Today’s prompt was to take a look around Poetry International for a poem in a language I don’t know. I chose one far from the realm of any possible understanding—Vietnamese.
After reading the entire poem to myself, I thought about the sound and shape of the words, and the degree to which they reminded me of English words.
This then became the basis for a new poem.
What an engaging exercise this was! Not only did the words have to coordinate on some phonetic level, somehow they also had to make enough sense in English to create a poem.
I chose a work based on part of a poem by the lovely and deep Hanoi-based poet, Nhã Thuyên. First I will share it in the original language followed by my English poem. This is only part of her body of work (two stanzas) as the process of creating a poem like this is quite tedious, and time constraints didn’t allow for me to do more.
(***Read between the lines: I still have to keep my day job so my time is limited.***)
vào những buổi chiều, trong lúc chờ những chuyến tàu đến và đi, chúng tôi thường ngồi đối diện nhau, để không ai nhìn thấy nhau
chúng tôi bày cuộc đời mình ra đó, món đồ chơi của trẻ nhỏ, mỗi kẻ hiểu về người kia theo cách mình thích và tôi, cuối cùng vẫn chẳng biết gì về hắn
we hung black cherries, truly lacking nothing, choosing the thick of night to go down along the narrow path,
clinging to the buoyancy of dormant memory. now we counter thorns with those hazy nights that caught in our throats, changing grief to honey.