Tuesday, October 25 2016


Vietnamese king of love poetry Xuan Dieu seen as a pioneer

Update: February, 04/2016 - 10:21
Wordsmith: Poet Xuan Dieu. The Viet Nam Writers' Association commemorated his 100th birthday yesterday. — Photo dantri.com.vnby by Minh Thu
HA NOI  (VNS) — In his most famous poem, Voi Vang (Haste), Xuan Dieu wrote: "I want to haul wandering clouds and swerving wind, I want to indulge in the butterflies of love, I want to garner in an ample kiss..."

The poem was recited during a ceremony held yesterday to mark Xuan Dieu's 100th birthday.

The Viet Nam Writers' Association hosted the ceremony with the participation of many critics, writers, poets and readers who admire Xuan Dieu. His literary works and career were reviewed and discussed.

"With his language, Xuan Dieu has built a space of his own in Vietnamese literature," said critic Vu Quan Phuong. "That means that by reading his poems, people can imagine a space of love, youth and vitality. His poems are bright, innocent and vivid. People may say a picture is worth a thousand words. In my opinion, his words are full of pictures."

Dieu used "strong" words that few poets dared to use at the time, Phuong added.

For example, in the poem Haste, he wrote, "My homeland, my trees and budding grass/ Dazed by fragrances, full with light/ Sated with the prime of youth/ Dear Blushed Spring, I want to bite you."

"How bold, he loves the spring so much that he wants to bite it," Phuong said.

Dieu was a pioneer during the New Poetry movement in the 1930s. Artists in the movement abandoned stylised forms of Chinese-influenced poetry in Nom - ancient Vietnamese ideographic script. They expressed themselves as individuals, more emotionally and lyrically. Many were influenced by Western literary styles.

His poetry collections Tho Tho (Poetry Poetry) and Gui Huong Cho Gio (Send the Scent to the Wind) are regarded as his masterpieces. They glorify love, life, happiness and a love of life. In doing so, he also celebrated youth, spring and nature as cradles for love. He also grieved for the passing of time and the precariousness of life, and showed thirst for everlasting life.

"His poetry is imbued with emotions – intense, powerful, burning and replete with insatiable yearning," translator Thomas D Le, who translated many Dieu poems into English, wrote on his website.

"He treats the theme of love with highly expressive images, musicality, audacious imagination and sometimes biting bitterness," Le said.

"His most enduring legacy lies in the freshness of his poetic imagery, his intensely personal tone, the authenticity of his feelings that resonate among modern readers, a startling diction and the boldness of his artistic sensibility."

Dieu was born in 1916 in the south central province of Binh Dinh. He died in 1985.

He was a member of the literary movement Tu Luc Van Doan (Self-Reliance Literary Movement) and one of the leaders of the Tho Moi (New Poetry) movement.

His work is part of the high school curriculum in Viet Nam, and there's a street in Ha Noi named after him. In 1996, he was awarded a Ho Chi Minh Prize for Arts and Literature, the noblest one.

His body of work includes about 450 poems, a large number of which have never been published, seven prose works, translations, and critical writings.

In the end, he was best known for his love poems and has been dubbed the "king of love poems". He was married for just six months to drama director Bach Diep.

A seminar on his life and career will be organised on February 19 in the central province of Ha Tinh, where the poet grew up. — VNS

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