most Han poets were mandarins (in nature); however, they had weaker poetic standards than the poets of the Tang period.  From the beginning, poetry was a means to gain power, and then it became power itself.  Once a Confucian poet became a mandarin, he became a ruler; his poetry became sacred, respected, no longer an artistic creation.  Han Chinese writing was considered the language of the Sages, not to be used lightly or for entertainment.  Once Han Thuyen used Nom script to write his poem (Ode to the Crocodile), more people composed poetry using Nom script to avoid the (said) rules and customs of the mandarin courts.  Poetry written in Nom borrowed the Chinese forms initially, but gradually changed to using the traditional forms of Vietnamese folk poetry, which have the six-eight or double-seven and six-eight patterns (A Vietnamese word usually has a single syllable. Six-Eight refers to the count of a line of poetry:  first a line of six words; then a line of eight words).  At first, poets entertained themselves by using Nom as a new medium for writing poetry, but later some talented poets found that using Nom could relieve them from the usual constructs, enabling free expression, surpassing the eloquence of Tang poetry.  Over time, the elite mandarin self inside the poets slowly took over the artist self, making Nom poetry more difficult to comprehend with many historical references.  It had taken over the position of Han poetry and became Vietnamese classical poetry. 

If Han poetry were an amalgamation of political power and literature, Nom poetry was now a separate literary movement that counter-balanced political power.  This new kind of poet was obsessed with the power of opposites, that of illusion and politics, that of mandarin and artist.  The great poet Nguyen Du, for example, was a high-ranking mandarin of the Nguyen Dynasty who was disillusioned with the royal court.  He could only pour his feelings out into poetry in order to escape reality.  Yet Nom poetry like Han poetry had its roots in a monarchist court culture that was heavily influenced by mandarin overtones of dictatorship and arrogance and lost appeal because it was reserved exclusively for elites who proclaimed themselves as venerable sages, “noble gentlemen.”  Naturally, the common people had no role in that kind of poetry.  And because the French government was busy quelling the masses, they ignored writing groups.  Vietnamese literature began to shed political obsessions.


Before the development of Quoc Ngu, common people knew neither Han Script nor Nom Script.  Although considered outsiders of the literary groups, the common people, whose spirituality was closely knitted with nature, had learned to express their emotions through traditional folk songs developed over thousands of years.  Ca dao (folk songs) were sporadic creations of the rural masses that developed into metered poems of the six-eight (words per line) form or sometimes two lines of seven words each followed by a line of six words and a line of eight words.  One can find a trove of anecdotes and tales in poetry and song that passed culture and customs down through the generations.  These folk songs were filled with images of daily hardships such as farming, irrigation, or rice pounding.  These people relieved the pressures of a life of hard labor by singing or reciting oral poems composed by unknown authors.  Ca dao was very short and simple.  It had only two or four verses, with rhyme and rhythm that were easily sung or recited. 

While Tang poetry’s structure was rigid with its set rules such as ngu ngon tu tuyet (5-4 form: 5 words per line, 4 lines) or that ngon bat cu (7-8 form: 7 words per line, 8 lines).  Pre-War poetry borrowed from these forms and from the structure of Tang poetry with its 5 or 7 syllable (word) verse form, adding the eight-word verse form and the six-eight-syllable verse form.  The 5-4 and 7-8 forms mixed with the Ca dao form reflected the natural sounds of Vietnamese spoken language.  Lacking structure and eloquence, Ca dao never developed into a formal aesthetic trend.  Classical poetry and pre-war poetry stemmed from Ca dao.  If classical poetry reflected a strange and faraway China, the pre-war poetry reflected the common love and romance found in individualism, estranged from traditional daily life.  The general population never found a comfortable place in Vietnamese poetry because the literates excluded them in one way or another. 

It is worthy to note that Vietnam remained relatively peaceful from 1932 to 1945.  In 1945, at the end of World War II, the Nine-Year War with France began, ending with the Geneva Treaty 16 on July 20, 1954, that divided Vietnam in half.  The northern half rallied to communism.  The southern half rallied to capitalism.  Soon after, another war broke out at the end of 1960, involving both halves of the country.  It was during the 1960’s that the Nhan Van Giai Pham 17 (Humanism Quarterly Magazine) was established in the North, and the Free Verse Poetry Movement developed in the South.  In both the North and the South, poets were trying to deviate from the stagnant pre-World War II. poetry.  They experimented with more liberal forms of expression.  By the end of the latest war in 1975, Vietnamese poetry had undergone two decades of near paralysis.  It was not until 2000 that a new and more vibrant movement would emerge - New Formalism.  In this essay, we have used comparative studies to juxtapose poetry with historical events within which these works came into being, taking into account the unique characteristics of each of the periods, from the 1960s until the present day.

The continuity

During Chinese domination over Vietnam, poetry flourished, most notably in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 906).  Vietnamese poetry, although evolving linguistically and conceptually over time, continued to echo Tang influence into the future.  The following example is cited below to demonstrate this point.

The Chinese poet Jia Dao (779-843), as a youth on his way to take the national examination in the Capital, happened to compose the following two verses:

Ma tuc tri trung thu

Tang thoi (xao) nguyet ha mon


The horse sleeps under a tree by the lake

The monk knocks (pushes) the temple gate under the moonlight.


Since he was not quite satisfied with the word ‘knocks’, he was deep in thought and did not even notice a company of officials traveling by.  The guards brought him to the State Minister Han Yu (768-824).  (In the old days, common people had to stop and yield until the officials passed by; otherwise the people would be arrested for slighting the officials.). Upon discovering his endeavor, the State Minister suggested the word ‘pushes’ instead of ‘knocks’, which is more subtle, and pardoned his impropriety.  The hidden meaning in these two versions is profound, demanding its readers to have a repertoire of classical poetry and historical reference.  Jia Dao used the Buddhist perspective that human beings are tam vien y ma, meaning human beings’ hearts constantly change like a hyperactive monkey while their minds are like a moving horse, never calm.  The monk is in control of his mind, as the horse sleeps under a tree.  The moonlight reflects upon the lake, signifying life was illusive.  Once the monk’s mind calms, he knocks (pushes) the gate.  His action was a willful act of seeking the inner meaning of Buddhism, of the sutras as a means to an end, like the finger that points to the moon that is the truth.  The monk is on his way to discover the ultimate truth, nirvana.  The images of the horse, the gate, and the moonlight represented the human mind, Buddhist teachings and sutras.  Han Yu suggested the word xao ‘pushes’, which was both gentle and implied that the ultimate truth was not far, but within reach.  In these two short verses, one finds idealism.  This style of poetry utilizes an “idea-beyond-words” technique.  Later on, Jia Dao retired from his mandarin position. He became a monk and continued to write poetry.  Once he lamented: 


Luong cu tam nien dac

Thi thanh song le thuy


(I) composed two verses in three years

Once written, both eyes filled with tears


This historical reference of Thoi Xao (Knock-Push) and the technique, idea-beyond-words, influenced Vietnamese literature from Han script to Quoc Ngu, from Tang influenced-poetry through pre-War and Free Verse poetry.  As Tang poetry demonstrated, it was a high form of Art.  It required the poet and his readers to possess knowledge of the three great doctrines of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, not reflecting in reality but taking refuge from it.  Vietnamese classical poetry and pre-War poetry were rhetorical arts, carefully choosing words, like Jia Dao.  The only difference between them is that classical poetry heavily used literary references from (ancient) Chinese literature while pre-War poetry relied on words to convey romantic feelings.  During Vietnam’s relatively peaceful period prior to 1945, both classical and pre-War poetry used the right rhetorical techniques.  After the 1960s, both the North and South experienced social changes.  Rhetorical usage was no longer suitable for such situations.  Poets found new ways to express their thoughts and feelings appropriate to their rapidly changing circumstances.  However, the communist government in the North forbade all forms of change (no free expression was allowed).  Poets had to indulge once again in rhetorical usage although they were not allowed to have their compositions published; they had to keep their works to themselves.  Their rhetorical technique took on ambiguous usage for even the most ordinary words.  Their methods disregarded the rules of grammar, eliminating the “idea-beyond-word” approach in which no meaning is real. 

