a field bleached white in spring

A poem in Vietnamese by Hoàng Xuân Sơn
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Art: Đinh Trường Chinh

In general, I feel rather lost translating HXS’s poetry. Reading Vietnamese poetry at first glance I generally capture the mood, but never truly grasp the plot until I translate it, equating to fully reading the work. I don’t know if it’s the East meet West scenario here, but I do feel like I’m doing an excavation of the poet’s vernacular.

In trying to understand the poet’s vernacular I often find myself reading newspaper articles and watching thirty-minutes Youtube videos like I did today on “đá mù”- how buying an uncut piece of nephrite is like gambling! The randomness of my general knowledge has unexpectedly expanded in the most interesting way.

My conclusion to all this; don’t let incomprehension stop you from taking that step into the total unknown. What you will find is more than the poem, or for that matter, the story, the poet, the writer. What you will find ultimately is the curiosity of a child. The inner child.

 A    F I E L D   B L E A C H E D   W H I T E   I N   S P R I N G

[white like eyes
rolled upward. Mường Khương]

in passing, I saw your poem. your
icily cloaked in a spectrum of colours
where shimmered dormant is a love story
seemed to have shattered my slumber
wholly flooded the frontier of coexistence

we're the veins, vessels, bits and pieces
the breathing beneath the leaves
and dampness being the night

there's no life left in plastic
the bottles collecting dust
the labels peeling the seal hidden
I find my way back to Phố Cẩm
a regal feral cat
saw nothing but chunks of nephrite
mulch covered springs
the dark eyes, the deep dark bottom of a lake
buried in the sandy banks a maple leaf
the season wiggling with the changeable wind

you won’t be able to hear the tinkling sound of music
rinse and dry
adding salt to the wound
the fire high at its peaking
level of dire straits

March 2021
B  Ạ  C  H   H  Ó  A   Đ  Ồ  N  G   X  U     N

[trắng như mắt
dã. mường khương]

tôi nhác thấy bài thơ em. của bạn
choàng rất lạnh một gam màu
nơi chuyện tình riu ríu ngủ
hình như cùng đổ vỡ giấc tôi
đã tràn thấu biên cương trùng cảm

chúng ta còn gân mạch li ti
thở dưới lá
và ẩm ướt thì đêm

nhựa đã không còn sức sống
đóng chai hàng bụi
nhãn bong con dấu ẩn chìm
tôi lần mò về cẩm phố
tơ lụa mèo hoang
chỉ thấy đá mù nhấp nhô
suối cỏ mùn
con mắt đen là đáy hồ thẳm
bờ cát vùi nông một lá phong cầm
gió chở mùa lung leng

em sẽ không còn nghe tiếng leng keng sóng lùa tâm nhạc
rửa sạch và đắp khô
muối dự phần da thêm bỏng rát
lửa cừ đã chín
độ trầm luân

h o à n g x u â n s ơ n
{26 tháng tư 2016}

Hoàng Xuân Sơn 

A renowned poet, born 1942, writes under various pseudonyms: Hoàng Xuân Sơn, Sử Mặc, Hoàng Hà Tỉnh, Vô Ðịnh… 

Hometown: Vỹ Dạ, Huế.

Lý Thường Kiệt Primary  

Bán Công High School and Quốc Học Huế High School

Bachelor of philosophy, and postgraduate of political science and commerce at The university of Văn Khoa Sài Gòn. 

Worked at the Ministry of Transport and Communication, a branch of the General Department of Postal Service of the Republic of Vietnam.

After 1975 worked in the Postal Office for 7 years. December 1981 settled in Montreal, Canada.

The poet’s career span from 1970 to the present day his work has been published in many literary publications. In vietnam: Văn, Chính Văn, Diễn  Ðàn, Khởi Hành, Nghiên Cứu Văn Học, Ðối Diện, Thân Hữu, Xây Dựng Nông Thôn, Ngưỡng Cửa, Nhà Văn. Outside of Vietnam: Làng Văn, Văn Học, Văn, Thế Kỷ 21, Chủ Ðề,  Sóng, Sóng Văn, Nắng Mới, Saigon Times, Hợp Lưu, Phố Văn,  Gío Văn , Canh Tân, Ði Tới, tạp chí Thơ. 

Collaborating platforms: Litviet (U.S.A), Tienve (Australia), Vanchuongviet… and the translations of his poetry into English by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm on SONGNGUTAITRAM.

Published work:

Viễn Phố (thơ, Việt Chiến xb 1988)

Huế Buồn Chi (thơ,93)

Lục Bát (thơ, 2005)

Ref: vanchuongviet.org

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

4 comments

  1. Wow, the way you talk about your research in order to get to the inner child is amazing, so well put, Trâm. This poem really spoke to me as those you translate often do.

    These lines especially touched my heart:

    “the dark eyes, the deep dark bottom of a lake
    buried in the sandy banks a maple leaf
    the season wiggling with the changeable wind”

    I am assuming you will keep these poems, art and your translation up. I want to read them all but I don’t have time. However, I don’t want to go back and find I have missed any of them. You are an amazing individual that practices grace for others everyday. Hugs, blessings and love, Joni

    Liked by 1 person

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