Letters to Winds
Pubblico di seguito, col consenso dell’autore, il fitto scambio di lettere che hanno in qualche modo portato alla pubblicazione di Venti di Nguyen Chi Trung. Un dialogo intenso tra lavoro sul libro e privato, tra storia e opinioni. A tratti le lettere del poeta diventano un vero e proprio saggio di poetica, preziosissimo. Il mio inglese, stentato, non l’ho voluto correggere per restituire la genuinità del rapporto intercorso. Perchè un libro è anche questo. La poesia è anche questo. Un dialogo.
My dear young friend Alessandro,
finally I get your email address and your letter. Thank you.
After I came home from the Ritratti Zingonia has posted your article in my facebook site. I do not speak Italian but I could understand the sincerity of your sayings. Zingonia has resumed it and Elena Chiti has translated the important parts of the article for me. Your article shows me many things. Might I say it honestly here: you are a good prosaist, you write deep things and this is special impressive to me: you “have seen me”.
In Vietnam there was a genius poet as a culture country could bring such a person after some centuries. His name is Bui Giang. As he died the whole literature scenery of the nation mourned. As he was still in life he said for about 20 years ago to the literature scenery of Vietnam, that I, Chi Trung, will be the unique future poet of VN and I were the poet who with some lines of (my) poems would throw all his writings (some fifty books of poetry and essays) into “the shadow of the End Time” (original tone). I tell it to you to express how I was and still am moved by the fact that you have seen me. You are really my young poet friend. Thank you. I embrace you.
In fact I make the experience that mostly the old poets seem to love my poems or at least to get the feelings that there are something worthy in them. The younger never until now, and since now: you and Zingonia. Might I inform you that I have been never reading my poems in Germany. The german literature scenery has nothing to do with such poems like mine. They ignore my poems until now, successfully! They do write the main stream and the german edition houses publish the poetry what is asked and loved by the masses. I have also refused a literature price they give to the foreigner writers.
I think it is a good fortune that leads us together. And to say again the well known sentence of Casablanca: “It is the beginning of a great friendship”.
I embrace you, my younger poet and my dear friend
I very much understand when you speak of the masses and your refusal of the award. It is the distance of the poet from the masses; his truth, his independence and his loneliness. But in the end it is an act of love, a kind act of love towards the same crowd from which one keeps his distance. I think that Bui Giang was quite right in speaking of another poet (you) not in the present but in the future. And in poetry there is the future. Because in the present there is nothing.
But even here I must correct myself. Because in the present we can still do something. And this something I will try to do together with you, hoping to put in place some pieces of this immense puzzle that is your poetry.
I thank you for your words. You know that I also write poetry (but I do not want to define myself as a poet) and the words of a master like you are for me the best compliment I could receive. An honor that makes me turn red like a kid. It is a responsibility, because now I have to merit your appreciation with my work.
Dear friend, now I embrace you. This time I’ve had help with the English so I am able to understand you better. As always, I must ask you to excuse my English.
A warm embrace,
Dear Alessandro, my young poet friend,
I have received your letter full of warm and true words. I am feeling moved and understood. After a very long time (of years) I can now read such a letter with deep comprehension, understandings and empathy for (my) poetry and for me as a poet. What can I say more than my thank to you.
Your letter shows me that you are also a real poetical soul and mind as I could be. Please reserve your few time – I know as an editor you should not have too much time – for writing poems. You are young, so you have time to continue doing it. Such a soul like yours will give good poems. I say it due to of my own experiences in life and in writing poems.
I habe been writing poems since the beginning of the sixties of the last century, I write poems unceasingly, in the years as I was in Saigon, during my studies in the seventies at the university in Stuttgart Germany, during my professional life periode as a Doktor-Ingenieur that I quitted since 1997, until now. I write poems in solitude, ignored by the others, independently, free of any influence, specially of the mainstream. In Vietnam only old and wellknown poets knew some of my poems. They all are dead. In Germany the scenery ignores my work totally. There were many times in my past life where I was full in despair, near the area of death. Not to say about the solitude that quasi every poet has to suffer. I told you that I have “waited” for 35 years. In fact it was more: since these sixties until the year 2004 where I appeared for the first time at an International Meeting of Writers in Belgrade. In this long terrible periode I did believe in Poetry, in the Beauty of Life that can be expressed, brought in appearance and made able to feel by poems. Of course the prior condition for that are always the capability of feelings and the empathy. If there is additionally the intelligence, it will be better. It´s a thing of Heart and Geist. I say it because I could not often see such elements in the contemporary poetry. Our time is self defined as a postmodern or post-postmodern one or any such thing in this sense. Human beings are overcomed with technics, are thrown away in suction of things. There is no place for soul, old soul.
I embrace you warmly, my dear friend Alessandro. My spoken English is to be ashamed, as I heard the interview with Zingonia again from the CD-Rom the organization sent to me. My written is maybe a little better. Your English in this letter is very good: it touchs and moves my soul.
Dear Poet, dear friend,
I don’t want to insert the original version of your poems. I think for now it’s enough and good only italian version, if you agree. But I can discuss about this if you think this point is important for your poems.
For the title I prefer to listen what Zingonia think about this. It’s very important to put the best title we can. But the title in the singolar form VENTO I think It’s a mistake that I don’t want to do, because in your all pomes you wrote winds and not wind. But tell me what you think.
It’s very nice the title: WINDS – a poem.
I embrace you and I’m waiting for you reply.
I want to continue this brainstorming.
I see these topics:
1) The translation. I need to see the original version (in which language? german?) because reading your poems Chi Trung I want to feel your poetic meter (look for examples the poem number 25, the difference), your sound. I don’t want to discuss the translation, only my work continue discussing your work for the best book we can realize.