Meanwhile in the South, most of the literary elites were those who had immigrated from the North in 1954.  As strangers to this new environment who were withdrawing from the war around them, these writers tended to go into self-imposed isolation within the city walls.  Alienated from the masses, they turned to their own minds and books, concentrating on words in order to reflect feelings instead of ideology.  Thus, both the North and the South prior to the unification in 1975, and out-of-mainstream free verse poetry after the unification, were absorbed in the quest to find interesting words and imageries to paint surprising portraits that were quite removed from any realities.  


Western influence on both the political and the literary culture began in earnest in the 1920’s and was filled with biases; however, the masses ability to grapple with the new concepts remained elementary.  Many western ideologies, such as Communism or Surrealism, were only beginning to be digested in Vietnam, even as some of these same ideologies had been abandoned in the West.  Over-enthusiasm for Western ideas had eclipsed the early advances made by such writers as those in the Self-Reliant Literary Group.  Thus began a period of literary confusion.  Hoang Dao with his Ten Meditations began something entirely new.  Nhat Linh’s character Loan in Doan Tuyet took a knife to her husband, intent on his murder.  She was symbolic of fundamentalist tendencies.  The satires of Ly Toet, Xa Xe 18, portrayed a backward society filled with the dumb and the blind.  These views were slanted toward the negative bias of Western perspectives.  Unable to critically analyze and evaluate the impact of this negative trend, these latest writers could not improve or expand upon the national traditions.  This confusion gave rise to violent tendencies that inspired a host of extremist activities to follow.  This wholesale adaptation of western ideas, undigested and unprocessed, fostered misconceptions and gave birth to a syntactically ill-developed body of work that is typical of Vietnamese literature of the last half of the twentieth century.  For several consecutive generations until now, Vietnamese literature looked to the West as a perfect model.  In such literature, the common people were viewed as just as backward and stupid as Ly Toet and Xa Xe, the satirical characters of Tu Luc Van Doan fame.  Vietnamese poetry during this period was nothing more than word play and wordsmithery, devoid of any positive social implications. 

From 1960 to 1975, and even after 1975, Vietnamese free verse existed side by side with more structured and metered poetry.  In the North, themes of revolution, of struggle, and of propaganda consistent with the party line dominated, while in the South themes of love and romance dominated.  In both cases, poetry was a means to achieve an end, not an end in itself.  Poetic traditions remained static.  Thus, following the pre-World War II poetry, Vietnamese literature diverged into two main paths.  One continued along the lines of Tu Luc Van Doan (the Self-Reliant Literary Group) with its emphasis on romantic portrayals, and the other was based on new usages of ambiguous rhetoric that pretended to accommodate change.  These tendencies have been locked in place to the present day.  Since no new aesthetics has emerged, and absent any new thoughts and techniques, Vietnamese literature has remained stagnant.  We find ourselves today in that dilemma.


Ancient Greek rhetoric was established during the fifth century B.C.E.  It is the art or study of using speech or written language effectively and persuasively, including techniques for the use of logic or argument aimed at persuading the audience about certain ideals or concepts, and it makes use of grammatical principles.  Thus, logic has to be lucidly coherent, leading the audience to complete comprehension of an issue once it is presented.  As a custom and habit from old tradition, it must shed light on the truth, and the speaker or writer must be capable of resolving difficult problems through clear and concise reasoning, with the logic flowing as in a story-telling.  In poetry, rhetorical figures do not change the meaning of words, but only add to their emphasis through repetition.  In short, rhetoric was the invention or discovery of ideas, the arrangement or organizing of ideas, and the style or way of putting ideas into words, which offered practice in oral argumentation for the philosophers, lawyers and politicians. 

In the Middle Ages, the study of the trivium - grammar, rhetoric and dialectic - emphasized style and logic.  During the Renaissance, with the invention of the printing press, the written word became increasingly important.  Over the course of many centuries, rhetoric went from a focus on the use of the spoken word to a focus on the written word.  And until now, it is a course of study within the English language and literature departments in universities.  Later, along came the New Rhetoric with its new viewpoint, one not only related to the content, structure or written representational style, but also one that included many social and political issues concerning maintaining harmonious relationships with each other.  Because of our cultural diversity, in everyday conversation many situations occur as a result of only a few misunderstood simple words.  New Rhetoric broke away from studying texts for their beauty or content, and began to use rhetoric as a tool to analyze information about society, becoming a vehicle for mutual understanding among humans.  Of course, sometimes the rhetoric could fall victim to negative terms, using unnecessary amplification, sham or empty words.  In general, according to Western belief, rhetoric was merely a method for helping people open up to the world, while the Vietnamese interpretations kept the door closed to the outside, and were adapted particularly to the country and its own historical situation at that time. 

When these two notions about rhetoric are compared, it becomes clear as to why Vietnamese poetry had to change.  The idea was, if one line has one excellent word, it is an excellent line; if a poem has an excellent line, it is an excellent poem.  Written words remain in the readers’ mind throughout their education and experience (for example, Sino-Vietnamese words).  Words are signs with a signifier and an attached signified meaning. When a literary work uses only words or lines to create impressions and feelings, it leads readers into a supernatural or surreal world (in reality, a world that is nothing but words) containing only illusions unreflective of the real world.  The overuse of impractical literature is a bad influence, and language becomes poison, which deceives readers.  The language is no longer a means to transfer thoughts and information from one to another.  The written word becomes a privilege of a minor academic group.  It is a private power that allows neither a way in, nor a way out of that secluded domain, and the poet finds escape from reality.  A text is good because of the feelings and illusions it creates with words.  However, it brings no ideological development to that kind of literature. Thus, we have two distinctively different systems.  On the one hand, we have a system based on Tang poetic traditions with its difficult word play.  On the other hand, we have a system aimed at exploring thoughts and concepts based on style and logic, ever evolving to reflect social changes.  These two systems are irreconcilable.  Regardless of the superb translation work done between languages, true understanding has not been attained.



















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"Introduction To Vietnamese New Formalism Poetry A Review after 10 Years" essay by Khế Iêm, Vietnam

27 Settembre 2020, 14:25pm

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

                                                            Introduction To

Vietnamese New Formalism Poetry

A Review after 10 Years



To poets Đỗ Quyên, Inrasara and Lê Vũ

New Formalism is an American poetry movement begun in the early 1980s and developed through the 1990s, lead by a number of young poets composing in the traditional style. But why New Formalism and not some other movement? Traditional Western poetry, began with Homer (his two works The Iliad and The Od­yssey, each written in 16-syllable verses), and then followed with free-verse with the American poet Walt Whitman (towards the end of the 19th century). Free-verses, throughout the 20th century, developed strongly in United States after the Second World War with many advant garde movements, withered at the end of the century, and created reactions and revivals of the meter in poetry.

