COVER TO COVER with Jack Foley
Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 3:00 – 3:30 p.m., KPFA 94.1 FM
(available at the KPFA website)
LANTERNS HANGING ON THE WIND
This is an excerpt from “TIẾNG VIỆT,” “The Vietnamese Tongue,” by the late Lưu Quang Vũ, one of the most beloved poets of Vietnam:
Chưa chữ viết đã vẹn tròn tiếng nói
Vầng trăng cao đêm cá lặn sao mờ
Ôi tiếng Việt như bùn và như lụa
Óng tre ngà và mềm mại như tơ.
Tiếng tha thiết, nói thường nghe như hát
Kể mọi điều bằng ríu rít âm thanh
Như gió nước không thể nào nắm bắt
Dấu huyền trầm, dấu ngã chênh vênh.
Dấu hỏi dựng suốt ngàn đời lửa cháy
Một tiếng vườn rợp bóng lá cành vươn
Nghe mát lịm ở đầu môi tiếng suối
Tiếng heo may gợi nhớ những con đường.
Một đảo nhỏ ngoài khơi nhiều kẻ nhận
Vẫn tiếng làng tiếng nước của riêng ta
Tiếng chẳng mất khi Loa thành đã mất
Nàng Mỵ Châu quỳ xuống lạy cha già.
The following translation of the excerpt is by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and Jennifer Fossenbell:
Writing not yet formed, spoken words complete,
The moon high above nights of diving fish and blurring stars—
Oh the Vietnamese tongue is like mud and like silk
Glossy as the golden bamboo and soft as silk cords.
The compassionate tongue speaks as if singing
All things are told by the chattering of sounds
Like the wind and the water, which can’t be captured,
The deep huyền tone and the tottering ngã.
The hỏi erects a fire that burns across thousands of years,
The voice of gardens in leaf-shadow and growing branches
I listen to the voice of streams sweetly cooling the tips of my lips,
The north-westerly wind reminds me of the many roads.
One small island in an ocean claimed by many peoples,
The language still belongs to our own village, our country.
The language was not lost when the Cổ Loa Citadel was lost
Princess Mỵ Châu knelt to kowtow before her old father.
huyền, ngã, hỏi:
“Vietnamese is a tonal language. Accents are used to denote six distinctive tones: ‘level’ (ngang), ‘ ‘ ’ (sắc), ‘ ` ’ (huyền), ‘?’ (hỏi), ‘’~’ (ngã), and ‘.’ (nặng).”
Cổ Loa Citadel =
“an important fortified settlement and archaeological site in present-day Hanoi’s Dong Anh district, about 16 kilometers (10 mi) northeast of Hanoi city center. Various relics of the Bronze Age…culture have been found in Cổ Loa, although it was later established as the capital of Âu Lạc Kingdom during the 3rd century BC (about 257 bce). Further construction was added during the later dynasties. Cổ Loa remained an important political center of the Vietnamese people until the 10th century. The name ‘Cổ Loa’ is derived from the Sino-Vietnamese and means ‘old spiral,’ reflecting its multi-layered structure of earthworks, moats and ditches…The mythical story goes that when the fortress was being built, all the work done during the day was mysteriously destroyed at night. The king made a sacrifice to the gods and in one night, a golden turtle appeared to him in a dream and told him the fortress was built on the turtle’s carapace. The king was instructed to build the city in a new location, that of present-day Cổ Loa. The king did so, and the city was soon finished” (Wikipedia). Ancient stories / language. Language threatened but not lost despite political conquest.
Jack’s next two shows are a broadcast of Lanterns Hanging on the Wind, a radio show co-produced by Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and melodically challenged, a radio program based at Georgia State University. The show features the reading voices of 16 award-winning poets from Vietnam, with the poems of two poets read by their sister. The poetry is accompanied by songs that set some of the poems as well as by Vietnamese traditional music. The English translations of the poems are read by Jennifer Fossenbell, who worked together with Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai closely on the project and who, with Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, co-translated most of the poems read.
Among the featured poets are Tuyết Nga, Lưu Quang Vũ, Xuân Quỳnh, Nguyễn Quang Thiều, Bùi Hoàng Tám, Trần Quang Quý, Giang Nam, Ngô Tự Lập, and Nguyễn Bảo Chân.
“Lưu Quang Vũ (17 April 1948–29 August 1988) was a Vietnamese playwright and poet. His wife Xuân Quỳnh was Vietnam’s most famous modern woman poet. Both parents and their 12-year-old son Lưu Quỳnh Thơ were killed in a traffic collision in 1988. In 2000 he was posthumously awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize for his play The Ninth Pledge (Lời thề thứ 9)” (Wikipedia).
Lanterns Hanging on the Wind is a fabulous collection of music and poetry celebrating the resilience, the musicality, and the expressiveness of the Vietnamese languageLanterns Hanging on the Wind is a fabulous collection of music and poetry celebrating the resilience, the musicality, and the expressiveness of the Vietnamese language:
The compassionate tongue speaks as if singing
All things are told by the chattering of sounds….
PART ONE OF TWO