2) The language. I see that we have to choose if we can insert the original version (I think english is a translation from the original) inside the book. I don’t know. Really. I can say only a thing: if we insert the original then I need to put two poems on a single page, or more.
3) The title. Winds is a fantastic title, but now I’m thinking that is not the original title, but a translation in a different language. Better insert an italian title or the original title. Or please give me a reason to giustify the title Winds that I continue to consider really fantastic. I consider fantastic also the title: Winds – a poem but we are in Italy, and I’m thinking this title: Winds: un poemetto, better in my opinion: Winds – un poemetto esistenzialista.
concerning the topics discussed I from my part can say the followings:
1. The question about the originals.
The long Poem was firstly written in my first original language Vietnamese, in a stormy windy night in the late autumn 26.11.1992, as I told Zingonia already in my letter of today. Its vietnamese title is “GIÓ”.
Later in a periode of desperation 1993 I thought I could not continue more. My german girl friend of that time (now died) wanted to read this poem. I began to re-write it, to rescue me myself, in my second original language German. Its title is “WINDE”. I say re-write, it means the german and the vietnamese versions are the two faces of the same essential of what is said in both poems. Like winds: they are always the same but they are not equal. We say it in German: das Selbe aber nicht das Gleiche.
Also the vietnamese “GIÓ” and the german “WINDE” are two originals. The english translation is done later, 2004. Through my co-working with Anna I found that it was not very good translated. It should be re-translated.
2. The metrics of the poem.
The poem “GIÓ” is written strongly in the old metrics system of Six-Eight, as I wrote you already in my recent letter. As I could see, this special metrics of parallel inner and end rhyme is a unique one in the world.
It´s clear that in the german Original I could not write in the metrics Six-Eight. But I tried to keep the whole poem in harmonic rhythms of the winds, in sound of the language German as I could imagine.
Alessandro: you can only hear and feel the sound when you do it in the Vienamese original, as already done in the Ritratti. I will give you the chance to hear it again when we meet in June.
I see that you love this poem very much. Therefore I want to write you about the circumstances of/about this poem with full of details. It is my response to your love. But it´s also for me important the publication of this poem for the first time in an european country I love so much: Italy.
1. My family name is NGUYEN, Chi Trung is my given name, my call name. Please differ this important thing: in the whole Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam) all the names are written in this order, contrary to the West: first the family name: NGUYEN, and then the rest name: Chi Trung. Normally is the rest name a double name (C. T.). Normally a person, even a president of the nation, is called or presented by his given & call name. So he identifies himself with this given name, not with his family name: I remember here for example the president of the Republic VN during the time of the VN war was called or spoken officially as “president Thieu”. Thieu was his given name. His family name was Nguyen too. I identify myself with my given name “Chi Trung” according to the tradition. The layout of my names on the cover is suited to my identication. It´s OK so. Thank you. Now I see you have change the order in the newest cover. Please don´t do it! if you don´t have any absolute reason. Keep Chi Trung in big letter and Nguyen in small.
2. The problem of the title.
I have no problem with the title “VENTI” if we put under it un poemetto (of course Alessandro we have to write “a poem” in Italian. Please know that I can not write Italian!) like this: VENTI un poemetto
It will be clear for the reader that he must not understand it as “20”. I find it somehow curious an english title “WINDS” for an Italian only book. About the proposal “poemetto esistenzialista”: please don´t do that. There are until now a lot of readers who read the poem in different ways. Let them feel free from the poem, from their constitution, their culture, from their being as man or woman …
3. Different “Winds”. Again I wish to state that: – there are two Originals: “GIÓ” on Vietnamese and “WINDE” on German. They are written based on the same inspiration & thoughts, but differ somehow. To understand this we have to go a little deeper. I will do it for you: As I wrote “WINDE” on German I used of course the first original Vietnamese as a basis for rewriting. But you see that the german original is longer, is more, at least in the form. The explanation for the “expanding” form is in short: the structure of the vietnamese (or chinese) language is totally different from latin languages. A vietnamese word can be understood as a substantive, but also as a verbum or an adjective etc… If I had at that time only to “translate formally” my “GIÓ” into “WINDE” I had to decide how to re-write the text in a grammatically totally new structure. It was not easy (It is until now the reason why I could not translate my many poems into any european language, even when I think they should be translated. This inability pains me hardly). What did I do? I decided to write and to describe all aspects, all kinds of understanding, all possible forms given by the equivocal words in the german “WINDE”. Therefore is this text becoming “longer”. I was asked often why, specially at the publication of a part of “WINDE” translated in the Serbo-Croatic language. But now I explain it for the first time!
Dear Chi Trung, dear Poet, dear Friend,
I’m reading the poem you wrote for Zingonia and I like it very much. I like when you warn her Beauty against the century of arrogance, the rich world has managed to forget the poor earth, the chaotic century. Then saying Don’t be moved, have no doubts about thanks / even though old voices keep resonating / it has happened, there’s nothing to hope for anymore. Or Please stay in a coma like all of us / this sadness. Because for you Life is a temporary thing, I know my friend, for you there’s nothing to hope for. But there’s still the Word that is the essential question you wrote in your poem: are you willing to come? As possible choice. Essential words will rise from muddy things. Because in the end the choice is there.
I’m working very hard on the translation of your Winds with my staff and it’s not easy. It’s not easy to understand the grief of a man which has so much experience. And calm. A slight grief, but intense. Sometimes it seems that you write about winds and then you become the wind that travelled over the former virgin forests. It makes me think Dante when looks at the earth from a distance.