English is a strong-stress and poly-syllabic language with empha­sis on consonant sounds. Poetic form depends upon the number of syllabic sounds in a verse, for example, a common form has 10 sounds, iambic pentameter (unstress, stress repeated 5 times), from verse to verse with end-rhymes. If there are no end-rhymes, then it is called blank verses. Vietnamese poetry in the 5-word, 7-word, 8-word or alternating 6-word and 8-word form breaks up the verses according to the word count. Vietnamese is a mono-syl­labic language; therefore, its poetic form, besides having rhymes at the end of a verse, may be organized according to the inflections of level / oblique tones.

Poetry comes before poetic rules. From antiquity, poetry has been developed alongside musical instruments such as lutes and flutes, and people sang it as a song. Later on, even when music and words were differentiated, the relationship between words and music remained as rhythm and sounds, between the practical and the aesthetics, long-standing traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, becoming poetic rules. That is why poetic rules, simplified as rhyme schemes, as end-rhymes, are in­nate in the heart of the reader and the poet. Once these principles are codified, in much the same way as musical notations, the skill of the poet is to marry words and ideas such that, when the poem is read, there is a spiritual dimension reverberating through, rising to the level of goodness. Free-verse came into being with the de­sire to escape from the traditional rhythm and rhymes; the goal of making poetry new replaced the standard of making it good. So, to make rhymed verses new or to reform them is to corrupt poetry, and we can only replace the standard of goodness with a differ­ent standard. Like modern art, the traditional notion of beauty is replaced by the drive to create, to make anew.

Poetry in any age goes through the cycle of flowering and de­cline. Rhymed poetry after a long period of time goes into re­treat because social conditions change; poetry can no longer ex­press human emotions, and free-verse poetry is given a chance to be born. Modern Western-style free-verse poetry and painting is compatible with the spirit of conquest (towards the end of the 19th century) and confrontation (during the cold war period) and the development of science and technology, resulting in two world wars. The period of confrontation created extremism and anoma­lies in American post-war poetic activities, which are biased to­ward free-verse, pushing aside meter and rhyme poetry, viewing them as an obsolete form of poetry. Meanwhile, in other countries such as England, free verse and meter / rhyme verse developed side by side.

The rise of New Formalism movement helped American poetic activities regain their balance. But, after a period of revival in rhymed verses, some American poets thought that it was not nec­essary to adhere to any terms but that it was sufficient for poetry to be good. So, after all, is “New Formalism” just a revival of past traditions? “New” here means “retro”. The key principles of rules, like enjambments, rhyme-schemes, even everyday and common language already exist from the Romantic period early in the 19th century, with William Wordsworth’s blank verses. Free-verse poetry, the Imagists at the start of the 20th century, with poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, also promotes the use of common language and precise words in poetry. Language usages vary over periods of time. When everyday language is infused into poetry, poetry is given new life, captivating the reader and res­urrecting rhymed verses. These successes cannot be overlooked; they are a major contribution. Another reason is that readers in the information age are no longer impressed with the new aspects of poetry, so the poet must return to the standard of good poetry, with real talents, in order to preserve poetry.

What about Vietnamese New Formalism Poetry? In Spring 2000, in the special edition of the Vietnamese Journal of Poetry entitled “Encounter with a New Millennium”, Vietnamese poets utilized the term “New Formalism” to introduce to Vietnamese poetry the Blank Verse form of English poetry. To accept a new form of po­etry is to accept the methods of composition, applying new prin­ciples: enjambments, repetition, prose narration, and the use of common language.

1/ In English poetic forms, the enjambment technique is very com­mon as compared to line-break in free-verse poetry. When adapted to Vietnamese poetry, this technique is defined as follows:

“When the enjambment technique is used, it changes the practice of stopping at the end of a verse, the reader is prompted to search for the missing part (of the sentence), the speed of reading is in­creased and one must read visually. This brings up the concept of time and space in poetry. What is lost, perhaps, is a part of life, of the past or future, and, as such, the present is nothing but empti­ness. Such emptiness is not empty because of the ever-changing, ever moving character of what is known and what is unknown, intertwining with each other. Poetry thus arises out of the am­biguities and complexities of syntax, creating musical rhythm. What is clear, a poem and the perception of rhythm does not lie in language (words), but in the content of the language. The content of the language is the movement of emotions through grammar and syntax.” 1

2/ Common (everyday) language: An example often cited:

“The poet Timothy Steele, while having lunch at a popular eatery, coincidentally overheard a lover’s quarrel, after which the woman stood up and, before leaving, said loudly:

x / x / x / x / x /

You haven’t kissed me since we got engaged.

The saying complies with iambic meter (unstress, stress) and re­peated 5 times (penta –), thus forming iambic pentameter. Steele recognized that form is drawn from common language, and New Formalism converts common language into poetic forms.” 2

English formalism poetry has two categories, rhymed and un­rhymed poetry (blank verses). This is true in part because English is a polysyllabic language, rich with rhymes, which makes it easy to create enjambments and transform common language into po­etry, whether there are rhymes at the end of the verses or not. In contrast, Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language, wherein it is dif­ficult to convert common language into poetry because it would not conform to metered (rhyme) schemes. Once the metered (rhyme) schemes are eliminated and replaced with enjambment techniques to create free associations, then Vietnamese poetry be­comes no different from English blank verses. Common language flows into poetry, erasing the musical qualities of metered poetry, and helps the poet to discover new rhythms and musical quali­ties. Folk poetry in the six-eight form utilizes simple language but retains the characteristics of lullabies and songs; plain language or common language is not spoken like lullabies or songs. New Formalism is a type of poetry that is read.

3/ In poetic rules, regardless of the form, alliteration techniques are employed to create musical qualities and rhythm for the poem. The repetitions of the level / oblique sounds is found in Tang po­etry forms, and the equivalent unstress, stress sounds, repeated five times in one poetic verse, is found in English. In these ways, traditional poetry creates repeating syllables. When English free verse wished to escape from these rules and traditional sounds, they replaced the repetitive syllables by repeating words and re­peating phrases. Similarly, in order to escape from the sounds of rhymed verses, Vietnamese Blank Verse adopted the same tech­nique used in English free verse, that is, repeating words and phrases in a poem.

4/ Narrative / Story-telling quality is a common characteristic throughout all poetic traditions that tell a story. In Vietnamese Blank Verse poetry, this story-telling quality also means that thoughts and concepts are continuous and not disconnected, as in free-verse poetry.

At this point, Vietnamese Blank Verse poetry has achieved all four critical qualities of English Blank Verse to become a separate po­etry form. With respects to American poetry, the label of “New Formalism” was advanced by its enemies, intended as a jab. Lateron, the two founding poets of this movement, Frederick Feirstein and Frederick Turner, combined it with Narrative Poetry to create a new movement, Expansive Poetry. Regardless, American New Formalism had accomplished its goals of reviving rhymed (me­tered) poetry, and erased the barriers between poets. Because of the dominance of free-verse poetry throughout the 20th century, there were serious rifts, once thought to be irreconcilable, between the schools represented, on the one side, by Robert Frost, who described free verse as “playing tennis without nets”, and on the other side by Ezra Pound, who championed free-verse, trailblaz­ing “make it new”. Only after the arrival of New Formalism did American poetry finally overcome the fever of the Avant Gard poetic movements which blossomed after the 1950s. Poetry har­monized between free-verse and metered forms.

