EFFECTS ON THE MIND

W Bibliotece „Tematu” ukazało się właśnie drugie wydanie wyboru wierszy Lama Quang My’a  pt. Przemija życie…/ Life Passes on… Moje Posłowie opublikowałem na tym blogu przy okazji pierwszego wydania, więc teraz głos oddaję wietnamskiemu krytykowi – Nguyenowi Quang Thieu. To pewnie jedna z ładniejszych książek w naszej serii poetyckiej.

my_life_passesIn a previous talk with Lâm Quang Mỹ on poetry, and despite all our difference in poetical styles, we, the two poets, found ourselves eye to eye on this concept: In our life, we might be and, in actuality, are different in character but our mind must have found a common denominator, that is the beauty and human kindness. And so has poetry. A literary work may embody three factors which I call effects. They are social, linguistic, and mind effects. The three effects may appear in a literary work at the same time, but the most important one that develops into an authentic literary work is that of the mind. That accounts for the fact that a poet with a certain poetic style can perceive the spirit of a work of another poet in a different one. That’s why when reading Lâm Quang Mỹ’s poems, I have either more or less managed to experience the spiritual life created by his verses. Most of Lâm Quang Mỹ’s poems often develop themselves from a reality of life to a reality of the mind.

Poetry appears at the end of the course. If we home in on the reality of life with just a little emotion, we wouldn’t be able to get access to poetry itself, but we’d have bumped into some quasi-poetical form instead. This might engage the reader in a state of mind then, and not an effect on the mind. In my opinion, whether short or long a poem may be its ultimate goal is to create effects on the mind. Only then, the revolution in aesthetics in works of arts will be enforced. In his poems, Lâm Quang Mỹ usually starts with a reality of life as a text of memory or of the present. In „Xa” (Distant), for instance, the first line reads: Autumn comes, yet I have to leave. The verse sounds like a prose sentence, even when it was made rhythmically rhymed. But the two last verses of the poem read: Who parted from me in that autumnal afternoon/ And my heart was taken away with – so soon? Here a mind effect appears and it creates a spiritual life, hence the spirit of poetry. The same is with Tiếng Gọi (The Call), the first line of which reads: Waking up at midnight. Let’s try rephrasing this verse in prose as follows: Waking up at midnight, I saw my mother still sitting sewing an upper garment. But the following verses read: The sounds are so vague,/ The sounds are so eager/ Echoing from time immemorial/ And from somewhere in my heart unfathomable. Thus, reality of life is everybody’s property whereas reality of poetry belongs exclusively to the poet. Reality of poetry creates the spirit of life hence the occurrence of mind effects. And these effects have an impact on the aesthetic ability of the readers. In front of my house there is a benjamine fig tree. Every morning, a sparrow flew from the tree to my window and kept flapping its wings against the window pane as if it was trying to get through it. I thought the bird might want to get into the house for some reason. And I opened the window. But every time the window was opened, the bird flew back to the tree just to find itself flying back hitting the window pane again later when the window was closed. “There must be something,” I thought. Finally, I walked out to the balcony to have a look at the closed window. A wonderful thing appeared before my eyes. On the glass panes there was an image of the tree. The tree in the image was completely the same as the real one out there but it was in a new colour, with a new touch, and in a new sky. The tea coloured glass and some other factors must have combined to create another benjamine fig tree. The real tree out there is a reality of life and the one on the glass pane is that of poetry. This incident prompted me to think about poetry and Lâm Quang Mỹ’s poems. Mỹ is not such a poet that would stick at any “ism”, but in his poetry he has created images and aesthetic symbols from too factual a reality of life.

If someone asks me: “How has mankind lived throughout its history?” I may choose these two verses from a poem by Lâm Quang Mỹ for my answer: Are we living after/ Or before those storms? That’s all. It’s true and painful. With a very limited number of words involved, poetry could generalize the entire mankind’s lot: famine, disease, war, fear and loneliness. With much living experience plus his succinct style Lâm Quang Mỹ has managed to make a go of such a thing which was not soft enough. There are some verses from his poems that could make us feel, in a sudden, our hair turn white when we have read them. I am like a child in the daylight/ But an over sixty year old man at night. The verses are like a startling and creepy expression. They imply one’s fate, contemplation, and culture. These two verses are beautiful and painful. Such verses and poems of such spirit could really develop a revolution in the readers’ mind. They make us moved, and they urge us to perceive ourselves in the first place, and also to perceive some beauty, even a doleful beauty. Lâm Quang Mỹ’s poems are always to, whether directly or indirectly, discover the principles and meanings in man’s spiritual life from simple realities. Each of his poems is a piece of his own soliloquies about human conditions and the beauty. It does not allow him to get away from the present. He cannot duck out on himself. No poets can ever get away from the time they live in, nor can any duck out on himself either. That’s why his sincere, and pure and bright verses as well as those that are blue and profound have sounded like a voice in the dark of man’s fate and history. The point that should be fathomed out is that poetry is against frivolous involvement of emotions and of language. And the poet has acquired a new perception in his own verses. Reading these verses: Just an autumnal afternoon of separation/ Over thirty years yellow leaves have fallen. I see that the sad moment and the gloriousness of fate may last not only for thirty years, but forever. Charles Simic, an American well-known poet, has once said something to the effect that The task of poetry is to try to preserve forever, in each poem, the beauty of a moment of life that has passed.

English translation from Vietnamese text by Thiếu Khanh.

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