The first Asia Pacific Poetry Festival will kick off today in Ha Long in the northern province of Quang Ninh. The five-day festival has attracted 80 poets from across the world.
Poet Nguyen Quang Thieu, deputy-chairman of the Viet Nam Writers Association, spoke to Culture Vulture about the festival.
Viet Nam is hosting the first Asia Pacific Poetry Festival. Could you tell us how the festival got started?
The festival has been a long time in the making as part of the Government's strategy to promote regional poetry.
We want international poets to see real life in Viet Nam and to celebrate poetry with international artists. The festival will give Vietnamese poets a chance to meet their peers from all over the world and share professional experiences.
We want to hold an international cultural event which honours poetry.
What difficulties did the festival organisers face?
We spent about one year preparing for the festival. The most important thing was to find prominent poets to attend the festival. We contacted poets who have performed in Viet Nam before, international poetry organisations and foreign embassies in Viet Nam.
Finances were also an issue. Many poets said that they would only perform if we paid for their travel expenses, so we had to find sponsors.
Additionally, we have never held a regional festival before, but in the end, many international poets agreed to attend the festival. Initially, we expected around 40-50 poets, but we finished with 80.
The language barrier was also an obstacle. We needed highly skilled Vietnamese translators who are also poets. Our international guests sent their work to the organising board, and we had them translated into Vietnamese by English-speaking Vietnamese poets such as Phan Que Mai, Di Li and Phan Trieu Hai.
Setting up meetings between international poets and Vietnamese readers was also hard work, but we have volunteers from the Ha Noi University and the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam to cater for different languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Russian and English.
The festival has also posed logistical problems due to its international nature, but we have solved those issues with the support of Quang Ninh Province where the event is being hosted.
What are the highlights of the festival ?
There are several main activities being held at the festival. Poets will discuss their work as well as peace and friendship in the region. They will talk about the role of poetry in directly or indirectly in building a peaceful world.
Poets will meet and talk with Vietnamese readers and journalists. A night of poetry will be held where international poets will recite their work, and they will also be invited to attend the 10th Vietnamese Poetry Day which is held annually at the Temple of Literature in Ha Noi.
Participants will visit Thay Pagoda in Ha Noi where they will also listen to Zen poems read by Buddhist monks.
Do you think the festival will promote exchange between Vietnamese and international poets ?
I think it is very important and necessary. I hope Vietnamese poetry will become more recognised by readers from around the world, and it will be a good chance for professional exchange between the poets as well as researchers.
Some of our international guests hold prominent positions in their respective countries, and I think it will give them an opportunity to find out more about Vietnamese poets, with a view to inviting them to future festivals.
Could you name some of the prominent poets who are attending the festival?
Around 80 poets from 28 countries and regions will attend the festival.
Prominent and globally acclaimed poets are scheduled to attend the festival, including Canadian Susan Blanshard, a member of the International Pen Women Writers' Committee; China's Tian Xiao Hua, a Vietnamese literature researcher and translator; Israeli Naim Araidi, a founder of the International Poetry Festival in Maghar; and Japan's Ban'Ya Natshuishi, director of the Modern Haiku Association.
Also set to attend are Kim Jung-hwan and Ahn Kyung-hwan of South Korea, who are well known in Viet Nam for their contributions to promoting literature exchange between the two countries.
Kim was one of the first Korean poets to establish relations with the VWA. He also translates Vietnamese poems into Korean. Ahn translated the popular poems Prison Diary by late President Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap's Unforgettable Months and Years for South Korean readers. — VNS