Poems of Mai Văn Phấn

Mai Van Phan (Vietnam)







1 - First Morning of New Year


I find a child’s sock


As a ripened fruit


2 - New Year’s Day


On the road

Picking a dried blade of grass

I touch the old year’s tail


3 - The Splendid Spring Air


I rest

After collecting a full bucket of water

Not knowing what to do with it yet


4 - First Night of New Year


Hearing waves

I shine a candle

Towards the sea


5 - Choosing a Sofa


To place a vase of rhododendron

In the middle

Of Spring





(For Ngọc Trâm)


As fever is burning you on its pyre

I become ash too

The bitter potion cannot wait any more

Holding your hand

                           I pour

My grief into the empty bowl...


O’ daughter! As the mist falls

My hardship arches across the cold night

For frail flowers

To give off scent needs bitter roots.


Sweat becomes callused hands

Spring pours into the medicine bowl

My old age weeps with mute tears

While truth bursts out for no reason.

I wonder what you eat in your dreams

I put the bowl on the window

When you grow up to my age now

At the bottom of the bowl

There may still be a storm.






You gather things according to their seasons

a bunch of grapefruit flowers for autumn

plums for spring


We are the pulse of air, deep abyss, breasts of soil

we choose warm places to set our furniture

uncluttered places to put our tables and chairs


We drop our worries at the dinner table

with chopsticks we pick vegetables from the field afar

the fish bites on the bait inside our clay pot


We love the footprints near the rice stubble

deep wells, streams and rivers, ponds and puddles


Don't sit in the room too long

go out into the field, out to the river bank

where leaves grow green and fish wriggle


Bite on fresh pineapple or sweet orange

and let juice drop on brown soil.






After brewing tea

When I returned

The guest was gone

Speaking on the phone

His family said he had been dead seven years

A misunderstanding


At home

All in turmoil

No memory of when the portrait was taken down

Where was the winding clock?

To whom was the fake ancient teapot given?


Dropping in on the neighbour

To check several food items

Some with higher prices

Some remained unchanged        


In the house

The tea still hot

Pushing a cup towards the guest's vacant place


A deadly vapour six meters high suddenly rose up

Bowing down in front once in a while.






Rain comes at last

And thunder rumbles

Tender shoots strip naked in darkness

The land tries to hide its barren dryness

When roots feel their way into our chest


Together we desire

And together we recall

A leafy cone hat and raincoat or lightning across the sky

Night lies down with all the tombs

Its black shirt still hung in the trees


Together things cool down

And together things echo

The sounds get lost inside our deep sleep

Where countless upside-down dreams are shattered

In this cool, expanding, reverberating rain water.


(Translated by Nhat-Lang Le. Edited by Susan Blanshard)








Vietnamese poet Mai Văn Phấn was born 1955 in Ninh Bình, Red River Delta in North Vietnam. Currently, he is living and writing poems in Hải Phòng city. He has published 16 poetry books and 1 book "Critiques - Essays" in Vietnam. 27 poetry books of his are published and released in foreign countries and on Amazon's book distribution network. Poems of Mai Văn Phấn are translated into more than 40 languages. Mai Văn Phấn has won a number of Vietnamese and international literary awards, including: The Vietnam Writers' Association Award in 2010; The Cikada Literary Prize of Sweden in 2017; The Award of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2019; The Literary award from Association of Literary Translators of Montenegro in 2020; Twice won the Golden Pen Literature Award of Russian Federation in 2019; The Award Aco Karamanov of North Macedonia in 2020; 1st Prize in The International Creative Meeting and Festival “Together in the XXI Century” in Bulgaria 2020; The medal Alisher Navoi of the Union of Writers and Historians of Central Asia in 2021; Winner of Sahitto (Bangladesh) International Award for Literature 2021; The Award of Newspaper Kitob Dunyosi (Uzbekistan) in 2021.

"Now poetry readers worldwide are able to gain a rare glimpse inside Vietnam and the Vietnamese culture. The turbid past, contemporary progressive present and unpredictable future, as seen through the eyes, heart and soul of one of Vietnam's most prolific and thought provokingcontemporary poets. Mai Van Phan writes in his native language. The Vietamese language is emotional, expressive, precise, symbolic and metaphorical. His poems are rich with memories, experiences and strong emotions... His words express the value of culture, spirit, traditions and customs of the Vietnamese people. Here, the poet speaks up about the joy and immense sadness that his people have been through. His poems illuminate and reveal poverty, diseases, suffering and backwardness while at the same time capturing the heart and soul and expressions of the Vietnamese people. His words move forward, just as his country is moving forward. The poet becomes part of social change. For it is said that the greater impact of the poet, the larger and more unique poetry atmosphere it can spread...the more positive effect it can cause to the society. The poet is the one who designs a structure for the society and nature in his own way. This rare honest insight is expressed freely in this long awaited book. Poet Mai Van Phan says, "We always have hope for a brighter future, like seeds that are sown in the darkness and move towards the light". He explores the mystery and complexity of human nature and the natural world. A radiant dawn, a worm in the leaf, and the sigh of a woman... Mai Van Phan sees the world through the eyes of a poet who can see into another world." (Susan Blanshard)









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