The technical term (label) of “New Formalism” was very accurate with regard to Vietnamese poetry. Vietnamese poetry also revert­ed, but only took old poetic forms and adapted to new qualities in order to be transformed into a new poetic form. In addition, Vietnamese New Formalism was also an assimilation of the tradi­tional and modern, erasing all distinguishing borders between the English and Vietnamese language, thereby creating an exchange of cultures. (It is worth noting here that there are many similarities between the Vietnamese and English language, such as the un­stress, stress and level / oblique tones. The only difference is the strength of the sounds. Old English was mostly monosyllabic up until the adaptation of polysyllabic words from French and Latin. This adaptation permits us to readily accept English Blank Verse, which utilizes alliteration (repetition) in ways that other polysyl­labic languages such as French, cannot accept, because they are not strongly stress.)

Poets used descriptive styles and alliteration techniques to cre­ate rhythm in free verse poetry, combined with the critical quali­ties of enjambment and narration from English poetic rules, andthen channeling into traditional Vietnamese to be the forms 5, 7, 8 words and six-eight blank verse poetry. Quite exceptional, Vietnamese New Formalism poetry sets new standards while as­piring to even greater heights, able to harmonize all the various poetic forms with free-verse poetry. But then again, why not just keep on composing free verse poetry, why force conformity with forms? We already know that there are many ways to differenti­ate between poetry and prose, but, as for form, poetic rules are the defining characteristic. When prose is composed, we write to the end of the line before we start a new line; and so, if the poem has no form at all, then it becomes a prosaic composition. Although it harmonizes with free verse poetry, Vietnamese Blank Verse is more akin to prose poetry than it is to other types of modern free-verse poetry.

Besides accepting Blank Verse poetic forms, via an American Avant Gard movement, there is another reason. Perhaps ingrained in the psyche of the refugee/immigrant, there is the motive to un­derstand who we are and who the different peoples around us are, thus giving rise to the need for the discovery of new poetic forms. Thereby, a need to employ new means in which to gain mutual understanding between Vietnamese and other cultures is realized. And thus, the issue of translation becomes central.

“The purpose of New Formalism poetry is to propel Vietnamese poetry onto the international stage. That is why translation is em­phasized to seek readers from different languages and cultures. If the old markings are too submerged in cultural or linguistic systems, then the foreign reader would not understand, including the young Vietnamese readers presently in Vietnam. But everyone knows that poetry cannot be truly or fully translated because the sounds of a language cannot be translated. This is especially true with traditional poetry, in which the sounds of the language give rise to the musical quality of poetry.”3

That is why New Formalism poetry must change the way it is written, in response to the demands of translation. With respect to words, if normal, everyday language is used to make poetry, then poetry becomes absent of rare and archaic words, and the readers do not get stuck with words when they read poetry. As for style, poetry moves closer to prose and utilizes repetition in order to cre­ate rhythm, so meter is conserved, and traces of prose are removed to form poetry.”4

Because, upon translation, the sounds of one language are con­fused in another language, meaning is lost if translations are word for word. Otherwise, if a verse is translated literally, the result will be a very distasteful verse in the target language. In poetry, musi­cal and rhythmic qualities are pervasive, linking up emotions and ideas. So the translation of poetry is no easy task; this we all know. In order to resolve these matters, we must first change the way we compose before any translation is rendered. For example, al­literation (repetition) techniques in Vietnamese poetry add a new critical dimension to rhythm which upon English translation is preserved. The English reader will be able to read the poem as if it was composed in English and not in another language originally. Another advantage is that the English reader is able to empathize and relate to a foreign country and culture even though they are reading uniquely different poems. Those who read Vietnamese will recognize, upon encountering the English translation of the poem, the outstanding characteristics of Vietnamese poetry for one simple reason: a bilingual reading is deliberate and otherwise time-consuming, requiring careful and thorough reading of the poem.

An American poetry commentator (critic), Angela Saunders, had the following thoughts about Vietnamese New Formalism poetry when she wrote her introduction for the anthology Poetry Nar­rates.

“Poetry itself, in any language, is a traditional literary method to pass oral accounts and stories from one generation to another. The rhythm and sounds of a poem provide the means of delivery and way to remember the verse. Sounds that flow in the native tongue of one language are linguistically specific and are not easily trans­lated into another language. A poem set to melodies and tunes in a native tongue lose its aesthetic appeal in translation. Thus a conundrum is created. In an increasingly mobile society, how does one bridge the gaps between linguistic, cultural, and generational barriers while preserving traditional heritage?”5

And she recognized the following characteristics of Vietnamese New Formalism poetry,

“[As] a patterned number of syllables, enjambments are used at exact syllable counts that remain consistent throughout the poem. This means that a thought that begins on one line may continue or suddenly stop on the next. Traditionally, enjambments, or stops, will occur to highlight specific words or thoughts. This unnatural stop pattern will often enhance the visual and emotional impact of the poem. Each use of repetition, enjambment, and imagery allow us to truly see the beauty of the thoughts each author is try­ing to portray. The placement of each word is such that one must consider each meaning implied by positioning, line endings, and strong sensory imagery. For each element paints a desired portrait; each word an integral part of the poem; and each repetition and position shouting out the thoughts of the author and the translator and each poem taking on life of its own.”6

Once the poem is translated and able to be read as if it was an original composition, the result is that American and Vietnamese poets can read each others’ poems in two languages.7 As exam­ples, such interesting meeting of the minds happened in “Bilin­gual Poetry” (a bilingual edition) and “Other Poetry Voices” from web site www.thotanhinhthuc.org. In a letter calling for American poets to lend their voices, I wrote,

“Come join us in this small, yet warm corner of poetry. Let us raise a glass and toast each other in this meeting of minds. Dear friends and colleagues, only poetry has the ability to transform us and let us see each other for what we truly are, as equals, and to share suffering as well as happiness in the human condition.”8

To recap, the past ten years of Vietnamese New Formalism poetry have accomplished notable results. Actually, there are no bad po­etic forms, only limits of expressions. For example, in the middle of the 14th century, the Earl of Surrey translated Italian poetry as blank verse in English poetry, but it wasn’t until a half century later that William Shakespeare, and another hundred years later that John Milton, brought Blank Verse poetry to justly deserved prominence. It is important to recognize the 64 poets who have made these concepts a reality in the bilingual anthology of “Blank Verses”, and the 21 poets who made up the bilingual collection of “Poetry Narrates”. We believe that, as long as change is a neces­sity for poets and they are able to communicate with the world beyond their own immediate societies, they will seek readers from other languages and cultures, and so Vietnamese Blank Verse will continue to be an effective and essential vehicle.

            Gyảng Anh Iên

            Crab-Meat Noodle Soup

            How can he understand, how

            the bicycle of ten years ago

            again rushes into his memory,

            when he sits and eats a bowl

            of crab-meat noodle soup on

            the sidewalk, which exactly

            ten years before he rode his

            bicycle to school, at the


            time the lady selling crab-

            meat noodle soup was yet to

            get married and fat like now

            and, was welcoming guesses with


            alacrity so that (she)

            could quickly sell the load of

            crab-meat noodles, while the after-

            noon tornado was dragging


            into his memory, with

            the white shirt dripping wet, but

            he no longer knew where to

            stroll, crossed the road where he’s

            sitting and eating the crab-

            meat noodle soup of ten years

            later, and doesn’t know how

            he had eaten all the memories.


