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Nguyen Nhat Anh meets with literary friends in Bangkok

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:46 am

During my days in Thailand, people call me by my nickname “The last one.” In international practice, the order of representative delegations is classified according to the first letters of their countries’ names.

Vietnamese writer ‘Nguyen Nhat Anh’ at the ceremony of the S.E.A Writer’s Award in Bangkok November 14 2010.

When watching the Olympic Games or any other international sports festivals on TV, it was normal to see the Vietnam name appear in the final leg of the competition list, just before Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Wales.


However, this time I felt anxious to be in the final reading poems and speaking in a seminar while I was in Bangkok for the S.E.A Write Award, established to honor leading poets and writers in the Southeast Asian region.


On the day exchanging with Thailand people on the 30th floor of Bangkok Bank, poets and writers from Laos, Malaysia, and the Philippines went first. After a half an hour, I felt relieve to find that everyone had stayed for the remaining statements from the poets from Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.


Realizing my anxiety, Panadda Lertlumamphai, who chaired the seminar, explained the order was arranged in alphabetly.  “No problem,” I smiled, saying that in Vietnam, most important things usually come last. My explanation made Ms. Panadda and audiences burst out laughing.


Close friends


During my time in Bangkok, I met a close friend named Marjorie Evasco. This Philippine poet and I, joked most of the time. He quoted to me verses of poetry, which sounded lyrical, and praising womanhood.


Even before we begin, the sound of wind/ From the old temple of Ulun Danu quivers/ On the tips of our fingers and in our toes/ The dancer, Ni K’tut Reneng, knows it takes/ Ten sacred years to learn one gesture/ Of the wind’s caress on the skin of water.”


Marjorie slimed at me for my interest in her poetry and invited me to a book festival in her native country, the Philippines.


Another close friend, a Singaporean poet named Johar Bin Buang. When knowing that I was born in 1955, was beside himself with joy saying “You and me are at the same age.”  However, that night at the hotel room, I discovered in a summary record that he was actually born in 1958 and not 1955.


Johan Bin Buang’s poems are submerged with ‘religious inspiration’. I especially like the verse: “While asleep, we walk on the milky way, clutching twinkling stars and surveying the columns of light…” In addition, the verse, “I want to play the flute even in those distant lands,”


I like to smoke cigarettes. The only other person that smoked was the Thailand poet Zakariya Amataya. On the first day in Bangkok, I did not know where the cigarette shop was located, so whenever Zakariya went out of the meeting room, I immediately followed. Zakariya and I smoked outside the meeting room. He would ask me about my writing and expressed his admiration about my first book, which was published in 1984.


Zakariya, one of Thailand poets of from the renovation period, was born in 1975. There was many opinions and discussion around the decision to give him the S.E.A Writer’s Award. Some of the debates said his poetry broke from the ‘old order’, while other’s stated that it was too ‘irritating’.


To me, his poems were strange, quarrelsome and daring. Some of my favorite poems are: “A Quarrel with Silence, Can’t See the Sun, Teardrops of Time, The Physics of Truth, Five-legged Chair, In What Color shall I Record the Words of Sadness?, A Song neither Coming nor Going…”.


In the poem “There must be something” displayed new and fresh ideas “There must have been some errors/ between the cleavages of the human race/ that was lost in the Flood/ something that was not stowed on Noah’s ark/ something that the Old Testament did not record/ something that Nostradamus did not foresee… There must be some misunderstanding on this earth/ that has been lost from the database of the global population/ something that Plato did not anticipate/ something that Nietzsche did not mention/ something that Einstein did not calculate/ something that has been lost…”


Dream

I came to Bangkok knowing nothing about literature of neighboring countries. However, now we have translated and introduced a host of literary works from all over the world, including Europe, the US, China and Japan. Literature is a wonderful means in exploring the aspects of both country and people. Since a little boy, I have liked France and the US thanks to the writers of Victor Hugo and Mark Twain. In the same way, Gogol and Puskin make me love Russia.


Vietnam has many things in common with other Southeast Asian Countries, especially in religious and cultural fields. Therefore, we need to further develop collaboration and growth between all countries.


The literary exchange among ASEAN countries is the beginning in this development and a way of ensuring more understanding and hope. I have dreamt about a Southeast Asian literary magazine, which will gather ASEAN writers and poets’ together, once a year, in order to encourage each country’s language development and growth.

Source: SGGP

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