Reading your poems, my friend, I understand something important. I can’t understand everything, I only scrape the surface of this understanding. I think you’d say I’m only scraping dust or mold. But even dust and mold are a starting point. Reading your poems I understand that we have forgotten the value of a Literary Work. I understand what it means to walk among the people and see them slide away as if they were another reality, not yours, looking at the houses and see those people as different universes, other planes of reality in which you can’t enter. Because you’re like an alien. I understand this distance, this refusal, this loneliness. And I understand that this distance is Poetry. Maybe there are your winds in this distance, in this refusal. In this loneliness in which you realize you have no choice, you have to write your Poem because this is the only thing that truly belongs to you, that gives you a sense.
That moment of seclusion in a World you love while World doesn’t love you, as when you need Life but Life doesn’t need you, and you feel the enormity of that millennial refusal. But you have no choice. Or you create a enormous work or nihil wins (that nihil you have written in Winds). Or you fill the void, or you allow the void to fill you. And this is the power of Word that gives a sense to you, giving sense to everything.
It’s very difficult to write in this way, my friend, because you don’t write to a paper, to a person, to a year. You write to a millennium as you wrote to Zingonia don’t writing to her, but to her Youth, that become the Youth of everyone. Reading your poems I also understand that we have forgotten the value of the Literary Work. We are writing and writing but not for practice, only to feel the frustration because this poetry is never enough, we are continually searching for new confirmations and approvals through the word that is not Word. This is insecurity, and there’s nothing big into insecurity. The Literary Work is however a meaning, a fixed point in time, a certainty, you know.
Reading your poems I understand also something else, my friend. Writing really means to study very well past and present poetry, but particularly today it means that we have to have the courage to break the models, asking to ourselves are we saying something true or we just talking? I really believe the poet should have the enormous courage of loneliness, to do something that he realizes to be important for the world, breaking contemporary models, creating something different with a sense not only different, but real, also necessary.
I’m writing this letter to you, my friend, as you know in a very bad English. I’m very ignorant you know. But I will not ask to correct this letter because also mistakes, as dust and mold, are important, necessary. Because Poetry is the mistake of Word, of language, I think. And this mistake that we name Poetry can become something greater than ourselves.
And now I embrace you, my dear Friend
Alessandro, my dear young friend,
I read your “Letter to a Poet” of today. Let me say I love your “bad” English because it says true things. It´s better than if it were corrected to become a “good”, correct and understandable English, but saying nothing or not as much as the “bad” one could do. Why? To read your bad English letter is for me to read it with heart too, not only with brain because it is written by heart and brain. And it´s that what is essential between me and you as a young man who “can” read the poem that is out-of-range and written by an old man during not only his isolation but also during his desolation, his despair and in a loneliness for about 45 years.
Some of the writers blame me that I am responsible myself for my isolation. But the situation is such that I could not do nothing other. I wrote in “WINDS” (strophe 10) about this desolation to which I was thrown back: here my letter to Anna: “ I tell you my feelings as I wrote this strophe: “I sent already in the very beginning/in the former times a parole/poem/verse to the world. But the world did not care about it (the situation of Emily Dickinson: This is my letter to the world/that never wrote to me). It is a fact. I (as a poet who writes) saw this fact and I had to accept it in the sense of Epiktet”.
The word “No-said” is not good translated in English. Original “Verneintes: from Verneinung” means “denial/disavowal”. In the part that follows (in the original) a bitterness-of-heart/exasperation sounds a little bit. “.
I have given this poem “WINDS” to many people in all the meetings over the poetry world, for them to read . But no one read it really, better said no one could read it. And if they have read it, they could not see nothing. What should I do? I come back to my home, it is the desolation and loneliness, inside and outside. It lasts in me only a bitterness. But you have felt this, shown through your letter full of deep words. And it´s a reconciliation, more: a consolation.
If you know more about my vitae you will understand how great this consolation acts on me. As you may know I get the academic grade of a Doktor-Ingenieur in 1977 and worked as a mathematician until 1996. During my whole life I have been writing sometimes aphorisms, essays and culture critics, but always and mostly poems since my age of 13.
Why do I write? I can resume in some words: just to survive. To endure all the grief and later all the sufferings in and of Life. The more I write the more I suffer.
In a poem I wrote something like that: “if you are born with a brilliant brain/and if you have a potential of empathy/your life will be a catastrophe”. In Asia, but also in Europe such a man has only an unique way to go: to become a monk. As I was 18 years old I had this idea. But my brain required from me to fulfill it and my heart desired to know and most importantly to love Life. So I went abroad to make my studies and so on … The problem is: I get with my life time not only love to the other gender, women, but to all that what lives (forest, tree, leaf, grass or insects…You will see it in my poems later). And it´s truly a catastrophe if you had some knowledges and if you love Life in such a way that will be painful. The more I am living the more I am suffering. The more I am suffering the more I am writing. Until she died (2008) my mother had never accepted the unique fact of my life that I am writing poems, instead of making money (like my dentist brother!). Me her best beloved son. She said me “why do you do such an unthing? Why don´t you want to work and to make a lot of money like your brother? You have such a high intelligence! And you do such a nothing!” . But she herself had written in her life poems too! Later I understand her: she knew deeply about this misery “poemwriting” and therefore she didn´t want that her beloved son suffers. But it is not a decision – at least for me – to write poems, to be or to become a poet! I realize that I am born to do nothing other than poemwriting. There is really nothing other worth to do for me on this earth, in my existence. I said that to my old school friends and nobody likes that.
Is writing poem an unthing?
I wrote the first “Elegy” long time ago (1990), before I met Zingonia the first time in Mysore South India at an International Poetry Festival in the year 2010. In these 20 years I didn´t know to whom the Elegy should be dedicated. It was – I thought – dedicated to the poets of/in the future, to whom “it may concerns”! Last year 2013 I gave it to Zingonia to all appearance as a present thanks to her translation of “THE COLD POEM”. Hearty and mentally I felt and thought she will be the poetesse the Elegy should be dedicated to. Therefore it´s not exact if it is said that I warned her “beauty” with the Elegy because this was written long before. But it could be too.