            Translated by Trần Vũ Liên Tâm


The poet Tunisia notes the following about the poem “Crab-Meat Noodle Soup”: “Crab-Meat Noodle Soup” of Gyảng Anh Iên presents “a bicycle, a bowl of crab-meat noodle soup, the wom­an who sells crab-meat noodle soup, a bout of rain…” ten years earlier, he didn’t eat a bowl of crab-meat noodle soup, ten years later he ate it and recalls ten years earlier when he rode a bike to school, across a crab-meat noodle soup eating-place. The woman who sold crab-meat noodle soup ten years earlier had not married, while the woman who sold Crab-Meat Noodle Soup ten years lat­er probably has married, thus fatten out. And through the poem, his memory flashes, half clear, half confused, finally to disappear altogether like the bowl of crab-meat noodle soup that has been eaten, leaving no memories.”

But in order to realize that he had not eaten a bowl of crab-meat noodle soup ten years earlier, only to be eaten ten years later, a string of words and verses had to be craftily assembled, and disas­sembled, because memory is meshed up in images, inseparable and without clear chronological order. But that’s not all, memory is presented simultaneously with the eating of the crab-meat noo­dle soup, from the time the bike is parked, until the time when the bout of rain pours down, and then where the bike goes is unknow­able, creating an illusion with the effect that eating the bowl of crab-meat noodle soup is like eating one’s own memories, so that memories have been transformed into present realities.



            many times randomly

            like tonight, it or some

            thing like it, cannot up-

            turn on its own, that is

            when I drop on the desk

            a bunch of books condemning|

            leading the way, the roach

            still lays upward hopeless

            on the hall’s floor of room

            number seven, who knows

            [] the reason, its head

            holding the earth feet

            stomping the sky, despite

            running water in the

            bathroom or breathing noise

            of the blue workers,

            something like that, what shall

            I do to help the roach

            turn over [].

            Translated by Trần Vũ Liên Tâm


The poem “Blabber”, although it uses common language but it re­flects abstract concepts. Poetry is not a matter of the rational mind but of emotions. In a rare moment, the mind is no longer existent in the present; poetry captures reality (in that moment), and when mind is restored, reality is transformed into images of the intellect, appearing to the reader via words. Like the poem “Crab-Meat Noodle Soup”, with images from ten years past and ten years later, the poem “Blabber” juxtaposes two conflicting scenarios whichbalance each other, the cockroach (vulgar) and a bunch of books (sublime). Like the cockroach lying belly up, obviously immobile, while the bunch of books is place on the table from a dynamic to a static state, describing a disturbed state of mind, the poet curses the cockroach which is blocking the hallway leading to the room. The poem becomes undeterminable and delusional.

Nguyễn Tất Độ

(Some) Insane People

He likes to run in circles

and spins while running, but he is

not dizzy he even

laughs joyously, he keeps running

in circles day after

day and spins while running, conscious

times as drunk times, days as

nights, he’s not asleep, everyone

says he is crazy and

persists in saying he is crazy

and he still runs in circles,

and spins while running so that,

the movements of the planet

which he and the human are living.


Translated by Trần Vũ Liên Tâm

Regarding the poem “(Some) Insane People ”, we associate with the thoughts of Gyảng Anh Iên, who identifies that the musical quality in New Formalism poetry is a kind of cyclical music pat­tern. Perhaps that is true for now but, later on, other New For­malism poets may discover other musical qualities, more diverse and dynamic. Yet cyclical music patterns are quite appealing and appropriate to the contents of this poem. Really “(Some) Insane People”!


            The Crying Buffaloes

            The crying buffaloes entered my life.

            The male buffalo Mok, proudlly in his

            land, led the herd across the hill; a tiger

            slapped on his butt, and a truck carried

            him back. He refused to eat grass, cried, and

            believed that he was dying. My dad dug

            a pit deeper than my height, and buried

            him with branches full of leaves; my mom cried.

            Exactly a year later, the old female

            buffalo Jiong stood crying, watched her

            grandchildren being led away by the ’62

            epidemic, and felt the loneliness

in the hollow stable, where her few offspring

sat crying. The bull Pac with long horns

gloriously rubbed and broke two wings of

the plow yoke every season. When my
dad went out to his mom, my youngest uncle

howled and with my other uncles tied the

bull, then sawed away half of his left horn;

the bull cried madly, shook as fiercely as

the day he had been castrated, and as worse

than being castrated for looking like nobody.

When my dad came back home, the bull cried. His

companion, the female Pateh, cried endlessly

for her quasi-masculine beauty. My

dad made her help pull the wagon, and

her peers forgot that she was a female

buffalo; only she remembered that

she was still a virgin and that over

six farming seasons she cried without tears.

The buffaloes cried and wetted my naïve years.

Translated by Phan Khế


Finally, Inrasara’s “The Crying Buffaloes” with the notes of the poet Tom Riordan,

“The Crying Buffaloes is about how the real and imagined pain of buffaloes soaked the narrator’s childhood, as if there had been a magical window between the narrator’s soul and the family’s buffaloes’ pain. Important things are clearly happening with and between the people of the family, too, but it only registers via the buffaloes.”


1 & 2/ Khe Iem, New Formalism, Four Quartets, and The Other Essays, Ebook, website www.thotanhinhthuc.org.

3/ Formal Poetry and Related Terms: Formalism, New Formalism, Neo-Formal­ism, Pseudo-Formalism, Neo-Classicism, Traditional Poetry, and the Multitudi­nous Variations Thereof by Michael R. Burch.

5/ ”Publisher’s Notes” – Poetry Narrates.

6 & 7/ “Introduction”, Angela Saunders, Translated by Phạm Kiều Tùng into Vietnamese – “Poetry Narrates”.

8/ In only the first two weeks, ten American poets sent their poems to participate in “The Other Poetry Voices”: poets Alden Alden, Bill Duke, Frederick Feirstein, Frederick Turner, Michael Lee Johnson, James Murphy, Rick Stansberger, Ste­phen John Kalinich, L. K. Thayer và Tom Riordan.

Translated by DoVinh, completed August 3, 2010

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"Paddle Paddle Paddle Your Raft" poem by Helen Bar-Lev, Israel

19 Settembre 2020, 06:35am

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

The Volta River, Ghana, coloured pencils and ink Helen Bar-Lev 2020

The Volta River, Ghana, coloured pencils and ink Helen Bar-Lev 2020

Paddle Paddle Paddle Your Raft


Paddle paddle paddle your raft

madly down the rapids

harder harder faster faster

stir up the mud

stir up the sludge

strike a boulder

whoops - the raft’s flipped over

and now you’re floundering 

in the water

oh do stop wailing

who told you that life

would be easy sailing?


© 2.2017 Helen Bar-Lev

Rema, rema, rema con la pagaia sulla tua canoa


Rema, rema, rema con la pagaia sulla tua canoa


follemente giù per le rapide


più duramente  più duramente  più veloce più veloce


agita il fango


agita la melma


colpisci un masso


Ops, la canoa si è ribaltata


E adesso stai annaspando


in acqua


oh smettila di lamentarti


chi ti ha detto che la vita


sarebbe stata una navigazione facile?


(Translated in Italian by Lidia Chiarelli)

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SHPILKES poem by Stanley H. Barkan, USA

18 Settembre 2020, 04:46am

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

After twelve weeks of sheltered in place / quarantined, because of the
Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” now in the form
of Covid -19, the virus borne out of Wuhan, my wife Bebe is suffering
from advanced shpilkes.  Every day she says, “When is this going to end?!
Like all Jewish women, she loves shopping, so much so, that no matter
how bad her back pain is, and she’s shopping, it immediately disappears.
So, now deprived for so long, she cleans out her clothes closet, finds an
old blouse and skirt, doesn’t recall when she wore them before, thus
it’s like a replacement for shopping.  Yesterday, she put on the old/new
blouse and skirt, and went looking for more in the now cleaned-up closet.
For the rest of yesterday, she didn’t seem to be suffering too much from
shpilkes, but, every once in a while, she would cry out, “Dr. Kervorkian,
where are you when I need you?!”  And so it goes when a woman is deprived
of Century 21, Nordstrom’s Off the Rack, Sachs Off Fifth,  and other boutiques.
For now, Bebe’s closet will have to do, a short respite for her shpilkes.
—Stanley H. Barkan
From a new collection in process, Fifteeners,
after the 15-line poems in William Heyen’s Vehicles (2020)
...she puts on the old/new blouse and skirt...

