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VIETNAM, Looking for Home, May 2003

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Synopsis of "Vietnam: Looking for Home"

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Land, People, History, Economy

War, Culture, Politics, Travel




Excerpts from The Time Tree - Artwork by Nguyen Qui Duc
watercolor by Nguyen Qui Duc
In collaboration with the U.S. poet George Evans, Nguyen Qui Duc translated the work of the great Vietnamese poet Huu Thinh (The Time Tree, Curbstone Press, 2003), a former lieutenant colonel in the North Vietnamese Army and now general director of the Writers Association of Vietnam.

As Nguyen Qui Duc writes in his introduction, poetry always played a special role in his life -- and in the life of his nation.

Polaroid transfer art by Nguyen Qui Duc

"It is odd to remember how I would crawl into a bunker of sandbags built in what was my bedroom to read. My father had been captured by communist troops and imprisoned somewhere in the north. His big bookshelves became the walls that kept out the bad news and gave me privacy ... . There were terrifying nights with us frozen in the dark, in silence, waiting for the explosions and wondering how close to our home the rockets had landed ... . I would stretch out in the bunker, head and torso protruding from the entrance, and I would read.

"... My work on Huu Thinh's poetry followed a time when I rediscovered poetry, in both Vietnamese and English. And it coincided with a desire among Vietnamese-American writers to portray Vietnam as not only a war, but a culture and a people -- full of passion and flaws and conflict and love."

Polaroid transfer art by Nguyen Qui Duc
The poems here, both written in 1992, are two of Nguyen Qui Duc's favorites.

Year's End

At year's end the hay sleeps and dreams.
I walk on like so many others.
In the winter afternoon someone wears a bright new shirt
Missing someone far away -- the river flows haltingly.

I'm often startled by the speed of years.
Even fish writhing at the bottom of the pond are surprised.
Unable to bear enough fruit to repay the earth,
A tree borrows a bit more sun from the sky.

watercolor by Nguyen Qui Duc

I ask the earth: How does earth live with earth?
-- We honor each other.
I ask water: How does water live with water?
-- We fill each other up.

I ask the grass: How does grass live with grass?
-- We weave into one another
creating horizons.

I ask man: How does man live with man?

I ask man: How does man live with man?

I ask man: How does man live with man?

Introduction excerpts and poems courtesy of Curbstone Press.

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