“But life itself is poetry; it is the most living poetry, and with us there are no clear limits between life and poetry.” So says To Huu, the poet of modern Vietnam, in one of the interviews with which this slender volume of selections from his poetry are interspersed—interviews in which he speaks about his life, political struggles and poetic experiences in prose that is as lyrical and sensitive as his poetry. The poetry of To Huu is not just a reflection of life or merely “emotions recollected in tranquility” in the traditional manner, but something that flows with an easy directness and immediacy from life itself, like the sap of a tree bursting into tender leaves or like blood blossoming into flowers of the flesh. This is indeed a rare collection of poems in English translation coming from that glorious, tortured land of Vietnam, and as the translators say contains that “blend of militancy and tenderness” so typical of the Vietnamese. Of Vietnam To Huu writes “No, our people have known a terrible grievous fate all through their long history. What will save them most of all is their love of mankind, their humanity. We have never known any long period of tranquility. No, there have always been invasions from the north, south, sometimes even the west.
March 2006, volume 30, No 3