...she puts on the old/new blouse and skirt...

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"THE REVERIE-FORBIDDEN FRUIT AND THE WORLD OF WORDS" by Tram Phuc Khac, translated by Tran Vu Lien Tam-Vietnam

10 Settembre 2020, 16:44pm

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

"WORLD OF WORDS" Digital Collage by Lidia Chiarelli, Italy

"WORLD OF WORDS" Digital Collage by Lidia Chiarelli, Italy





By Tram Phuc Khac, translated by Tran Vu Lien Tam.

(To Nguyen Luong Vy, Le Giang Tran, Trinh Y Thu, Khe Iem, and Phan Tan Hai)


The world which we are living in is a world of words. Words made our world. We’re living in a world which is becoming wordier.

If there are no words, then what? Would there be a world?

Adam did not really speak any words to Eve.

Until Eve met the Serpent, then it was just because of the luring words of the Serpent that Eve took a bite of the Reverie-Forbidden Fruit. And also just because of the luring words of Eve that Adam took a bite of the left-over part of that Reverie-Forbidden Fruit. 

This is the tree of Knowledge. The fruit of such the tree of Knowledge in the garden next to the river of Life, there are two parts. One is the Forbidden Fruit; the other is the Reverie. Eve knowingly or unknowingly ate the half-side of the Forbidden Fruit. She is the embodiment of the Forbidden Fruit. And the other half, the Reverie side, she saved just to give to Adam.

Thus, words are both, the Forbidden Fruit and the Reverie. Words are this world of ours, the world of dramas, half Forbidden Fruit, half Reverie, not to be separated, and words cannot be any other way. Since there were words, then there must be wishes, dates, pledges, promises, and thus there are dramas.

The Forbidden Fruits are spoken words, seductive and soul-hunted. And the Reveries are unspoken words, but those are repetitive words which go further back in the subconscious mind and become the repository of ideas, thoughts and creativities. 

Thus, our world of Words, the double-crossed world, a dichotomy, from the beginning already bears a drama status. And because of bearing a drama status, the role of Life is thus reenacted within each second. This each second is the ending-point of being, continued by the being-point of ending, no matter how great the Knowledge is, that such role of Life is never resting.

And the Drama started like that, the Drama which creates our life, from the beginning of Words.

Then where is the separation of Words and No-Words? A world within the Outside of Words, where Adam had never spoken any words to Eve - how can we get there?

The truth is that our world of Words is only a sand speck in the immense universe, which has always been wordless. This is a universe of a world within the Outside of Words, which we have always belonged to. But this world converse with us only in a wordless language, the language which we typically forget to interact with because, for a very long time, we have become lazy and alienated, and perhaps, we have already forgotten that we also own another world, where Adam never spoke any words to Eve.

Imagine, a writer finds a poem, like a painter finds a painting, like a composer finds a chord. That is, a poem which is yet being written, a painting being painted, a chord being arranged. Or which is a poem, a painting, a chord which is lost, continuously lost in the drama of the dichotomy of creativity. Despite, on the other side of the Knowledge garden, there has always been another world, a world-less world, an extremity world, with a wordless poem, a colorless painting, a silent chord, and, in such a world, no dates are needed because no dramas exist.

Come back to Words. Sounds and thoughts went through so many changing filters, concluded with language and created Words. Words are the bridge of human thoughts. And written words came last, stored and passed down to succeeding generations, the life treasure of human civilization.

Each poem is a world of Words. Each piece of writing is a world of Words. Each chord is a world of Words. Each painting is a world of Words. Each only exists through Words. And Words, like the most passionate kiss in life, half the Forbidden Fruit, half the Reverie, from forever, already created the captivating drama for our lives.


Tram Phuc Khac, translated by Tran Vu Lien Tam


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SADNESS, for Gina, poem by Khế Iêm (Vietnam). Digital Art and translation in Italian by Lidia Chiarelli (Italy)

17 Luglio 2020, 18:11pm

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

SADNESS, digital collage by Lidia Chiarelli, Italy

SADNESS, digital collage by Lidia Chiarelli, Italy

Khế Iêm


                       For Gina


sadness stands on the other

side of the street waving to

me and I stand on this side

of the street waving goodbye


goodbye to sadness from now

on we each part to our own

ways in life and of course no

one really knows where sadness


would go after so many

years lying within myself

other than sadness because

everyone has their own private


sadness and who wants to store

even more and more sadness

(sadness will fade away once

it can no longer find a


place to be nurtured, certainly

so) regardless I and sadness

still have some sort of sympathetic

relationship thus there is



this moment of departure

and the situation now is

sadness still stands there on the

other side of the street waving


to me and I am still here

on this side of the street waving

sadness, goodbye, oh, sadness.

Khế Iêm



Per Gina


la tristezza sta sull'altro

lato della strada e mi saluta

ed io sto da questa parte

della strada e saluto con la mano


addio alla tristezza d’ora in poi

ognuno va dalla la sua parte

con i  propri modi di vita e naturalmente

nessuno  sa davvero dove la tristezza


se ne andrebbe dopo  così tanti

anni dentro di me

solo  tristezza, perché

ognuno ha la propria privata


tristezza e chi vuole conservare

sempre più tristezza

(la tristezza svanirà una volta che

non riesce più a trovare un


luogo dove essere coltivata, certamente è

così) indipendentemente da me e dalla tristezza

ha ancora un certo partecipe

rapporto           così c'è



questo momento di partenza

e la situazione ora è che

la tristezza è ancora lì

dall'altro lato della strada che mi saluta


e io sono ancora qui

da questo lato della strada che dico addio

alla tristezza, oh, tristezza.


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"BOUQUET OF ROSES" haiku by Maki Starfield. Translated in Italian by Lidia Chiarelli. Review by Postremo Vate.

29 Giugno 2020, 18:31pm

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

"BOUQUET OF ROSES" haiku by Maki Starfield. Translated in Italian by Lidia Chiarelli. Review by Postremo Vate.

Eros, Feeling and Poetry in Maki Starfield's Haiku


Meeting the delicate and passionate soul of a poetess is always wonderful, it is a kind of meeting that  instills deep chills likely to leave a mark.

If the poetess, moreover, has a beautiful soul like Maki Starfield, the meeting is really wonderful. A gentle and delicate encounter of graceful verses... which the Japanese poetess has transfused into the short and effective form of haiku.

This poetic collection of hers, titled Bouquet of Roses, is a very sweet caress that descends into our soul, it is a splendid ray of sunshine that pours out harmony and ecstasy in the practical reality of our daily lives.

I read with great interest these verses which are, at the same time, so simple and so touching.

The soul of the poetess (and her Japanese soul) opens up, like a splendid and scented flower, to the enchantment of Poetry.


Maki’s Poetry in its incisiveness  of short, carefully weighed verses, almost dug - word after word - into the impervious mines of the heart, conveys a spiritual  sentimental almost  intoxicating vision to us.

