After recovering from illness, journalist-poet Hồng Thanh Quang plans to hold a special night of poetry and music 'Vẫn nguyên là nỗi khát' (Still Desire) on September 4 at the Hà Nội Opera House. Through poetry and music, he wants to spread inspiration in life itself. He talks with Ngô Minh.
|Poet Hồng Thanh Quang said poetry is his reason to live. Photo courtesy of the poet
Inner Sanctum: It’s a special performance marking 60 years of your life with its many ups and downs. How will you tell your life stories to audiences?
The performance comes from my friend's suggestion. I got a serious illness in 2019 and travelled to Singapore for treatment. When I recovered in 2021, it was those friends who suggested that I should make a new programme to celebrate my victory at the life and death boundary.
However, due to the pandemic and my health, I waited until this year, when I reach 60 years old, exactly five zodiac circles of the Year of the Tiger. At such a time, it is obvious that I have a lot of emotions and feelings that I want to express and share.
The concert includes some familiar songs based on my poetry by famous composers Phú Quang, An Thuyên, Lê Mây and Đức Trịnh. The programme has the participation of many of my favourite artists, who are my close friends, such as People's Artists Phạm Ngọc Khôi, Thúy Mùi, Quốc Anh, Thúy Ngần, and saxophonist Quyền Văn Minh.
The audiences will enjoy poetry in many art forms such as poem reciting, hát xẩm (blind busker’s music), Huế singing, instrumental music and pop. I will also directly present some of my works.
Inner Sanctum: Why do you name the performance 'Still Desire'? At the age of 60, do you still desire something?
This programme expresses my desire to conquer. Even though I have reached the top of the mountain, I still want to conquer another mountain. I am less than satisfied with what I have achieved. Especially people who are art creators, they always want what they haven’t had. They desire to create new things. When I go through many peaks, happiness and sorrow, the thirst is still here.
Inner Sanctum: You pursue creativity and a desire to create. So is this the message that you want to send people through art?
No poet can say that his private life is peaceful because if he did, he wouldn't be able to write poetry. Creators never stop suffering. If you don't worry about your own problems, you're "in pain" because of other people's problems, of humanity.
If there is a message to send, it’s about completeness. Looking at this cup of coffee, you say that "there is less", I think it is a lot. You can sip for a while longer. The "more or less" is very relative. You have enough when you think it is enough.
I feel happy because I can do what I love and still have dear readers. At this age, I learned to behave more properly with myself and the world around me.
Writing poetry and news stories is my way of living. Those are my thoughts and feelings that I want to share with everyone. Write it down, and I've shared it. As for whether the poem was successful or liked, that is the second story. And at my age, it doesn't matter anymore.
|From left: Director Nguyễn Quang Long, poet Hồng Thanh Quang and musician Tuấn Nghĩa, organisers of the art performance. VNS Photo Ngô Minh
Inner Sanctum: At this time, when crossing the lines of birth and death, what is your greatest desire?
Now I only have the desire to live. In the past, I lived aggressively, and I was engrossed in going without caring about the people around me because the journey was an important thing for me. Writing is important, poetry is important, the charm of poetry is important… and I ignored other things, including my closest people.
Now the thirst in me is to live so that I can make up for the lack of things in the past, but of course, life can't be fixed. I myself do not know how long I will live, but for just one day alive I always try to make up for the disadvantages of my past. But I'm lucky to always be forgiven by my family and friends.
Inner Sanctum: How is your health now?
I have recovered from cancer. My health is not very good right now, but it is still enough to write a few thousand words a week. I write what I enjoy.
Poetry has saved me and sheltered me. Sometimes, I think I rely on poetry to give life to the words I write.
Inner Sanctum: You are a poet but have worked as chief editor at a newspaper. Looking back on your career, do you find yourself in conflict?
I still think that a job, profession or title are just external things. The main thing is that no matter where, in any position, I remain loyal and consistent with my chosen style.
A journalist with a poetic soul can look at political, economic and social issues in a humane way and create an attractive and understandable interpretation of all these topics.
Journalistic thinking is like a "safety latch" for the soul of poetry. In the romantic “slips” in my life, I still have that “insurance rope”.
Therefore, poetry and journalism at the same time create a certain rationality in all my actions. Both are intrinsic needs that are indispensable in my life. VNS