Young, amateur poet Nguyen Phong Viet has released his second collection of poems Tu Yeu Den Thuong (To Love and Cherish) on Sunday, with sales expecting to reach over 30,000 copies by Christmas – similar to the volume of his previous collection. He is regarded by local media as a phenomenon as readers seem to be less interested in poetry today, and the number of collections sold each year generally stands at around 1,000. Viet – the content manager of a website specialised in cinema – spoke to Culture Vulture.
Is the second collection paced at the same rhythm as the previous book?
To some extent, Tu Yeu Den Thuong can be considered to be the second version of Di Qua Thuong Nho (Through Love and Loss).
However, the previous collection truly reflects my personal real-life feelings, emotions and experiences. It has been welcomed by readers because it has touched their souls and explored the feelings and emotions that we all share.
In the meanwhile, the new release is part of me, of my friends and my relatives. With the second version, readers will surely find something broader to feel sympathetic towards. They will develop a pleasant, comfortable and generous attitude, as compared to constant longings.
Generally speaking, my poetry speaks to those who are, or who have been, in love.
Over 30,000 copies were published for the first, and now for the second collection. Is the figure just a PR tool?
Many people, both readers and media, have posed the same question, doubting the sales of the Di Qua Thuong Nho and now the expected copies of Tu Yeu Den Thuong. I'm convinced to say that anyone in doubt can check it with the publishers, in this case the Van Hoc (Literature) Publishing House – and Minh Chau Books – the publisher that monopolises the release of collection.
It's completely natural that people are suspicious about such a sky-high volume of the copies being sold and to be printed. In my own opinion, even a collection of short stories by a young writer cannot make it, let alone a collection of poetry by an amateur writer like me.
Each collection of poetry tells it all. No matter how well the PR and communications is, the sale will certainly be far from expectations if the quality is poor.
Are you confident with the number of copies to be printed?
I feel it's lucky to have such a high number of copies sold because not a single poet can attract attention from readers at this very moment.
It's a matter of fact that the second collection lives off the first collection. Its volume of sales, so far, are making the second be noticed.
However, it is obviously clear that Di Qua Thuong Nho is worth reading, and readers – mostly young from 18-35 years old – find something to share with. And this is a decisive factor.
If the first collection is not of any significance, readers will find that I'm trying to write out something, not to write by my own emotions and experience.
Furthermore, I think it is printed at the right time, as the Christmas season begins. The collection is like a small, meaningful spiritual gift for this occasion.
The majority of readers come to know your poetry through social networks. What do you think is the significance of the networks in approaching readers?
I regularly post my poems on Facebook to share with friends. Up to 60 per cent of the poems from the collections were made public before it was officially printed. There was clearly an audience there and it was those posts that encouraged me to go ahead.
I do see the efficiency of social networks, especially Facebook, without which the sales of my poetry could not reach such a high figure. — VNS