National Library of Vietnam

This is the transcript of the talk Vietnamese writer Nguyen Bao Chan gave at the National Library of Vietnam WrICE function Thursday 5 February 2015, Ha Noi, vietnam

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a Vietnamese poet, I am very honored to attend the event held at the National Library of Vietnam, within the frame work of the Writers Immersion and Cultural Exchange Program, to share with you some of my thoughts about writing experiences.

I have been invited to several international poetry festivals, conferences around the world. I have read my poetry before audiences in several cities of the world, from Southeast Asia to Europe and South America. I have always found that audiences are very enthusiastic about poetry, no matter where they live. They have moved me so much and inspired me to share my work with them. To have been a representative of my nation, and its poetic tradition and culture, is such a great honor. I have tried my best to present some humble part of our long historical culture and our poetic tradition.

I myself have a deep love for the English language and literature written in English. I started studying

English at the primary school, have kept learning, and will do it throughout my life. It has given me a wonderful key to open many doors of human knowledge. I have reached a much wider world, learning about many different tradition of literatures and cultures. And my writing has been enriched by all those experiences. Always, I proudly say that I come from Vietnam; I write poetry in my beautiful mother tongue. Even if sometimes I try to write in English as well – the language I’ve loved for many years, I still do it with the whole heart and soul of a true Vietnamese, whose deepest roots belong to the motherland.

Hanoi is my life. It has changed so much within over 30 years and no longer looks like the Hanoi of my childhood. Hanoi is now more modern, crowded, and polluted… But it sill reminds me very much of its own hidden charm and that can never be ruined by time or modern life. Every single little thing I see everyday in the streets of my city can be a source of my poetic inspiration, because Hanoi itself seems to be the greatest poem, with all of its beauty and ancient heritage. Hanoi has been, and will be, an essential part of my writing, my memories and my love, forever.

When I was very small, my mother and grandmother sang traditional lullabies to me  I could not fall asleep without hearing those lullabies. Vietnamese folk poems were composed by unknown authors and handed down from generation to generation, to be sung in special ways. Their lyrics are very beautiful and deal in particular with love and nature… The beauties of the Vietnamese language and of our rich culture have enriched my soul in a very natural way. When I began writing, I had no intention of bringing traditional elements into my poetry at all. They just appear, more or less, in my poems, as a natural part of my soul, even though the poems might be written using completely modern forms.

I think everything we experience in life benefits us in one way or another, no matter what it may be: happiness or sorrow, joy or sadness, success or failure … Life changes day by day. Something that is new today will be old tomorrow. But I think there are always special brilliant moments that will remain forever, as the precious property of the spirit which we can always find in poetry /literature. It nourishes our souls, gives us more energy and belief to live.

Nguyen Bao Chan