In the journey of searching for a publishing unit for my book of poetry, I heard many people say: reading poetry a lot makes people feel unrealistic; society now needs practical things that can be immediately applied; therefore, poetry books are sold very slowly. I understand the social factor is noted in the publishing decision for each book. The publishing industry in Vietnam has been facing many difficulties before: poor reading culture, narrow market, high production costs, low living standards, trend-following disorientedly, and poor management that allows e-books/ unlicensed books to appear rampantly, and so on… Poetry books are not a popular genre in the market. Both bookmakers, booksellers, and book buyers all have to consider.
As for me, all poems are, of course, usually conventional, but if someone says poetry is irrational, perhaps they have not understood poetry and have not read very simple, genuine, and true verses like these:
“Don’t look for a god at the temple,
gongs, and drums.
also don’t look for God, Buddha
at the churches, pagodas
table and chair
Like I won’t look for you
at home. at workplace. or inn
I look for you in the sky
and in my breath
(sometimes I’m too sad)”
_Du Tu Le
“My own days and yours are now the same
The same horizon and the same page of book
The same light and the same door frame of rain
The tragic days of Juliet are over
We have two hands to keep working
The road is so far, but human life is so short
We must have energy and food for each trip
Must understand everything to overcome doubts
To live with everyday life and live with our dream ahead
Anyway, life gave you to me
My first wish my last stay
We walk side by side on the ground
Even that alone is real
Enough for me to be grateful for all my life.”
Luu Quang Vu
In fact, “poetry’s irrationality is only one trait, but a particular trait that distinguishes it from the characteristics of all remaining literary genres. Poetry is the voice of the heart, of emotions, of psychology and physiology, of human instinct. It needs the guidance of mind and intellect” (1). Briefly understood, “life is the source, the vitality of art” (2). Poetry, like all other art forms, takes materials from real life, “in search of goodness and truth but must manifest in a beautiful form” (3).
Poetry is not irrational, but precisely poetry “has its own reasons that pure reason cannot understand. The absurdity in poetry differs from the eccentricity, the blind, monstrous, aimless hype in the poet’s inspiration. On the contrary, it is the hidden part of the iceberg sunk in the poetic river. It has its own argument that if you read only with common arguments, you cannot explain (4).”
Previously, Han Mac Tu said: writing poetry is being crazy. Che Lan Vien added: writing poetry is extraordinary. The poet is not human. He is a Dreamer, a Sayer, a Crazy Man, a Fairy, a Ghost, a Devil, and an Evil. It escapes the present, it mixes with the past. It embraces the future. He once said that “the poet must be a person who completely escapes reality in order to find liberation in the infinite metaphysical realm”, but he himself, after the Revolution, completely changed his opinion, that “poetry does not only pamper the souls but also awaken people, not only “dreaming” but also “being loud and doubtful”. After all, said French poet Lamáctin: “What is poetry? It is not just an art, it is the liberation of my heart”.
So, are we unreasonable or not to refer to those who love poetry as irrational. As a “Vietnamese muse” in the 21st century (according to Joy magazine’s lovely nickname), I, and the muses I know, like Nguyen Thien Ngan, Lieu Ha Trinh, Trinh Nam Tran, or Nhuoc Lac, none of us are an irrational dreamer. All of us have a life to live in and to record with the simple and complex senses of everything that happens around us, using poetry as an anchor to keep our very human emotions. Imagine a world without literature, poetry, music, painting, … how barren would that world be? And can we be perfect humans?
The time has come, we need relief from misconceptions about poetry, poetry writers, and poetry readers. Recently, I am very happy to meet Tran – the founder of Wordlust – a space connecting people through creative writing activities that organize lovely talking poems, knowing about Small Talk – an annual poetry event held at several provinces across the country (the upcoming event on April 17 at Hoa Sen University), bringing the poetic practice of the intuitive writing class into a book club co-organized by Storytellers – Renaissance Books and Okkio Cafe. I hope these only-for-a-certain-number-of-people activities will gradually be spread to more people, and everyone will have a different, open-minded, fresh look about poetic and poetry lovers. Please invite me to do anything about poetry with you.
See also: Suggestions for you: Some good poetry books
(1), (4) Quoting from the critical theorist Ho Si Vinh
(2) From Marx’s point of view
(3) A quote from poet Che Lan Vien