Boo 5

October 12, 2021

Boo thân mến,

Thời gian bay một cách lạ thường, chúng ta có dành hương gì cho nó không? Lâu rồi chúng ta không tâm sự, bạn tôi hồn xác sao rồi? Những câu hỏi tôi hỏi anh hay tôi hỏi tôi? Chúng ta làm bạn với nhau làm chi chứ? Để tôi lợi dụng những bức tranh của anh, những câu thơ? Những màu sắc tôi cướp của anh đem về tô lại cuộc đời của tôi? Nghe có sến không, như những khúc Lan và Điệp tôi đã thuộc lòng không hiểu vì sao?

Anh khỏe chứ? Tôi hỏi anh hay tôi hỏi tôi?

Trâm


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.

Boo 1

November 2020,

Boo and I have an odd relationship. The relationship in the Social Cloud began with the poet and artist’s inability to sleep, and my irritation with the abundant wisdom given him on insomnia. The nonsensical pillow talk thrown over the fence by grey hair gentlemen and well wishes only frustrates my scientific brain – no no no, and no! So it was in the Cloud the scientist met the dreamer. 

Boo is an agnostic, kind with the temperament of my German puppy.  We don’t know whether it’s the food he’s consumed or a mutating gene enhancement, he stays up through the night in frustration and mesmerising obsession, conjuring women of all lines and curvature through charcoal, ink, and acrylic. The basement would be pungent with the scent of thinning spirit and turpentine. Upon her portrait, the casting of dawn, he discards the emptied cups of coffee, puts on a collared shirt for a day inside a more pragmatic digital cloud. The digital cloud grounds him in materialistic servitude impossible to escape but provides him with the means for a foundation of nurture. Boo is the parental boulder of certainty with straight A off-springs on a see-saw of art and literature; there’s no prouder patriarch. 

The days drifted along for Boo like so. He finds himself in Starbuck staring from beneath his ebony lashes, the women in his lucid midnight dreams – Westward, an embrace in fallen leaves. Then he’s there surrounded by the writers, the poets, sipping Macallan, his feet light as air on the frozen pavement. Something about a book cover, an article about his paintings, wrapped in the ordinary heart of the proletariat? – M, translate this for me. He would message me at three in the morning. The proletariat half-asleep shocked awake, pondering how she has managed to survive higher education to work in a dispensary. The proletariat and the poet turning fifty are a little confused; she is once again reacquainted with her mother’s language and begs daily for the poet’s work. It was where I had found Boo’s darkest clouds shifting endlessly, but never heavy enough to break into the rain. The fluffy grey ever-present hovered. It drifted with him into the next illustration, brush strokes, the crosses, the lopsided church steeples, and “em” somewhere praying – “take me to church”. It was my privilege to be there with him sometimes in those grey clouds.

A fluffy pink cloud drifts by at dawn, and Boo is a little giddy – I want to live simply M. In whispers of pinks and blues he spoke of her or was it, without her. The fleeting moments of Boo in the baby pink clouds in the sunrise were enough to lift you on butterfly wings. Upon the wings of a poet, wisps of the colour of an artist, always in the clouds. In the clouds, Boo carries with him, the heart of an idealist.


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.

It’s simple, if the poem is good, it is good in any language, it would surpass time and your vernacular

Đơn giản là vậy nhé, thơ hay thì ngôn ngữ nào cũng sẽ hay, it would surpass time and your vernacular, nó có thể vượt qua cả ngôn ngữ và thời gian. 

Tháng vừa rồi tôi đọc lại tập thơ Radio mùa hè của anh Phan Nhiên Hạo, đã hai năm rồi đọc lại mà vẫn còn bị ám ảnh như xưa, những ngày tôi đã bị mất quê hương. Tôi dịch xong, tôi ngồi, tôi khóc, khóc cho ai? Cho tôi? Cho ba má tôi? Hay cho con tôi? Bao giờ sẽ quên?

Câu hỏi cần phải hỏi là tại sao phải quên? Nó đã là ta rồi mà. 

