Dang Than is one of Vietnam’s most heralded new-school writers. Writing everything from hetero-novels to alliterative calligraphy scroll poems, he’s managed to stay at the front of the post-Doi Moi literary discussion. Here, Word is pleased to present four of his never-before-published-in-English poems


Tet Season in Vietnam


the first lunar month comes

along with vieng market of metal tools

paddles swinging on the way to pagodas

wishing a fruitful crop

elbowing to temples

dreaming about thunderclaps

lighting scents

spring comes

as appointed

lanterns lighted


blowing horns

like in a drunken state


flag of the poetry feast

raising the call for a month’s holiday

of betel on tray and wine in jar

in a dim and immense heaven-and-earth

oh me

why in the middle of all these


by the drum


by the cymbal-like moon

shining to show off its tranquilly bright love

swift as an arrow

a monk’s frock flutters

while the smoke


from paper votive offering

for a wish to be true

a dream out of the blue

wahoo a trio

a heaven-earth-men band

keeping smiling

making flowers fresh and fruits deep

time galloping by the window

apollo hastily paints sunrays

a love boat sets forth to the sea

a love song is heard

from far away

amidst the infinite




My Mother


Mother! My tears flow when you happen to be walking by my mind

Because the sweat of your labour flow countless time.

Day after day comes to you nothing new — or things of the kind

After gone your prime...

But how can I have enough tears?

As your sweat dated back fifty years!




Constipated for 7 Days 7 Notes Trill


“Without silence there would be no music.”
— Adam Zagajewski


From dawn he starts school and stays

There 7 hours. The noble’s

Golden words of mouth resound

Far and wide from three thousand

Worlds. Oh, human nature is

Intrinsically good. Give

Me a lever long enough

And a fulcrum on which to

Place it, and I shall move the

World. 7 rainbow colours

Are frivolous. Natural

Now is just a bygone word.

Modern is intermina-

Bly crazy. Liberty e-

Quality fraternity.

Then what? The transgendered re--

Volution in foggy land.

Benevolence has been fired

Forward by masters/gurus.

Slaves/disciples said, this is

The final struggle. Thousands

Of bleeding years have stunk up

History. What a smell of

The living. Great. Immortal.

Life stays the same. The 7

Sages still love fun-ds. The G-

7 take the upper hand

Owing to violation.

Tai-chi imperturbable

Thanks to rites and music. As

Always 7 notes of up

And down still need a rest. When

Coming home he gets a co-

Lica. His belly bends with

Painful moans. He hasn’t felt

Music in his abdomen

For 7 days. He dreams that

His intestines turn out to

Be constipation-killer

Stuffed rivers. He heads for a

WC. One hour. Then an-

Other one. He feels crushing

Pains all through the night though he’s

Always in good shape. The brake

Suddenly released. The ab-

Dominal music flows ab-

Ruptly. Aching as being

Operated. 7 notes

Lump into a long line of

A hundred schools of thought. But

Can’t find the expected rest

For long. The abdominal

Voice seems to be out of breath,

Hovering amid the air.

Rest, I’ve long waited for you.

So as to confer to you

The title “Lord of the Sounds”.




New Spring


Spring comes, spring goes, and here spring comes again

Many things have passed, and some things remain

In the late winter cold sharp as knife

And quiet or noisy flows the life


Oh men, you’re burning down what you’ve worshiped

And are worshiping what you’ve burned down

Is that the way life is?


Once I wished to be a painter to add colours to life

But I was covered in black and cold

Couldn’t put even a trace of joy into a minute of mine


And now I need a quiet greenery or what’s lively

I want to throw myself into the purple spacetime to breathe freely

The life’s depth is reminded by the cold sea

Those black holes imply enormous matter can be packed into a tiny area



5 Jun 12

Taken from the San Art exhibition Echoing Nostalgia, 5 Jun 12 is BT Shaw’s poetic response to John Monteith’s video Pyongyang, North Korea, June 5 101 (2012) 5-00am- 5-06-48 am — reassembled from Bing and Google-translated fragments of the June 5, 2012 Twitter feed of North Korea’s official news agency, Uriminzokkiri.



I look forward. I look forward to the construction of a new day. I look forward to progressive integration of the process.



I look forward to the construction of a new subject line. Weightlifting. I look forward to a minute. History would be nice to get on.



I searched extensively for the right watch. I searched extensively for a human. An elephant slide would be nice to get on.



I searched extensively for those who are interested. I searched extensively for a dirty cup. Maybe people are not embarrassed.



For those who are interested, spacecraft in kindergarten. I searched extensively for an ugly dog like a human. A face is also counsel.



I look forward to deeply held stiffness. I look forward to going out. Out and out. Our nation’s sacred patriotic struggle for going out.



For those who are interested I look forward to going out with Ron. Sentiment spilled only further. Dreaming would be nice to get on.



Construction of the new day will end. I look forward to the breath of the leaps. Out and out of their dreams the plot plot dreaming.



Dang Than, 50, Vietnamese



Word: When are these poems from?


Dang Than: My Mother and New Spring were originally written in English around 1990. Not published yet.


Tet Season in Vietnam (2005) and Constipated for 7 Days 7 Notes Trill (2005) are translated from Vietnamese.


Word: What was the Pham Luu Vu comment about you being ”the best humourist ever” in reaction to? Were you trying to be funny?


DT: Well, my writings (especially prose) can be extremely humourous. I don’t think humourous is only funny, but: an ironic must-speak-out-loud in all walks of life, by using parody, metaphor and things of the kind.


Word: What is your main concentration as far as your writing?


DT: To redefine everything (history, heroism, religion, belief, world, human nature, common sense/notions, even the “truth”), so as to show humans’ bigotry, and “new truths”.


Word: Are you an ultra-realist / non-realist / something else? How do you deal with real world situations through your writing?


DT: I don’t care what I am called.


But Pham Luu Vu wrote about me: “Flying over or overpassing the ‘reality’ may be the one and only way to catch the holistic view of it. In ‘Nietzschean terms’, one must get out of the ‘mansty’ so as to see man clearly and discerningly.”


That's it, to use the “non-realistic” and “multidimensional” approach in order to see the real world more clearly and holistically.


Word: Where do you do your writing? Who are your fellow writer friends? What do you talk about when you’re out together?


DT: I normally write at home, at night, usually overnight.


I’ve heard of some young writers trying to follow my style, but they are still greenhorns afraid of showing their works. We sometimes meet up for drinks and talks; they ask me everything and I think they are trying to see my insight, perception and thoughts. Idiosyncratic, aren’t I?


Word: What are you working on now?


DT: Four novels, four poetry anthologies and some other “dirty” writings.

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  • Comment Link Elizabeth Marino Elizabeth Marino Feb 09, 2015

    "Tet Season in Vietnam" is still one of my favorites. But I am biases.

  • Comment Link Dan Newland Dan Newland Feb 08, 2015

    Gorgeous imagery, Dang! Thanks for sharing your work.

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