Generally I will say it´s a poem to all the young poets who will read it and “can” read it. There will be not too much. But in this rare case we have now Alessandro.
It is true: you show through your letter a deep understanding and a deep, intensive feeling of the poems I write. No, it´s never mold and dust what you wrote and felt. It seems to me that the secret of the poem “WINDS” is discovered, is brought into light by a poet who could write such a text. You have seen, at the end there is a choice/how I see this Life/the grief of a man who has so much experience/we have forgotten the value of literary word …
You wrote I am an alien! It´s the best thing written about me. An other german friend whom I have lost said I am living such a life like the Life of Jesus . You put the essential question are we saying something true or we just talking? (George Steiner put a similar question: has our talking a sense?).
You wrote I create a enormous work.
I remember the word of my unique died german girl friend “WINDS” is ein epochales Gedicht. You remarked the nihil I wrote in my poem. Yes, it´s the nihil of our time. And in this nihil time poetry is greater than ourselves.
I embrace you my dear friend
I feel not only in your life, but also in your nature a sadness and a very big love for life, and I can imagine this sadness is against this enormous love for life in an internal and existential (but without labels I know) war, in which the real weapon against you it’s not Life, or the life we have built, but that not-being-understood by the other human.
But this is the Poetry, and the life you have choosen.
Because my friend, you have really choosen your life, your poetry, but you can’t expect that the other understand.
Imagine that everyone now understand your choice, your life, your Winds and your poems, don’t you understand that this means the other are becoming poets as you? That the World no more need you, and then you become normal, a nobody.
Now you are something, now world need you even if world doesn’t know or understand this.
You’re not alone, you are the one.
Remember the Baudelaire’s bird.
And remember for a moment what you have studied. Can you remember in the medioeval period for example a dentist? Or are you remembering a poet?
I think that we have to accept this loneliness.
And now, you can think that I’m a stupid and a naive because I’m too much young to tell you something, but please embrace me and let me tell a story to your life’s view, in this way I can tell you what I’m trying in my poetry (I think there’s two way to write: 1- telling what you see, in a passive way; 2- trying to build something, ideas, different way to see Life).
You know I’m not a Poet, but sometimes I write something going down on a paper.
Some years ago I had a cat. A really beautiful cat. Not precious cat, only a street cat, but nice. I really loved that cat.
One evening he came back home with green eyes (his eyes normally was blue), he couldn’t walk, its legs were like death.
I immediately called the veterinary and that evening I discovered that cat I really loved was ill, leukemia.
Veterinary told me that my cat had to died that night, without hope.
But that cat survived the night, the veterinary could not believe.
A cat, only a cat, a street cat, but a cat that wanted to live.
Then I spent more than a thousand euros in medicine to help him, because he taught me what is will to live, what is life’s love.
He had to died, but he fought.
He fought not against world, not against other cats, he fought inside, in silence, embracing the little life left.
And if he fought in this way this means that life he didn’t want to leave had inside something big, something really big.
Because it’s easy to die, to close your eyes and sleep, but you have to really feel something to want to live so much.
This means that life has inside something.
Then, after one year, he died for leukemia.
These story, my friend, is the foundation of my poetry, and perhaps it’s the exact opposite meaning of Nihil. Don’t you think?
Now you can laugh about me, if you want.
I tried to translate some of my texts for you.
To explain that my way is almost at the beginning.
My dear friend Alessandro,
thank you for thinking of me in these Pasqua days. I received your second sms and I am writing a letter about my sadness, the correspondance with you will be part of a book I have been planning since the year 2000, but until now not written. It will be my unique book en prose. All my essays I have destroyed.
But the letter takes long time maybe. I send you now as you wished a (long) poem with the title “THE DAYS OF LOVE”. It´s might be a contemplation – they say in these modish stylish modern days “meditation” -, a contemplation about Love, of course and naturally with erotic aspects.
I wrote it directly in English, not necessary to say my bad English, you know it already. Thank you for sending me your poem, also in “bad English translated”, as you wrote. But we send them for us, for our friendship and it´s more important.
Now I send you the Love poem. I have only one urgent request: Please do not let nobody read it or publish it or tell the information to any body. I trust you.
I hope you could read it good.
I embrace you warmly
My dear I read your love poem and I really love it.
It’s a big poem, very complicated and saturated.
But…. pay attention because somebody can tell you that this is not a love or erotic poem, but an existential poem.
Anyway, It’s really clear that this love poem is not for a woman, but for Love, or as you said it’s an occasion for a meditation.
And it’s fantastic.
But you send me this love poem in a sadness day, and I can’t read not thinking about this.
Because in this poem I read you, I read your meditation, your thoughts, your sadness, your feeling nihil.
But the skin, the four lips, it seems are in the background.
What is this the most important thing?
That lips, or your sadness?
Don’t be angry with me my friend if I tell this, please.
I want only to do a brainstorming.
I remember Dante now, La vita nova I think.
He meet some women that criticize him because he doesn’t write for Beatrice, he takes Beatrice to talk about himself, his sorrow.
And that intelligent women say that this is not love for Beatrice, only love for himself.
In your love poem I read many times about you and your poetry, and this sounds good anyway, but I’m wondering if this becomes freedom or prison.
Talking, or better, thinking too much about ourselves, can be a prison, don’t you think?
Prison, or nihil?
This is a question that I’m asking you.
I’m not saying that happyness is in that lips, but I’m asking you if you really touch that lips, do you understand?
And you know that lips are only a metaphor. That lips are the perfect metaphor of life.
Because you describe a very very very sweet woman with sweet lips, and you enter inside that lips with your life, your meaning.