Tôi mệt mỏi lắm với những câu hỏi nhạt nhẽo khô khan.

Bạn là thi sĩ họa sĩ, đi tới đâu đi nữa bạn vẫn là thi sĩ họa sĩ. Ai trên trái đất này trong lòng cũng mang theo quê hương của mình.

Chúng ta sống chung một làng trên trái đất này (in the same global village). Nên khi tôi giới thiệu bạn trong thế giới ngôn ngữ của tôi, bạn là một thi sĩ họa sĩ trong một thế giới không biên giới.

Đặc quyền bình đẳng hay không, bạn là công dân toàn cầu, và đó là một sự khởi đầu.

Tôi muốn chia sẻ lại với bạn một bài thơ mà tôi đã vô tình dịch, bài thơ rất đẹp, những con chữ đã vượt thời gian và ngôn ngữ:

T H E    F R A G I L I T Y    O F    A    B R E A T H

)(  )(

soft

to gushing

a breath like a straw mat

cutting into a sound sleep

a breath like mine

heartbreaking

denial

echoes of a dagger

on heaving chest

life (sharpening its blade)

keen, out for fresh blood

the eerie breath

a sea of apparitions

endless crazy waves

breath shattering rocks

a life sentence in a grain of sadness

)(

31 tháng 5, 2022

M  A  N  H    T  H  Ở

)(  )(

nhè nhẹ

rồi dồn dập sao

thở như manh chiếu

cứa bào giấc mê

thở như ta

hống

não nề

vọng âm chủy thủ

bết bê ngực

đời

sắc lẻm hạt máu mùa tươi

thở như rờn rợn

ma hời đại dương

trăm năm bờ sóng dự cuồng

thở băm mành đá

hạt buồn chung thân

)(

h o à n g  x u â n  s ơ n

26 tháng 5, 2022

Trâm 

June 4th, 2022


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.

Surpassing the impossible

I’ve been so busy editing, I forgot to check, my blog in the middle of August have surpassed last year’s views. It is a wonderful feeling when one could see visibly that such incredible art and literature have been shared and enjoyed by not just me but many. My decision to delete the old clumsily put together website after much thought was a sound decision.

Some say, I’m the only person who can do this, this is not true. What is true to the fact is that, if I can do it, so can you. Anyone can do what I do. I blindly stumbled onto everything, into building a blog, into writing, into translating. Failure is eminent on any new venture. My biggest competitor is me, we are all our own biggest critic.

Great literature is out there, you just need to be patient. I have learned from the best, Lê Vĩnh Tài is not only a great poet, he is also a great writer. The boundless amount of poetry and short stories left me spoiled. There’s so much to learn, and so little time.

I have of course ventured into other authors’ work, but it has never left me with a sense of completion as it has with LVT poetry or writing. The simplest way to explain this logically is the rhythm in poetry or music, I happen to share the way LVT compose.

In the end, like my oddly strange atheist son have said – there’s no such thing as fate, we, as human beings like to romanticise everything so we can get a sense of purpose, so we can have our faith, so we could continue to hope. It’s just statistics mum, if you are looking for poetry, you look for them amongst poets, there you will find what you want. Social media have made it much easier.

Wisdom for me is not far from home.

Trâm,

August 29th, 2022.


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.

Lê Vĩnh Tài and I – What is in a rose?

Lê Vĩnh Tài and I have connected through the love of literature. Lê Vĩnh Tài is a seasoned poet and writer residing in the West highland of Vietnam, at the moment endeavouring to learn an alien language like English. My family and I are boat people, Vietnamese Refugees, who have been residing in suburban Sydney since 1981. I have been able to find my origin through the translation of my mother’s tongue, Vietnamese. I hope to share my experience with you through this body of work.

What is in a rose? In the words of W. Shakespeare: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. I’ve asked myself often why I am obsessed with translating, specifically Lê Vĩnh Tài’s work. 