The collection of poems is basically divided into four parts: one dedicated to eros, one to love, one to cats and one to flowers. A perfect harmony which dissolves into a succession of idyllic and sensual, sweet and ineffable lyrical illuminations, that make us daydream and make our souls - always eager for Beauty and Harmony -  vibrate


embracing the shape

of our ecstasy



Here  passion and  eros are condensed in simple but extremely involving verses, able however to convey the surge that overwhelms the soul of the poetess and, at the same time,  the sensations she wants us to perceive through the perfect brevity of the verse, suitable to enclose an entire microcosm.

Love is a miracle that is renewed every day, every time two hearts and two bodies come together in supreme ecstasy, opening the doors to a new dawn, which becomes a real harbinger of ecstasy and ineffable emotions, as perfectly written in this haiku:



it's a new day

it's a new dawn –

our love made


The poetess's soul vibrates in the light of passion and feeling: fires that light up in our hearts, flames that illuminate the narrow spaces of our ephemeral limited world.

The kisses under the moon, the lace linen, the sweet caresses in the quiet of the night, are all elements that, prodigiously, we find in these haiku so simple and so intense, so ready to surprise and delight us.


The book deals with  that wonderful love that can be seen not only in the relationship between man and woman and between human beings but also in the Creation that surrounds us and of which we are part, that Creation that hosts noble animals such as the cat and  the treasures of the plant world such as flowers, two other elements that are found in this precious poetry collection.


The cat, a magical and sensual animal, of incomparable beauty, that the poetess portrays in its sinuous forms, in its ability to move... with elegance and refinement, even if stray:

roof tiles

a homeless cat

walks with the moon



Three verses that offer us a wonderful "catlike" vision, a cat that looks almost like an elf from the rooftops and that embodies the symbol of the free spirit, of vitality... who'd rather be a stray than live imprisoned under harsh constraints. The cat, an animal with a mysterious look, full of charm, with those inquisitive eyes that scrutinize our souls:


on a big face

of a cat



And then there are the flowers, to which the last section of this collections  is dedicated. From roses to sunflowers (with hints also to Van Gogh), the flowers are the fragrant and beautiful protagonists of the last section of soft and delicate haiku, which are able to transmit us all the persuasive charm, made of petals, corollas, scents and …such incomparable beauty.


With flowers we make beautiful bouquets: here, however, poetess Maki Starfield is able to offer us a "bouquet of poems", that is, haiku, which never wilt and which continue, day after day, to give us their intense and sweet scent...

in short, the scent of feeling, of the soul's song, of the heart's idyll, of that wonderful all-human wonder that we call Poetry, a miracle of which Maki Starfield turns out  to be a seductive and delightful messenger, with a soul full of light, love, passion and fascinating feelings.


POSTREMO VATE (Pinerolo - To- Italy)







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26 Giugno 2020, 04:11am

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it


Khế Iêm

Every conscious action begins with one thought. But the thought comes from the outside world, through the five senses. Consciousness stops at awareness, and the next and final process is the function of the subconscious. The subconscious is over a million times more powerful than the conscious. 95 to 99% of our actions are determined by the subconscious. Less than 5% of what we do is driven by conscious thought. Thus, a very small percentage of conscious thoughts are repeated and subconsciously expressed over time, becoming attitudes or beliefs controlling our actions.

The neocortex, the thinking brain, which accounts for two thirds of the brain, is the control center for the utilization of the brain, divided into the right and left hemispheres. The problem with the neocortex is that it always wants to tame the underlying aspects of the brain, especially the emotions (the limic brain), although it rarely succeeds. The system (the subconscious mind), or the emotional brain, is the buffer between thought (in the neocortex) and instinctive action (the reptilian brain), in which there is the part which receives sensory information from inside the body (hunger, cold, pain, etc.) and the part which receives information from the surrounding environment outside the body (danger, food, pleasure, etc.)


Each person produces an average of 50,000 thoughts per day and 95% of these are the same ideas over and over again. Thoughts pass through mental filters, and an average of 80% of these are unimportant, and thus are discarded. The mind is based on the beliefs of the ego, beliefs about values, beliefs about experience, beliefs about ability to survive. In short, it is about experience and what we believe is true. When we were born, we were carrying the genetics of our parents, growing up, educated by our families and societies, and affecting the cultural, religious and political environment of our times. All of these elements constitute strong beliefs which are programmed subconsciously, which researchers of the brain have called “old habits” and religious people have occasionally termed “prejudices.”


The ordinary person each has a different mindset, and each sees the world through each one's gaze. Thus, there is no real world, only the virtual world. In the field of postmodern architecture, Charles Jencks has said, “There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths.” Half of the truth, of course, is not the truth. It means falseness. That is why people must live alone, except with parents, because only parents can love and sacrifice everything for their children. The Buddha’s Teaching, “The ultimate good is nothing more than filial piety, the extreme of evil is nothing more than filial impiety” (the forbearance prayer) is true here. Parents give birth to a child naturally; some have not piety, and in return, they receive some piety. At any rate, no one can repay the gift of birth.


John Assaraf has written in one of his books, “Everything in the physical world is made of atoms. Atoms are created from energy. Energy is created from consciousness.” This means that matter is made of molecules, molecules are made of atoms, atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons, all of which are made from vibrations. Thus, everything around us, even our thoughts, is just an expression of a vibrational frequency, and, when analyzed to the sub-atomic level, we don’t see matter, only pure amounts of energy. Everything in the universe moves and vibrates, never ceasing.


The zero degree of consciousness is the zero degree of thought. Practicing according to Theravada Buddhism is usually prayed in Pàḷi, which means losing the thought, liberation from the misery of suffering, and peace of mind. The universe has yin and yang, light and dark. The thought, if born of suffering, also creates human life and civilization. Human nature is gentle, evil, and no one can change it on its own. It is fate. The human brain is divided into the left brain (the mind), and the right brain (the emotion), but connected by the corpus callosum. A big corpus callosum can easily transfer data between the right and left, thus, each side can equilibrium the other more. If a corpus callosum is small, a person is more assertive. So how to get rid of thoughts even if it takes a lifetime of practice?


Thoughts cannot be dropped, nor should they be, because they are a human characteristic. Good, evil, happiness, suffering arise from feelings, through nerves, turning into emotions, leading to thought, thought leading to actions. Except for birth and death, suffering is always caused by the actions of others. The self, depending on the nature of each person, knows only that it does not know the person, acting according to their nature, not having love, even with their parents and siblings. Actually, this feeling or thought does not belong to us. Each person has a different mindset; if communicating or living together, it is easy to cause collisions, crashes, and suffering. Suffering is not just suffering, however, it also leads to happiness. Because, if there is no suffering, how can we recognize human love and how can an artist create literary and artistic works which enrich each culture? Happiness and suffering are both elements of life. Whether or not the thought belongs to us does not matter. The problem is whether or not we accept thoughts? If not, are we not human?


Finally, we must not blame anyone but must consider others as ourselves, because no one can control other's minds. Everyone lives in different environments and situations at a cost. No one understand themseft but themselves. If they are aware of suffering, they will no longer suffer and will cause no suffering to others, but few people have such knowledge. We do not avoid suffering, but we accept it as human existence. Human life is short. Live it with the present moment and consider everything as fleeting as the clouds. As there is separation, farewell.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Translated  from Vietnamese to English by Dr. William B. Noseworthy. ​​​​​​​

Iem, Khe (Vietnam) Khe Iem was born in 1946. Founder and editor in chief of Tạp Chí Thơ (Journal of Poetry from 1994 to 2004), Editor of online Journal for New Formalism Poetry Club, since 2004. He has published Hột Huyết (Blood Seed) play, 1972, Thanh Xuân (Youth) poetry, 1992, Dấu Quê (Traces of the Homeland), poetry, 1996, Thời của Quá khứ (A Time Past), stories, 1996, Vu Dieu Khong Van, essays, 2018. 