You wait for her many times, then you have her, then she goes away and then you discover that at the end there is not the end but there is love.
If you change the word woman with the word life you understand you have your life’s poetry.
But, even if at the end you discover that love, can you really say that you entered that lips/life?
I don’t know, and don’t be angry with this stupid young boy that I am, but reading I feel that you touch that woman and immediatly you enter in the room of you mind, not in the room of her mind, her body.
I repeat, change the word woman with the word life.
You were able to write a very big poem as this, I said you this is a fantastic poem, but now I’m talking to the man, not to the poet.
I’m talking to the sadness of this man, that trust me I really can name Poet.
I love this poem, I know you understand this.
And I know that you can forgive me if I said something wrong. I only ask you something as a friend.
Alessandro, my dearest friend,
how can I be or become angry with you! Even if you were angry with me, I will not be angry with you! And therefore not to say that I were angry because you said or you had an idea, a thought, or thinking different than me. Even when it will be so, there is no reason for any anger or annoyance. The reason is the more I read your letter to me, the more I fell – please let me say it without hesitation – you as my brother-in-mind, my poetry young brother (you know I have a younger brother, a very good dentist but unfortunately (for him ) that is all, not more. Every time I meet him for my teeth it becomes clear and clearer to me that I feel him not as a brother). You remember maybe the moment we saw us the last time: as you left the Ritratti and pulled the small wagon where the books of Samuele Editore were and as I stood before the temple smoking in the light rain ? We changed some words and you went away, pulling the books wagon in the darkness. I saw after your shadow and felt something sorrow for and with you and the books because I see you are a lonely fighter for the poetry.
1. But you have an antenne for my poems. Again you “can” read the poem as it should be read. Yes, the most thing, when not all, you wrote are coinciding with my thoughts or my intention as I wrote this Love poem. Of course if the people read it, when it will be published one day, there will be a controversary discussion to consider it were an erotic, a Love poem, or “only” a poem (of Life, of course, because all poems, even the bad ones, are of Life). Love to Life is – to answer you – basically my love. My sadness, if I strongly analyse scientifically, comes from my mother who was a total sadness, a grief in person. We are six children from her, but alone me I am heritable. A non scientific way to explain my sadness for myself is that what I wrote once: if you ,Alessandro, are born with a high intelligence, and additionally with a big heart, really big heart in the meaning that you love Life in all its earthy forms, then you will be unconditionally sad. Why? With intelligence you get a big knowledge, you will see clearly and deeply the coherence, the connection, the interreaction between all things. It means you will see a lot of things they are going wrong, short: you will see human beings are on the way to destroy Life on earth. Therefore I write our time is the Time of Nihil. And you love Life with a big heart! Therefore you suffer and you must be consequently sad. If one only has a high intelligence one will work and earn money as much as possible. Although it´s a sign of poverty of mind if people just use their intelligence to make money, the most does it. And if one only has a big heart one will be someone who serves for the poor people. It´s of course important, very important for the misery world. I always have a high estimate for people like mother Theresa or Albert Schweizer. I don´t think I could do the same what they did. But if I consider myself as if I had the two conditions I told above, I had nothing other to do than to write poems.
I need not to say you that with such knowledge, with such seeings or better said such visions, you are never able to live IN your time, with your people, with your “normal” friends, your vulgar or not vulgar women… with nobody! Every body is alone, in solitude. But the solitude of such a man like this, we call him a poet, is another one.
And because the poet is such a person with knowledge and heart, he has only one thing to do: to write. To write is to try to survive. But when he writes, he is falling into a hole of the daemon. Because the more he writes, the less he will be understood by his people of his time. He demonstrates unwillingly the distance between him and the people around him.
Of course I am talking here from me myself. I always see the thing of poemwriting as a holy thing, as Hölderlin wrotes “dies heilig Geschäft” about the poemwriting. I could and can never write poem as if I went to market for example. I can never consider it as if I am eating or playing, as only a doing or a profane profession … When I write a poem it is for me that it´s serious, strong, holy, as if I am doing a thing of heaven. I wonder about my old vietnamese poet “friends”. They wrote poems for a periode of time, just to have fun or to make a well known name or to get some fame. When the time of their fame is over then they did completly other things. We remember A. Rimbaud did it in the way. But the reason for his end as a poet was an other.
2. What is the important thing in this Love poem? You put the question.
The Love for Life I have is of course firstly in the appearance. I wrote from the extended kisses. I wrote also from the six lips, not only from the four lips man and woman have. The woman have two mouths and four lips what we kiss.
As I wrote it the question for me was not between the sadness and the love to a woman. It was not a question of “between”. It was intentionally written that both, sadness and woman love, the sexual aspect, are there. Behind the sexual love is hidden the sadness. In front of the sadness is the beloved woman. And behind both is the Love of Live. My idea was to express the joy of erotic love, really. I had the intention of an erotic poem as I began to write. But you see the universal sadness is always there. Always is the sadness after the climax, la petite mort.
We need a woman body to love: To love a woman is not only to love her personality, her spirit, her mind or her intelligence or her sweetness. It is at first to love her through her body, her mouth, her vulva. To make love to her is to write an erotic poem through body, mouth, lips, body secrets. To write erotic poems is to make love with her again in the brain. It´s not imagination (only) without flesh and skin as I wrote in Vietnamese. We need it, the woman body. And if we didn´t enjoy the joy of makinglove we can not write erotic poems. The body is the most important thing for Life and of Life, and for and of Love. I see it so, until now. The lips are not (only) a metapher, but they are principally for the erotic poem as such. They are there to receive another body. But if we want to understand them as a metapher, nothing hinders us.
Life – human life – is at its origine always sperma in a woman body.
Behind the erotic poem there is always a body, normally a woman body. But behind my erotic poem there is something more.