I could cheapen my entire experience by romanticising on a list of mundane reasons: It was fate, I have found my soulmate, the poet can do no wrong, the poet sits on a pedestal. Fortunately, LVT is far from any idol; every word bleeds from his veins. 

Often, I have pondered if I am frivolous in critiquing the structure of LVT’s body of work. What is postmodernism? Did he sit down by a lake one day and blurt out thirty-five pages of poetry? Did the angel Gabriel appear to him as he did to Mary, with a message from God? My answer would always be in the verses by E. E. Cummings:

“since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool

while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,

and kisses are a better fate

than wisdom

lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry

– the best gesture of my brain is less than

your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other; then

laugh, leaning back in my arms

for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis”

Lê Vĩnh Tài(LVT) in wanting to speak the truth, he bled the salty words upon thousands and thousands of blank bleached white sanitised pieces of paper. LVT voice is a voice that will surpass the generations. It gives me a sense of pride and responsibility to pass on his work, through the break of language. 

LVT’s body of work is a historical recollection of events, and indeed most of which were parallel to my life. He remained a national, while I deserted my country, an exile. But, I believe our desires are the same. We love, we procreate, and we want a better future for our children. We want a better world, where words can be free without persecution, where girls are no different from boys, and where we are all colour blind. 

The verses through Lê Vĩnh Tài is one of love in the most straightforward declaration by Friedrich Nietzsche: “God is dead”. One can be void of judgement. One can be to each other, kind.

_____

Ý nghĩa của hoa hồng là gì? Theo W. Shakespeare: “Hồng với một tên khác nó có sẽ ngọt bằng”. Tôi luôn tự hỏi mình tại sao lại bị ám ảnh với việc dịch thuật, nhất là thơ của Lê Vĩnh Tài?

Tôi có thể hạ thấp trải nghiệm của mình qua vài ý tưởng lãng mạn thường như: duyên số, tôi đã kiếm được một người bạn tri kỷ trong ngôn ngữ, một nhà thơ hoàn hảo, trên bệ cao. Nhưng may, LVT không phải là một thần tượng; vì từng chữ của nhà thơ chảy ra như những giọt máu từ huyết quản của chàng.

Nhiều lúc tôi nghĩ tôi quá phù phiếm với cách phê phán cấu trúc với các tác phẩm của LVT. Chủ nghĩa hậu hiện đại là gì? Có phải một hôm nhà thơ ngồi xuống cạnh bờ hồ và thốt ra 35 trang thơ? Có phải thiên thần Gabriel hiện ra với nhà thơ như ngài đã với Đức Mẹ Maria, với một thông điệp của Đức Chúa Trời? Câu trả lời của tôi luôn là trong bài thơ của E. E. Cummings:

“trước hết là cảm xúc

ai cần chi

những cú pháp

sẽ không thật sự hôn em;

thật là một kẻ dại

lúc xuân ngập tràn đất này

như trong máu của ta đã chấp nhận

những nụ hôn hơn là định mệnh

hơn trí tuệ

ta thề với nàng trước những loài hoa. Đừng khóc

– suy nghĩ hay chi nhất của ta không bằng

làn sóng mì mắt em   thốt ra

chúng ta  đã  cho nhau; rồi lại

cười, rồi lại rụng vào vòng tay ta

vì cuộc sống không phải là một khúc văn

Và sự chết ta nghĩ không phải là những dấu ngoặc”

Lê Vĩnh Tài vì muốn nói lên sự thật, rỉ chảy trên ngàn ngàn trang giấy tẩy trắng những dòng chữ mặn nồng những giọt máu. Giọng nói của LVT sẽ vượt qua những thế hệ. Nó đem lại cho tôi một cảm giác thật tự hào và một trách nhiệm qua chuyển ngữ để lưu lại và gửi tiếp những tác phẩm của ảnh cho thế hệ sau. (Nhất là những thế hệ ngoài nước).

