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The poet, Le Thanh My, a song from the river

(VLR) Le Thanh My presented that: “I was born in a land at the confluence of Tien and Hau rivers. This region is enriched by a large amount of fertile alluvium. From one river, people had built many small outfalls to irrigate for the soil and the vast rice field that has created the rice granary of the South and fed up for millions of Vietnamese people as well as exported to other countries”.

The poet Le Thanh My

The poet Le Thanh My

The two-branch and 9-outfall river mentioned in the Le Thanh My’ poetry is part of Mekong river. Mekong river is almost 5,000km long, originated in the Tibetan-China plateau, passing through Myanmar and Laos, pouring into Cambodia prior to entering Vietnam. That is under geographical view. However, to Le Thanh My, “This river desires the shores/wandering through hundreds and thousands mountains” (From the river to the sea). This river seems truly has a soul and fate. It was considered as the most mysterious river in the world, where “printed the feet of Buddha Amitabha/the gradual transformation of Shakyamuni beads/ It’s life/instinct/burning desire”.

The Mother Nature had offered a gift with the big sea and interlaced river system for Vietnam. Large rivers are normally called “Me rivers” or “Ca rivers” like a true Mother. Being a child born by a beautiful river in the delta and lived with the memorial childhood beside the river, Le Thanh My realized that: “There is a tender river/ There is an impulsive river/ There is a longing river/ There is also sentimental river…”.

And people there, “the honest South people/ like rice, like weed, like village ponds, like supply ponds/ were witnessed by the river/ and wouldnot be divided in our heart”, “are so hardship/ still love the river as always/ I saw my grandfather/ I saw my grandmother/ my dad/ my mom/ myself/ three generations still remember by heart the idioms “soft and fair goes far”: “Fishes make the fish sauce/ How great and gergous the old couple is!”.

Mekong river has a mission to bring lives. I already watched the series “Mekong filming report” produced by Ho Chi Minh city TV dozens years ago. It must be said that is about “a harrowing and great Mekong”. Le Thanh My already brought the river that have full of proud, charming but also ups and downs with history of both our nation and the international region into the epic “From the river to the sea”.

The epic includes 7 chapters: Dreaming on the river, The legend, Look back our land, After the war, The blue song, The South sky, The sea in front of me. If the writers are evaluated their potential through the novel, the poets are assessed through the epic to measure the depth of feelings and emotions. I would not image that the poet Le Thanh My who lives quietly, honestly and lenient still had the conflicts or opposite comments as surprised, The proud of having the river, from the dynasty “Vietnamese bring sword to open realms” (Huynh Van Nghe) through many wars, has been grown strongly and lively despite of many blood and flowers. This is a grateful way to river, that river always reminds about the national history for the “eternal green hope”.

Le Thanh My was born in Chau Doc, An Giang. She studied the literature major at Literature Faculty of University of Social Sciences and Humanities at HCM city from 1984 – 1988. Learning literature then entering to “the cathedral of poetry”, this seems to be a simple logic. Le Thanh My was formerly the president of Chau Doc Art and Literature Association (An Giang province) and the vice president of An Giang Association of Art and Literature; also formerly Chief Editor of That Son Journal. That Son, named after the “7 mountains” land, was considered as a qualified journal, scholarly strong and literature rich during her time as Chief Editor. She is also a member of both Vietnam Writers’ Association and Vietnam Journalists Association.

Until now, the poet of the South region already published 09 poetry volumes: “Flower dreaming” (1992), “For a friend who has been far away” (200), “Fate of leaves” (2002), “In the house of memories” (2005), “Drifting” (2007), “Keep quiet and speak out loud” (2011), “Pick up” (2015), “From the river to the sea” – An epic (2017), “Loving couples take each other away” (2018). The epic “From the river to the sea” – a book chapter was written in response to the program call for rhyme composing in 2017 funded by Ministry of Defense.

About her achievements, Le Thanh My won the B Prize of the Union of Vietnam Associations of Art and Literature in 2008, Second Runner in the Poetry contest in the Mekong Delta region in 2010 and C Prize – a 5-year award of Ministry of Defense for the epic “From the river to the sea” in 2019.

She is the female poet of the Mekong Delta region, one of the most modernized rhymesters. She has a very different appearance from other peers in the delta region. Even writing about her hometown, river, gardens of the delta region or about love, Le Thanh My’s poetry always has an imprint which is located in the cross-sections of the interlaced, continuous, overlapped and blurred space fragments.

I just read 3 Le Thanh My’s poetry volumnes, “Keep quiet and speak up” (2011), “From the river to the sea” (2017); “Loving couples take each other away” (2018) and some poems on the Art and Literature Journal, Military Art and Literature Journal… Her poems is not rhymed, full of flowery words or diversity in structures, more and more multidimension or stable at “acceptable” level and only focused on rhymes; but it has narrative style and contains interior monologue.”…silent night/ just hear the flute slipped away/ just see an eye from elsewhere under the rain/ looks so dreary…” (A wet night). In that “wet night” , “in the balcony/ the leaves were trembling/ my shirt could not hold the exhausted thoughts/ just let it go”.

It is clearly that “a leaf” in “a wet night” bring the readers a sad, lonely and resigned feelings. Le Thanh My’s rhymes has turned into the metaphorical words, the hidden “I” that was interwoven in many structural layers, the poetry of the post-modern trend. She wrote much about love, the desire. It could be a common thinking of many women poetries, always explaining the love in “very feminist way”. Le Thanh My’s love poems also have many refractive meanings and earnestness.

Reading Le Thanh My’s poet, it is easily to see a fragile heart but full of hidden memories. In every single poem, the author has been trying to touch different feelings levels: “The rhymes you wrote were just a joke/ would be faded in a sunny day/ in a windy day/ and at last, there was only your timid arm at the doorstep”.

And all over of these, it is the desire and the jealousy. “How did you know/ when the sunset engulf a half of my sky/ of my blue sea/ whimpered/cried” (My sea).

The materials for Le Thanh My’s topics are many issues, from macro to micro problems of the modern lives, the dark corners in human thoughts and emotions, consciousness and unconsciousness… All straight and exact evaluations on history, the questions related to people fates, the consideration about the private or common ways… could be seen through every chains in the epic “From the river to the sea”.

Reading Le Thanh My’s poet, it is easily to see a fragile heart but full of hidden memories

Reading Le Thanh My’s poet, it is easily to see a fragile heart but full of hidden memories

Reading Le Thanh My’s poetries, we also can find a rustic and generous river. In the preface of the epic, she wrote: “In my deep through from my heart, I want to tell about a river under the voice of a rustic and straightforward farmer who was feed up by great alluvium drops of the river. However, I am only a small sand piece, not having the deep thinking and broad view, so I went from the canals to the sea gates, there must be many interesting things waiting me ahead”.

Obviously, the river of love is eternally chasm and attractive. It has several branches of feelings, maybe “missing someone”, “loving someone”, “go mad for someone” …. flow out from the heart yearning “to swim out” with poetry, “…the flow always pass through my red eyes/ a half of my life/ bewildered/ and looked forwards” (The river in front of me). This river constantly flaps for Hau Giang, Tien Giang, her home.

Bui Van Danh

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