3. In the old erotic poems I wrote in the former time as I was young there wasn´t such a heavy sadness. In this periode the woman was “bigger” than life. Now is Life more important than woman. A poet needs the women to write poems, but the poems are not only the poems of and about woman, but of Life. The poems of that time are very erotic and not so bounded with philosophical thoughts, they are full of joy and pleasure. They showed that I could be able to experience the joy of life too. But they are written in Vietnamese and German, the two languages I write. Nothing in English. I had an aversion against the English language, therefore I didn´t go to USA or England to make my studies. Until now I do not know whether it was a mistake or not, to go to Germany.
4. I think against the sadness the lips are important. The sadness is but somehow important for the poetry; this for answer you. Dante wrote about himself of course. We writers write always about ourselves, even if we write (on the surface) about god and the world. How can we write anything of true if not it comes from us. Even the religeous prophets talk about themselves when they are talking about the world.
If I talk about my family, my children, my wife, my grandchildren …, my horse, my girl friend, my car, … my anything so I am in a prison. But the thing is another: I don´t see any question of freedom or prison if you are writing a real poem that could be called a poem. It´s true that thinking too much about oneself is stupid. But it depends on what to think. The poets have to think about him-and-the-world and have to write what he himself sees and thinks and what there is to say from all. That one loves a woman and makes love with her and it is fantastic… Who cares of that? Nobody is interested in that private thing.
5. I am happy that you like it, that you love this erotic poem. Now I have at least the good feeling that when I write a poem, you are the one who will and who could read it. I have to thank you. You give me the nearest feeling, not to be alone, Alessandro
I embrace you warmly
My dear young friend Alessandro,
I want to write you since a long time. But I was and still am a little depressed and sad. Therefore I didn’t do it until now.
Anna and me we have worked very intensively and very hard on the translation, over long weeks. Please do believe it.
Now we have the final version, ready for printing. I sent it already to Anna.
Through the discussion and the multiple corrections, caused also by your multiple doubts, I can see that you read the poem very intensively and you showed me your fine feeling of language in particular, but also in general of the whole poem you love too. Thank you for your good will and friendly intention.
I am sure that I found finally a serious and editor full of quality for my small poem. Maybe there is no need to say it to you, because you are the one already in Italy.
Please notice that I recognize it and I esteem it very highly.
About the poem please let me say generally one important thing:
The text should be read by the reader – who ever it will be – as it is written by the author, in this case my very unimportant person.
But of course it is clear too, that the (printed) poem can/should be read by the public by its art. Every reader reads it in his own way, by his own heart and soul, with his own life and experiences, with his mind and his knowledge… Let me please say: It´s the miracle of the poetry.
But the art of poetry is – as I wrote you once – a holy thing on earth. Its purpose is NOT the entertainment.
I believe that even though you are an editor of a famous edition house of poetry in Italy and therefore you have to take care of financial aspect of the difficult thing of selling poetry books, please don´t forget what I write here above, if you din´t mind and allow me to say.
Thank you, my dear young and fidele friend.
My dearest friend.
I’ll write to you with a little sadness because I didn’t understand what you’ve written about the purpose of poetry.
I’m worried that my work on the translation make you think that I mean your poetry as an entertainment.
This is absolutely not true.
What I believe is that your poetry is a Question that leaves the reader with the answer. Each player will have his answer, so any reader reading your poetry will make an his poetry through your poetry .
This is the gift you give to the reader.
But if in your original language you can create the exact question that opens up all the answers to all the people, in a translation my job is to make your exact question in a different language which makes not exact your question.
And a not exact question creates inaccurate answers.
Then the translation you understand has to create that exact question.
The poem obviously should not be entertainment, it must have a goal, so the translation of poetry.
A goal that you have to get as close as possible to the goal of the author.
But it’s also true that if this goal includes other people you have to make the goal, or the way to the goal, desirable, beautiful.
Not a hoax, not a lie, but a seduction.
A holy seduction.
And if you think seduction is a way to the goal, and maybe we could call this seduction by its real name: poetry.
Seduction is poetry, this seduction towards the goal of the poet.
If you were thinking about something else, please tell me, because I’m very worried about this.
I want to do a perfect job for your poems, you know, this is my responsability.
And I’m very curious to know what you were referring to.
With great affection
My dear young friend Alessandro,
Unfortunately you might have misunderstood my statement “poetry is not entertainment”. I wrote it only as an affirmation and I think you will say the same. It was not so that I say it to you or argue with you! I am worrying how you came to the thought that I said it to you, that I could think such absurd thoughts from you! How can it be!?
I see you (and you me too) at the very beginning of our friendship. It means we understand us each other basically very good. Maybe you know the phenomenon already: the letters can lead us to misunderstandings because in the written language there is no face-to-face-situation. Please don´t worry and specially don´t be sad for that. There is no reason.
What you wrote in your letter: I am agreed with all. And I must say I understand all before I read your letter. And as I wrote in my last letter, I know too, that you want the best not only in form but also in content for our book. I am thankful for that. And I am happy.
As I wrote you before in a former letter, my mother disliked the fact that I write poems. But I did it and still do it all my life. Finally she has accepted it, not happily, thanks to a buddhistic thought: writing poem, it is my karma.
It is also my thought now.
My karma is me, Chi Trung, I have to do it. There is no way out for me in this world. You called it seduction. I understand you very good. I call it awakening of love to Life. These are the two more aspects of the holy thing Poetry. Maybe there will be some more aspects, but for you and for me, these are the essentials.
We say in Asia, the Heaven (or God) has arranged our ways to cross. Now we know us. And we work for the holy thing we love.
With my warm embracements
My dear friend,
don’t worry about this small misunderstanding because it’s only a part of a dialogue, a very good dialogue.