Thơ của LVT là một hồi ức lịch sử của các sự kiện, và hầu hết song song với cuộc sống của tôi. Nhà thơ là một công dân, trong khi tôi đã bỏ rơi đất nước tôi, là một thân lưu vong. Nhưng, tôi tin rằng mong muốn của chúng tôi cũng như nhau. Chúng tôi yêu, rồi sinh con đẻ cái, cùng mong muốn một tương lai tốt đẹp cho con cái của mình. Cùng muốn một thế giới tốt đẹp hơn, nơi ai ai cũng được tự do với ngôn ngữ, con gái con trai được sử như nhau, nơi ai cũng bị mù màu (da).

Những lời thơ qua Lê Vĩnh Tài luôn luôn là tình yêu, giải thích dễ dàng và thẳng thắn qua câu “Chúa đã chết” của Friedrich Nietzsche. Con người sẽ không cần đến hai từ phán xét. Con người sẽ tốt với nhau hơn. 

[June 2020]


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.

The conservation of Endangered Green Sea Turtles on Six Senses Con Dao

The pitter-patter of tiny feet leaving behind barely any visible trails, heads for the gentle waves. Beyond the small waves was an ocean invisible to the half-blind turtle hatchlings upon the dawning golden light. The swells of tears blinded my myopic vision. 

The Green Sea turtles are likely to become more extinct compared to other species listed in The Red Book(1). Turtles are placed at the top of the list of endangered species in Vietnam. One in a thousand may survive in nature to adulthood (35-50 years), old enough to return and lay eggs at the place of their birth. The Green Sea turtles chances of survival are depleted further by poachers and the illicit steep price of their eggs. 

Free range chickens in house on Six Senses Con Dao

Working closely with Con Dao National Park, Six Senses Con Dao over the last three years have been the proud caretaker of 132 nests, releasing over ten thousand critically endangered newly hatched Green Sea Turtles into the ocean(2). 

My husband and I had the chance of a lifetime. We were there to witness more than a few nests of Green Sea Turtle hatchlings released over the few days we spent at Six Senses Con Dao at the end of July.

Organic farming on Six Senses Con Dao

My tears were mere drops in the ocean, pointless. The tears which saw an impossible future for those tiny tiny paddling feet in crystal clear water of Con Dao. The crystal clear water came at a huge cost, the cost of day and night labour to clear the beaches of garbage and human waste washed up the beach. The few years paid off with the return of The Green Sea Turtles. They return to bless us with their eggs, their future or is it actually ours?

Recently introduced mushroom farm at Six Sense Con Dao

The Green Sea Turtles are endangered because of my carbon footprint. Mine first. And it had taken me so long to finally admit my part in the problem. We forget so easily, as we live, we don’t like to walk, we like to drive down the road, we prefer to catch the bus, we like our plastic bags. We take mother nature for granted.

The privilege of taking care of the Green Sea Turtle nests goes beyond the unique experience at Six Senses Con Dao, the resort establishment aims to improve the environment around the resort with the hope of a cascading effect, involving those living on the island and the surrounding areas. Sustainability is obtained from the ground up. Education is the key to attaining a brighter future for the next generation. In the next generation we can instil the hope of a cleaner and sustainable environment on Con Dao and beyond. 

It starts with free English classes, children of all ages may apply, children of all ages have the chance to learn, children of all ages have the chance to hold the key to their future. The future is not possible without our children. A bright future for The Green Sea Turtles is not possible without the education of our children. Yes, our children. 

Seeing those small feet wading in the waves, pausing now and then to stick their heads above the water, take in a gulp of clean air, before they continue to paddle vigorously towards an unimaginable boundless body of water, it is dark, it is deep, it is fraught with danger, by a strand of intangible hope. 

A strand of hope. A strand of hope was more than what I could hoped for in a lifetime. 

[August 2022]


  1. https://en.vietnamplus.vn/turtles-more-likely-to-become-extinct-than-other-red-book-animals/177324.vnp
  1. https://www.sixsensescondao.com/six-senses-con-dao-takes-the-lead-in-the-protection-of-endangered-green-sea-turtles/

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.

%d bloggers like this: