|Mai Văn Phấn (right) receives the Cikada Prize from Dr Lars Vargö, chairman of the Cikada Prize’s jury, at the Temple of Literature on December 1. - VNS Photo Vũ Minh Hiếu
HÀ NỘI — Hải Phòng-based Mai Văn Phấn has become the second poet from Việt Nam to win the prestigious Cikada Prize.
Established in 2004, the Cikada Prize is awarded to an East Asian poet who “in his/her poems shows poetic sensitivity for the inviolability of life”. The prize was founded on the 100th birth anniversary of Swedish Nobel Prize laureate Harry Martinson. The winner gets SEK 20,000 (US$2,200) and a ceramic art piece made by Swedish artist Gunilla Sundström.
In an award ceremony held at the Temple of Literature in Hà Nội last night, Phấn expressed his appreciation to those who have translated his poems into other languages. He expressed his appreciation for literary critics and translators Erik Bergqvist and Maja Thrane, who helped bring his works to Swedish audiences.
“I could not imagine that my poetry, which has a strong traditional identity, and my personality allure readers, especially smart judges on the other side of the globe,” he told Việt Nam News.
The Cikada Prize jury includes Dr Lars Vargö, chairman of the jury, ambassador, writer and chairman of Swedish Haiku Society; Göran Bäckstrand, former deputy secretary general of Swedish Red Cross and vice-chairman of Harry Martinson Society; and Kaj Falkman, ambassador, poet and writer and chairman of Swedish-Japanese Society.
Dr Vargö said there were many aspects of his poetry.
“He writes some short poems, which reminds me of haiku and tanka genres,” he said, “He also writes some long poems, philosophy poems and some poems that reminds me of the French symbolism. He’s a very good poet and also his poems have been translated into many languages”
Addressing the ceremony, Ylva Jansson, Chargé d’Affairs of the Swedish Embassy said Phấn has proved how poetry can give us a greater understanding of the lives and cultures of others.
“Through poetry, the voice of one person can tell the story of many. His poetry has been translated into 25 languages. Already in 2009 Mai Văn Phấn’s poetry was translated into Swedish and published as a part of the anthology ‘Till: igår – tolv vietnamesiska poeter’. A bigger selection of his poems have this year been translated and published in Sweden through the book ‘Höstens Hastighet’,” she said.
Nguyễn Phương Hòa, deputy head of International Co-operation Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, stressed that the award is not only a recognition to his efforts but also recognition for modern Vietnamese poetry.
“The prize is very meaningful, expressing an open policy in encouraging cultural diversity and helping all of us understand more about the beauty of poetry, souls and lives of other peoples,” she said, “The prize is praise for the values of humanity for peace and a better life as well as an important bridge in the Việt Nam-Sweden friendship.”
Phấn, who was born in 1955 in the northern province of Ninh Bình, has received many literary awards in Việt Nam, and his poetry has been published in volumes in English and French.
The first Vietnamese winner of the award was Hoàng Thị Ý Nhi in 2015.
The name of the award was inspired by Martinson’s anthology of poems Cikada, which was published in 1953. The award is given to East Asian poets as a recognition of the inspiration the Swedish writer found for his own poetry in East Asian literature, and to recognise the rich poetry of these countries. — VNS