The Chư Mang Vernacular

A poem in Vietnamese by Lê Vĩnh Tài

Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


The Chư Mang vernacular has 96 words to describe love, so how could there be only 1 word in English? When the poem is deprived, it is but 1 word. The people of Chư Mang have 30 ways to describe a storm so that the poem may be just enough to wet our hearts. A man of Chư Mang will die if he had but the one word to describe the rain. The way we will die alone if we only have one word to love.

The translator says a verse of poetry is too short to reveal her kind heart in poetry. Plus, isn’t the thrill of a kiss much more fleeting?

Why will I never be able to translate this man? Because he is my friend, and I can but chastise him in silence, as I would my heart.

What is sanctified? Love bound our spirits, together, now and forever. Like the shyness of a deer’s horns trembling in fear, fleeing from a hunter, faint hearted, and it is still not love.

What makes a verse moan?

How may a translation end up drenched in tears?

If not for the young sailors and their sails braving the seas, if not for the old men washed ashore in their tiny dinghy…

August 1st, 2022

_____

Tiếng Chư Mang có 96 từ chỉ tình yêu, vậy ai nói trong tiếng Anh chỉ có 1? Khi bài thơ nghèo đi, nó chỉ còn 1 chữ. Người Chư Mang có 30 từ chỉ về cơn mưa để bài thơ đủ ướt trái tim của chúng ta. Một người Chư Mang có lẽ sẽ chết nếu anh ta chỉ có 1 từ chỉ về cơn mưa. Như chúng ta chết trong cô đơn vì chúng ta chỉ có 1 từ để yêu. 

Dịch giả nói một câu thơ thì quá ngắn gọn để bộc lộ trái tim dịu dàng của cô ấy trong thơ. Nhưng không phải cảm giác hồi hộp của một nụ hôn vẫn còn ngắn hơn nhiều sao? 

Tại sao tôi không bao giờ dịch người đàn ông này? Vì anh ấy là người bạn, tôi chỉ biết trách móc anh ấy trong im lặng, như trách móc trái tim tôi. 

Linh thiêng là gì? Tình yêu gắn kết tinh thần của chúng ta với nhau, bây giờ và mãi mãi. Như sự nhút nhát của chiếc sừng nai run rẩy sợ hãi trong rừng, nó chạy trốn chàng thợ săn, ngất xỉu mà không phải tình yêu.

Điều gì khiến bài thơ thở dài?

Điều gì khiến bản dịch đẫm nước mắt? 

Vì các thủy thủ trẻ dũng cảm trên biển với cánh buồm, và các ông già trôi dạt vào bờ trên bất kỳ chiếc thuyền vỏ lãi nào…


Lê Vĩnh Tài, the poet and translator born in 1966 in Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak, Vietnam. The retired doctor is still a resident of the Western Highlands and a businessman in Buon Ma Thuot.

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

Rain

A poem in Vietnamese by Phạm Công Thiện

Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


Rain

How could a storm upon the branches hesitate

How could a sky divide such soulmates

How could a cuckoo be so sad that it couldn’t crow

How could anything forget the rain may fly or flow

May 2022

—–

Mưa

Có mưa dính muộn trên cành cây

Có đâu trời bắt phải chia tay

Có chim tu hú buồn không gáy

Có gì quên hết mưa còn bay

[Nguồn: Phạm Công Thiện, Trên tất cả đỉnh cao là lặng im, NXB Văn hoá Sài Gòn, 2009]


Phạm Công Thiện, the poet, Buddhist philosopher, and scholar, under the name of Nguyên Tánh was born on June 1st, 1941 in Mỹ Tho, Vietnam. He left Vietnam in 1970, lived in Israel, Germany, then for a while in France. In 1983, he moved to the United States, settled in Los Angeles, and became a professor of Buddhism at the College of Buddhist Studies. He passed away on August 3rd, 2011 in Houston, Texas, U.S.A.

[Source: thivien.net]

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

Being of merry temperament

A poem in Vietnamese by Choé

Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


Being of merry temperament

In facing heartache

Dare I cry at all 

With tears

October 2017

Trót làm người vui tính

Khi gặp chuyện đau lòng

Ta không dám khóc

Bằng nước mắt

[Source: CHOÉ, Nghề Cười; The Business of Laughter]


Choé, Nguyen Hai Chi, born November 11th, 1943, in An Giang, Vietnam, the political cartoonist became famous for his ugly depictions of American and South Vietnamese political leaders, and scathing commentary on the savagery of war. His cartoons were featured in Newsweek and the New York Times. Choé passed away on March 12th, 2003, in Virginia, U.S.A.

[Source: annexgalleries.com]

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

In the shadows an ego

A poem in English by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

Translator: Lê Vĩnh Tài

In the shadows an ego is published in the quarterly publication of Biển Khơi: http://www.bienkhoi.com/so-94/tho-nguyenthiphuongtram.htm


In the shadows an ego

sweet as dew 

flew

In the shadows who knew

I’m airborne

a mist

An ego in the dew flew knew

I’m a hot air balloon

across the sky high

The shadows, wings

a whisper of silent hope

Me, flying

in the shadows sigh…

_____

by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, translation into Vietnamese by Lê Vĩnh Tài

Trong bóng tối bản ngã tôi 

ngọt ngào như giọt sương, 

bay

Trong bóng tối ai biết cái bản ngã 

tôi đang bay trên không 

một làn sương mù

Bản ngã tôi trong sương bay 

tôi biết bản ngã tôi là quả khinh khí cầu 

trên bầu trời cao

Những cái bóng, những đôi cánh 

thì thầm hy vọng thầm lặng

Tôi, đang bay 

trong bóng tối thở dài

____

March 2020


Lê Vĩnh Tài, the poet and translator born in 1966 in Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak, Vietnam. The retired doctor is still a resident of the Western Highlands and a businessman in Buon Ma Thuot.

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

and you will be my light…

A poem in Vietnamese by Lê Vĩnh Tài

Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


Within the darkest of nights

I will be your moon

and you will be my light…

[May 2019]

_____

Trong những đêm tối nhất

tôi sẽ là mặt trăng của bạn 

và bạn là ánh sáng của tôi…


Lê Vĩnh Tài, the poet and translator born in 1966 in Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak, Vietnam. The retired doctor is still a resident of the Western Highlands and a businessman in Buon Ma Thuot.

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

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