You want to know why I thought this. Then I’ll tell you in sincerity.
You know that as a Publisher and as an author I have many problems in Italy, I think as those who have an idea and try to take it forward, especially if this idea is not like the others.
In particular as an author I have many many problems. And I live a strange situation. There are some people, very high in cultural position, important poets, who say that my poems are beautiful, but all the others don’t respond to my letters.
As a Publisher I made my way, you know, even if economic problems are enormous. No one buys books.
But as an author I live a very frustrating situation for me.
I don’t say that my poems are beautiful, but they have a reasoning behind it seems to me that is not understood.
In my poems I’m trying to build a moment of beauty, that gives meaning to a life time.
A creation against chaos, disorder.
Creating a non-violent but gentle, harmonic, musical moment.
Today it seems that poets try a “punch in the stomach” writing poems, but I’m not convinced that this is the way of poetry today.
Poetry must be a question, I agree, but the poem must also build something beautiful that becomes a reference point, even in the language, for the reader.
You should not give the reader what he wants but you have to give the reader what he really needs.
The way of Chi Trung in this is the question, the question intense, dense, based.
My way is the beauty, sweetness, find a moment of softness even in evil of life, in solitude.
The criticisms that come to me is that I write poems that are only in my biography, not become universal. That I write poems of entertainment.
In a letter you have written that you don’t write “poems from supermarket” and I thought you were talking about my poetry.
The first poem I sent you is just written in a supermarket, where the impossibility to find the sugar becomes a metaphor of a not finding love.
This is what I say, but then the form, language, try to communicate gentleness and a life which still remains even in the loss.
After you told me about the poem in the supermarket, which I thought was a criticism of my poetry (which I accept) you told me you don’t like the poems of entertainment and I am worried that you didn’t like my job of Publisher in you Winds.
My concern is that you as the author are happy, this is the most important thing for me.
Now, send me the picture to put on the cover, in high definition.
And don’t worry about anything.
Always with a great friendship
My dear friend Alessandro,
1. It´s good that you understand that to a dialogue by written words quasi always some misunderstandings belong. Yes, our dialogue is for me the best one I have again, since the time I corresponded to my old poet friend Bui Giang – the last great one of VN, now died -, about 40 years ago. You should know even if I have some poet friend in the world, I have no friend in Germany, no friend in nowhere to whom I may write letters. I must bear the solitude in this aspect too. The most who was going into the beginning of a dialogue with me, they have stopped and vanished for ever. I never understood why. In the late years I think I might be too heavy with my critical view.
Therefore I understand very good why the others, you called “cultural people, important poet…”, didn´t respond to your letters, to your poems. I have experienced this same situation. And I was sad for that a long time. But now I realize that the much more better our poems are, the more they ignore us. You should know this.
Don´t worry and don´t let you be despaired by anything by anyone. Learn to bear the time and work, continue to work. Believe on your poems and have patience. Good poetry goes its way, even if it appears mostly post mortum.
In the present time good poems are seen only, if they are, only by good or great poets. And these are most the oldest ones.
See me: I have written since the beginning of the sixties. In the seventies I learn to know some important poets of our country. In the middle of the years 2000 (2004) I was invited for the first time to an International Poetry Festival (in Belgrade). How long has it endured? And until now the scenery of Germany – thinking they (the Germans) are always the best, in building cars, even in poetry & literature & art – is still ignoring me totally!
Let me say an experience I made in the different International Poetry Festivals: only the most old poets could recognize me. The younger ones never. They can not see nothing, they can only write and read the same, the similar poems they write.
Rimbaud said “Moi, je suis un autre”. This can be applied to such like us in another sense : you are an other. Other than they.
Because you are an other, you could “see” me. And because I am an other, I could be seen by you.
The thing is: the writers of now they are in the great majority. But the good aspect is: the majority can never be good, even when they think and make it to “become good”.
2. I had a German friend, the unique one, who is died last year for cancer. It was the French translator of some of my poems (Rüdiger Fischer), among these the poem “WINDS”. He was (only) a translator and also a publisher of an edition house only for Poetry. He put all his money, property, means and fortune in the publishing of international poetry books in Germany, translated by himself. At each book fair or poetry meeting he brought the beautiful books there to show and to sell them. You don´t need to say to me that “nobody buys books” (people buy criminal, sex romans, but not poetry). As I saw you go with the books after the Ritratti, in the dark and raining night, I had the same feeling as I saw him pull the chariot full of his poetry books.
I asked him as he was dying what would happen with the publishing house and the published books when he was dying. The answer: in the dust, to the garbage. Until now I am not yet finished with this imagination, this thought.
Therefore I understand very well what it means what you are doing, generally and specially for yourself. You burden yourself with the poetry, as a good poet and as a publisher. The same I do: I write poems and I publish myself all my books because no one wanted to have to do something with such a mad man like me. You are the first one who publishes my poems, only because you are also the “mad man” of the same art.
3. About your poem “From Aftermath”. Here again you misunderstood me strongly, my dear friend. I just called your poem shortly with the word “supermarket”, but I have never had any idea of underestimating it! It was but my mistake to write quickly using the unfortunate word.
It is a good poem in the meanings: It shows your high sensibility I have already felt and seen since the beginning of our friendship, as we talked for the first time in the evening in the restaurant. And later in all your letters, direct or indirect to me. It shows also your melancholy good expressed in the poem. Yes it causes in me a deep melancholy of a lost amour. It shows also the way of real poetry in this losing time in this dammed world. And the way of real poetry is – I believe it – the unique way we both have.
The other writers think they have to, they must, write poems in the way of a short story with a knowable result of an experience, of an event. Today all is event. People want to see, to get something real. In this manner they are awaiting from poetry something as if they visit a show to get some entertainment after, to receive something real for their money.
