Vietnamese writer honoured at European Poetry Festival

June 14, 2023 - 09:16
Her poems and short stories have been translated into many foreign languages including English, Italian, German, Spanish, and French
Writer Kiều Bích Hậu. Photo courtesy of Kiều Bích Hậu

Writer Kiều Bích Hậu attended the 13th European Poetry Festival in Como, Italy from May 19 to 21. As a member of Việt Nam Writers' Association she is making effort to popularise Vietnamese poetry and prose to the world.

Her poems and short stories have been translated into many foreign languages including English, Italian, German, Spanish, and French.

Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình talks with Hậu about the festival and how her poems to be received there.

You are honoured at the 13th European Poetry Festival in Como, Italy for your effort to popularise Vietnamese literature to the world. Could you tell more about it?

Since 2019, I have connected with many writers, editors, translators and publishers in Hungary, Italy, Romania, America, the UK, Germany, Canada, Russia, South Korea and others to exchange in translating and publishing literary works.

We have made a worldwide network of writers and publishers with many platforms to promote contemporary authors and their works.

In October 2020, I also founded a group of women translators named Hanoi Female Translators to strengthen and widen the volume of the literary translating and publishing Vietnamese works abroad.

Until now, we have contributed in supporting more than 100 Vietnamese authors having their works to be translated and published abroad.

Some of them won international prize, such as Trần Quang Đạo, Phan Hoàng, Bảo Ninh winning Danubius Literature and Arts Prize in Hungary, Nguyễn Đình Tâm winning Author of the Year 2022 by Ukiyoto Publishing (Canada).

You have been invited to attend the festival in 2020, 2021 and this year. What does it impress you?

When my first volume of poems, entitled The Unknown in bilingual (Italian, English) was published in Italy in 2020, I received an invitation to attend the 10th Europa in versi in Italy in October (2020).

At that time, the Covid-19 spread worldwide, so the event happened virtually. I just made a video of reading one of my poem, and another video of expressing my ideas of the poetry book The Unknown, then sent them to the festival.

The two videos were on air during the official programme of the festival, then being published in the website of the festival.

Then in the year 2021, I got another invitation from the festival of the 12th edition, but one more time I could not come to Italy to attend it because Viêt Nam did not open for the commercial flight.

The Italian poetess Laura Garavaglia represented me to read my poems in that festival.

This year, I received the invitation to attend the 13th edition of Europa in versi. I was very excited because at last, I could come to Como in Italy to do the recitation by myself to the audience there.

They loved the Vietnamese voice in reading poems and said it sounded so sweet and fluty as singing a song. I was much impressed by the way they proceed the attendees’ works.

For instance, from my four poems chosen by the art directors of the festival, the artists, musicians and students in art colleges had made short films, plays, songs, and other kinds of art visual works to show there after my recitation.

We also experienced the interesting reading for audience in various historical sites and tourist attractions in Como.

We could see that one short poem could go so far in other kinds of arts by the imagination and talent of our special readers in Como.

Your poem collection Ẩn Số (The Unknown) was published bilingually in English and Italian in Italy. What is it about and did you compose it in English?

The Unknown is about love in distance. The profound longing and pain of the lovers who cannot meet each other is the metaphor for the common suffering of human being when we cannot bridge the gap between us.

I wrote those poems in English during the time I was staying in Europe in 2019. The reason for writing my poems in English was that I communicated frequently with my soulmate in Europe in English.

So, naturally all the verses came to my mind in English, not in my mother tongue.

Do you write poems in English or translate them into English? Is there a difference between them?

As I mentioned above, I wrote my poems in English. It is the way I express my feelings and idea to my soulmate.

It is like a silent talk to myself. The difference in writing poems in English and translating poems into English is: in the first situation, the raw feeling spreads on the computer screen, while in the second one, the feeling is absorbed and displayed on screen.

Canadian Ukiyoto Publishing currently distributes your poetry collection entitled From Red River to Blue Danube through its channel in the world. How did the cooperation begin?

In 2022, I became the ambassador of Canadian Ukiyoto Publishing in Việt Nam after around eight months of fruitful cooperation between us. I work as a literary agent for many Vietnamese authors for publishing their works by Ukiyoto.

Then, during three months in 2022, I wrote 63 poems and decided to send them to Ukiyoto. Until April, I got the very exciting news that my second volume of poems From Red River to Blue Danube was released and distributed globally by Ukiyoto.

People very often choose a particular career path because they are fond of that job. What fascinates you about poetry and what advice would you give for people that don't like poetry?

For me, poetry saved my soul when I got a mental crisis and fell to the hell of mind. Poetry is also a golden bridge to connect different people in the world for understanding each other, making friends and exchanging their cultural values. Poetry leads People to the Land of Love and Light.

If you do not like poetry, so let it be. Do not force yourself to read them. But do not throw away poetry books. Let them lie on your bookshelf and forget them. One day, when suddenly you have to face a terrible problem and you do not know the solution, you are so low.

You may take a poetry book out from your shelf and read a verse, you may find that light there for you. - VNS