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Tran Nhuong Poet:

Writing is a way for gratitude

(VLR) I have luck when being friend with the poet Tran Nhuong already for 6 years. It is not much to say, however since I know he was a Truong Son soldier in the past we have recognized each other like old friends who just meet each other after a long time.

Should we call Tran Nhuong as a poet or a writer or painter? For him, any calling ways are right. I call him a writer because I know he has written 3 novels and 5 series of stories and pieces; a poet while he has a “poet treasure” with 08 collections and 01 epic (which was reprinted); a painter when he is a member of The Vietnam Fine Arts Association, whenever I saw him he was always focusing on drawing.

Tran Nhuong was formerly a driver soldier on the legend road Truong Son. In 1965, while working as a teacher, he joined the army and volunteered to the frontline. This is the period when the U.S started the Johnson McNamara plan, the number of US soldiers in Vietnam sharply increased up to 25,000 and the struggle for the liberty of the South was in fierce. In the North, the first sabotage of US Air force just began. Back to the history to see that any soldier like Tran Nhuong had battled in the war with an aspire sacrifice for our country.

In 1993, he was demobilized. 28 years wearing the soldier uniform, including 11 years working in the army transport, he had passed through all the roads. This was heroic time of the country while “everybody marched together, everybody fight at the frontline”.

“Wherever has driver soldiers or logistics soldiers, we arrived. These are our forever youth full of our brightest, strongest and happiest moments. We working together, shoulder-to-shoulder sleeping in tunnels or stayed awake all night” Tran Nhuong looks younger when saying about the time sitting behind the car cabin among Truong Son forest.

This is the time on the Truong Son legend road (that was named after The president Ho Chi Minh), there were not only hundreds of soldiers but also thousand young volunteers, mostly women. Any encounters, even shortly, always raised up beautiful emotions inside the young soldier Tran Nhuong.

Tran Nhuong memorized about this time: “We were the soldiers of transport army unit supporting for Laos battlefield from 1965 until Laos was totally liberty. I did not stick with this battlefield but often working with driver-friends and other soldiers here. One time at Noong Pet where all the mountains are white limestone that was turned to calcium carbonate when hit by bomb.

He said that he slept in Noong Pet cave for several nights with engineers and logistics soldiers. On daylight, the cave was still dark hence everyone had to use a wick made of cloth, put into a bottle with fuel oil and burn to get light. My friends, after a night inhaling with black dust, all get black noses and felt humorous when seeing other faces. Now we understand that this inhalation is harmful but we had never known it was poisonous at that time. And the war attracted all our attention. We had fighted with our best and sacrificed our blood and lives.

After the fight, it was peaceful moment

Cleaning gun, we sang an old songs

Seeing others’ faces and we laughed out loud

Three soldier just become one

Wrote on the fulcrum – Tran Nhuong

“The light brightened the cave all day…/Engineering soldiers waited for the dark/ And we wake the forest late at night with the sound of hoes digging the road”; “After several days since hearing the gunshot/ The enemy front was caught on fire/ Engineering soldiers held the hands and danced to cheers”, (quoted from A light in cave). The poem “A light in cave” was written in Laos field in early 1970. After that, along the army marching, many historic places that were attacked by America were appeared in his poem. We can give some examples like: “Crossing the pontoon bridge” writing about Pha Ghep (Thanh Hoa province)”, “Khi pass” completed when the poet joined the Campaign 9th Road- South of Laos, “Way to the battlefield” for the Truong Son female driver team named after a hero of the People’s Armed Forces, Nguyen Thi Hanh; “Say goodbye under Vinh Linh sky”, through the army marching or “sleeping between the war road”.

“I would never forget a terrible bomb battle at the La Trong pass (Quang Binh). That night, some teammates brought me back. There was a fallen soldiers wrapped in a plastic bag in the car and I stood in the car trunk. The steep slope then the corpse kept rolling from one side to another side and I had to jump from side to side as well to avoid touching him. These days brought me the valuable lesson that I would have never learned again. Maybe, I become a rhymester due to the experiences nursed and conceived from the war. I wrote with the responsibility as a citizen and a builder, who gratitude my friends who stayed forever in the war”, Tran Nhuong evoked with a lowered voice like a very sad memory in his heart.

Being a person who went through the war fighting for the liberty of the South and protect the North later (with a new position in the army), who went through the “frontier” between live and death, Tran Nhuong confirmed that comrade affection could be the most prestigous feelings. “This is implanted very deep inside the soul of the soldiers and not easily faded. Soldiers in the same team and fighted on the same battlefield can hug together tightly and felt like a family. I think only person who have ever lived between the live and the death could have such a beautiful and strong attachment!”, he said.

Not only his poems, the soldier image always keeps the vital role in his story and paintings. Topics of Tran Nhuong’s poems are very diversified and imbued with his hometown, his country and his love. Later his poetry is mostly about the fate and affairs; said like the writer Nguyen Quang Lap “that was when Tran Nhuong dipped his pen into the truth”, this was printed in the preface for “Tran Nhuong selective poetry” including 231 poems and a part of the epic “A man who created a fairytale”.

Our country under the “blood and flower” period when the comradeship could be more important than anything was a part of “The truth”, Tran Nhuong said. This truth is heavy in his soul. The past – present – future is always a continuous flow. If we did not respect the past, we cannot live well in the present and create the beautiful things in the future.

Ngô Đức Hành

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