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Lidia Chiarelli - Il richiamo dell'onda - pubblicazione premio del Concorso FLORISEUM- Sanremo

16 Giugno 2020, 07:16am

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

Silloge di poesie di Lidia Chiarelli

Silloge di poesie di Lidia Chiarelli

Lidia Chiarelli, in qualità di finalista al Concorso di poesie FLORISEUM di Sanremo, ha ricevuto in omaggio la pubblicazione della sua raccolta di poesie IL RICHIAMO DELL'ONDA, Vitale Edizioni Sanremo - febbraio 2020

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Khế Iêm: Wuhan Virus And Consulting Humanity

28 Maggio 2020, 07:48am

Pubblicato da immagine.poesia.over-blog.it

Khế Iêm (Vietnam) Khế Iêm was born in 1946. Founder and editor in chief of Tạp Chí Thơ (Journal of Poetry from 1994 to 2004), Editor of online Journal for New Formalism Poetry Club, since 2004. He has published Hột Huyết (Blood Seed) play, 1972, Thanh Xuân (Youth) poetry, 1992, Dấu Quê (Traces of the Homeland), poetry, 1996, Thời của Quá khứ (A Time Past), stories, 1996, Vu Dieu Khong Van, essays, 2018.



Wuhan Virus And Consulting Humanity


Khế Iêm



Humans with the name Homo erectus (upright human) appeared in Africa and began to inhabit the rest of the world from 1.6 million to 300,000 years ago. Their intelligence helped them migrate to Europe and East Asia.  They collaborated on hunting and distributing food and eventually adopted the use of fire 400,000 years ago. The difference between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens is the height – more than a head – and the protrusion of the forehead, which sticks out like a monkey, although they had only 70% of our brain capacity. Between Homo erectus and modern humans we have two stages of Homo sapiens: the ancient Homo sapiens of about 300 to 125 thousand years ago and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, which lived appeared about 40,000 years after that. Neanderthals created stone tools, like knives, built houses with branches, burrows…and they can hunted wild animals – such as deer. They burned the bodies of their dead and offered food to them. Neanderthals disappeared around 30 to 40 thousand years ago, yet history began to be written only around 3200 BCE in Sumer, in ancient Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq. 


Human civilization comes from Egypt before 3100 BCE. Egypt expanded the Hieroglyphic writing system. Hieroglyphics are based on three characteristics: pictographs, syllables and a system of individual letters. The first two properties also constitute cuneiform, and the third became the Alphabet around 1400 BCE.  The Phoenicians, a Semitic people on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, transformed the Alphabet into a writing system which was further developed by the later Hebrew, Greek and Roman civilizations. 


Greek civilization dates back hundreds of years before the founding of Athens. Homer’s Iliad, about the “Trojan War,” was written about eight centuries before the common era. Thus, Greek history began over a thousand years before Socrates (470 – 399 BCE). Ancient Greek administrative units were separate city-states, including Athens and Sparta. In the early days of Greek civilization, the Greek city-states followed a monarchic model. But a special form of democracy was later established in Athens. However, the democracy of ancient Greece was very different from the democracy of today  The two main characteristics of Greek civilization are democratic institutions as well as classical educational methods, which promote human intelligence and creativity.


With the end of the Medieval period in the 15th century, European civilization rediscovered Greek civilization, giving birth to the Renaissance movement from the 15th through the 18th centuries, starting in Florence, Italy. At the end of the 18th century, the steam engine was invented in England, and, thanks to such later inventions as the telegraph, the telephone, the railroad and mass production, economies and technologies began to develop more rapidly. From the middle of the 16th century onward, European countries formed capitalist economies, seeking ever more resources and invading and colonizing Africa, Asia and the Americas. By the beginning of the 20th century, Germany had surpassed England and France economically, becoming a leading industrial power and the most belligerent nation in Europe, promoting notions of “German supremacy” and starting another arms race. Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy established the “Triple Alliance” in 1882, preparing for war.


From 1914 through 1918, World War I took place between the Allies (England, France, Russia, and later the United States and Brazil) and the Central Powers (the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire). After World War I, an economic crisis occurred in 1929, and World War II (1939 – 1945) followed between Britain, France, the Soviet Union, China and the United States, and the alliance of Germany, Italy and Japan. At the end of World War II, Germany and Japan were defeated, and the economic situation in Europe was exhausted, leading to a collapse after 400 years of civilizational growth. The world then became involved in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union until 1989, when the Soviet Union disintegrated.  The first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, was elected in 1991, which led to the United States cooperating with Russia again. Thus, the world entered the new era


Europe has experienced several pandemics, such as the Black Death, in the past. In the mid-1340s, merchants and soldiers brought the Black Death from Central Asia to the Krym Peninsula (southern Ukraine) along the Silk Road. The disease spread from Krym through the Black Sea region, the Aegean Sea region, the entire Mediterranean Sea region, southern Europe, northern Europe and finally northeastern Europe (Moscow) by 1352. In total, about 75 million people died, including about 25 million Europeans. Thus, the Black Death was the cause of death for about one-third of the European population.


The Wuhan Virus (Wuhan is the capital of Wubei province) arose in China.  It then spread rapidly to Europe and North America because global air travel has become easy. The number of deaths caused by the Wuhan Virus is not comparable to the number of deaths caused by the Black Death pandemic, perhaps because the Wuhan disease has only recently broken out. The Wuhan Virus might not have originally seemed likely to transform into a pandemic because of medical equipment and medicines and the continuing development of the medical industry. After World War II, Britain returned independence to the countries which it had once dominated, and these countries thus had no need for war to regain independence. France also returned independence to several African countries which it had once dominated. European civilization seemed to yield to the United States in all aspects of culture, politics, science and technology as the United States became  the dominant world power. 


Western civilization, recently returned to the people with religious beliefs. In this retrospective vision, America was not great due to military power or scientific technology but by altruism, by helping every country which was made miserable by disasters, storms or invasion by other countries. American charities help the poor and orphaned children, as expressed by specific actions, not just through words. Why did America become the world leader in the number of infections in the Wuhan Virus pandemic? (Total cases: 1,7000,000 - Deaths: 100,500). Is it because the infections are the price to pay for civilization? Why are there people who are full of kindness, helping others but receiving the cost of suffering? Is there suffering?  Thought and love are two different things. Happiness lies within love (in the right hemisphere), and thought (in the left hemisphere) causes suffering. Some people rely on the right brain, while other people rely on the left brain.  In the 20th century, when technology advanced, most people became inclined toward the left brain. We need to reconcile ourselves between love and reason. If we cannot overcome reason, we cannot obtain love.


When we try to help others, they consider us enemies. But we can thank them because, through them, we can know the nature of each person. The Wuhan Virus helps us to recognize the good and the bad, to rise above both to retain our human affection. Thanks to that, new love arises. Hopefully.


Monday, May 04 - 2020


Translated by Dr. William B. Noseworthy


Source Materials

Western Civilization 1, Robert Lerner, Standish Meacham and Edward McNall Burns - 2. Source: National Geographic Almanac of World History, 3rd Edition, 2014.

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