This little handmade book contains a English translation of a Vietnamese poem from one of the greatest 20th century poets. Hand painted with watercolour and ink, these concertina books are bound with mulberry paper and sealed with copper leaf. 480,000vnd
Not Two' by Pham Cong Thien
For ten years, a wind has stayed on the western hill,I’ve stayed unsteady as a scrawny bird’s shadow.
You appeared early one morning, a lullaby,The entire forest turning white with the clouds.
Wind on western hill, on eastern,The homeland a fragile gathering of rose- colored grass.You stand, in dream, still by the door.
Me, atop the hill, under clouds in bloom.A wind takes autumn across to the pine hill
That summer’s separation, rain fell against the stream,
A rooster crowed while I held my pain,
And a winter rose bloomed by the eastern door.
Vietnamese is verbally economical – a language where everything has both secondary and double meanings, a language where the forbidden and the equivocal, can be hidden within the innocent. It is a language suited to politics.
The old poets were all Mandarins, engaged in contemporary politics, and their work almost always had a political dimension (hopelessly lost in translation).
It is important to keep this in mind when you read these poets.
Gentle girls can be interpreted as the country of Vietnam, the seasons are used as metaphors for political conditions, east and west describe other nations or politics. Doors can be entries into other worlds. But not always.