The readers, the public of today, don´t know what they need really. They reduce their beings in what they want.
4. I don´t think you should say that you write non-universal poems, that you write poems for entertainment or a supermarket poem … All poems that are written by a poet come firstly from his own life. We can say too that they come from life if the poet could make from the own things to become the common things.
Don´t think that a good or great poem must have to handle with themes that appear universal only because they are full of philosophical touch (like the WINDS, unfortunately. WINDS belong to the Older Chi Trung, written after a lot of years of being-ignored and solitude. The Younger CT could write some other kind of poems, as you might see in the ELEGY (1) or in the Erotic one I sent you). Life is the origin of poetry, so can poetry take various forms. Poetry is origin of Life, so it has the non-philosophical, but also the philosophical content).
I am not happy that you had such a thought about my feeling and my thought about your poem. Never I did so. But it was a misunderstanding as said above.
Please forget all your thoughts about me in this.
5. Normally I do not really read the poems of the writing people, specially in Germany. I have the feeling they are from another “world” or another poetical asthetics.
But let me say in honour, I am very touched from the poem. Why? Because I feel the “same feeling” what you feel. You wrote “a flee is always a flee” and I remember of mine “a non-said is a non-said”… You wrote a lot of good verses: “Even the sound of windows/beaten can be Word./The sound of a woman that is filigree./Even the clothes hanging and hugs left to dry/makes a walking in the evening/that sews the sense, if there is”.
This doubt is my doubt too.
Therefore I want to say you: continue to write, write and write… Your karma is writing poems too. You have – as I could see – the essentials to write good and great poems. Try to do it. I believe on Alessandro, my friend.
I have to end the letter here to go buying something in the supermarket. I will not stop to think about you.
I embrace you warmly
This is the internal pdf ready for the stamp.
In this you can change something.
This is the last version of the translation.
I only changed the last verse of 15 (pag. 33).
I need the name and the year of the drawning in the cover
My dear friend Alessandro,
thank you for sending me the final layout of our book, now ready for printing.
To answer you:
The title of the etching printed on the cover:
“Man with Stone”
© nguyenchitrung 1979
About the layout of the book I have some idea & question:
Normally a book has (only) one prefazione. Here you have two. Therefore I think it´s better to title the writing of Zingonia as an “introduzione”.
Or we can have another solution: the text of ZZ as “prefazione” and that of Anna Lombardo as “postfazione”. This is usually – at least in german translated poetry books – the case: the translator writes always a “postfazione”.
At the beginning of the book, a text from Paolo Ruffilli is put as first. People will misunderstand it as the “citazione” of the author, also from Chi Trung. It will be an unfortune for me. In my books or poems I avoid strictly to cite or to quote another not yet died author. If I ever quote the verse of another, he is dead or antique.
I ask you to take it out from the book.
Perhaps you want to have the text of Paolo as a Leitmotiv for your collection “Collana Scilla”. I understand it. But don´t you think it is too much using always the same Leitmotiv for a whole collection that is going on further in the future, do you? There are enough other good “sentences”.
I don´t think it would be a good idea. It might be boring the readers. It might be good for a book, but for a going on collection?
Finally I miss the mention of my copyrights: © nguyenchitrung 1993
Please do take care for that.
My dear friend Alessandro,
may I ask you something: Did you make some ideas about a contract between the publishing house and the author?
I would be happy if we can rule the thing before the appearance of the book.
For this purpose I can assure you already now that your Samuele Editore will be my publisher for the Italian language.
Please let me know soon what you think.
My dear friend,
this is the big problem of Samuel Editore… I love to work but I forget the contracts!!!!!!
Now I’m preparing an english contract, which will have the following points:
1 ) I will print 300 copies
2 ) you will have 20 gift copies
3 ) no expense for you
4) contract will be valid for 2 years
5) during this 2 years prizes which I send and contact, if you will win, we will divide halfway the economic prize
6) the rights remain yours, but you will have to cite my book in the case of another publication, and the same in your future bibliographies
In addition to this I need to ask your permission to publish one your Wind’s poetry in a book that I’m preparing for the American market.
This year my partner Rachel Slade (that is reading this letter, she is american and she is really able to prepare a contract in a perfect english) will go to New York City Poetry Festival to present Samuele Editore with this book in preparation, which will be given for free.
I’m also trying to create a network with an English Publisher to improve the publication and advertising.
I attach the pdf of the cover and the internal pages. I accepted almost everything (although afterwords) but I can’t agree to remove the poetry of Paolo Ruffilli , being the motto of the series Scilla.
Please try to understand, my professionality is also to follow a uniform way.
I hope you will be satisfied with the same
Your dearest friend
My dearest friend Alessandro,
thank you for your answer, short but truly written.
I am very moved for your sincerity, expressed through the whole letter.
From my part I think we need not say about the winning with the book at moment. I believe it would not be the unique book we make together.
Concerning the citation of our book somewhere in the future:
I am proud to quote your publishing house everywhere I will publish my poems in any language.
In Italy your house has all the exclusive rights of my poems.
And of course you can publish Venti poetry anywhere you want. It´s no problem, because I believe on your work and on you yourself.
It´s good that you try to create a network with English publishers. Maybe also with Spanish publishers? Zingonia – I think – may help you develop something in this direction. There are a lot of Italian speaking people in latin America, specially in Argentina. These south american people loves still Poetry.
A propo New York City Festival I thought you will go there!
Please say my warm greetings to your partner Rachel Slade. I wish her the best.
We both love the thing that called Poetry and we are living, spending our life time for that. And you like me we do not forget that between us there is another thing that is as important as poetry: our great friendship. It will last independently from making book or not, as long as Poetry still exists.
In these days I am preparing a beautiful – as I hope! – surprise for you.
I embrace you sincerely