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Monday, December 14, 2020, 06:55 (GMT+7)
"Vietnamese modern poetry only has New Poetry and Young Poetry" - an absurd argument must be rejected

In recent times, some people have stated that “Vietnamese modern poetry only has New Poetry and Young Poetry,” insisting that the poetry during the resistance wars against French colonialists and American imperialists was merely “illustrative” and “rustic.” These are not only an unfounded argument but also a worrying deviation as the result of “peaceful evolution” or “self-evolution,” which must be identified and excluded from cultural and social life.

According to the Central Council for the Theory and Criticism of Literature and Art, since the Party launched and led the national renewal, Vietnamese literature and arts have reaped remarkable achievements. The room for creativity and writing topics, themes, and methods has been expanded, approached new realism and deepened humanism. As a result, numerous valuable works have been produced in all literary and artistic fields. The author team has been supplemented with many young talents as a symbol of new generation, bringing new vitality to the national literary and artistic movement. Exchanges in the field have also been promoted. Thanks to renewal process and open-door policy, fresh viewpoint and thinking along with advanced information technology have brought a lot of opportunities for pieces of art to reach the public.

Despite positive effects, the national literature and arts still reveal some existing limitations, which derail the mainstream with skepticism and false views, including the so-called “New Poetry” and “Young Poetry.” Some people claim that modern Vietnamese Poetry only includes New Poetry and Young Poetry and that time has come for a change as the poetry during the wars against French colonialists and American imperialists had completed its mission and must be replaced by New Poetry and Young Poetry. They say that President Ho Chi Minh’s Prison Diary is just propaganda or political poems with low artistic values. The Open Mouth group on Talawas - an anti-communist network by Pham Thi Hoai and other websites, such as Evan and Tien Ve, has operated in recent years with the plot of counterbalance, opposition, and even resistance against the true poetry. They have insulted the quintessence of the nation, sabotaged our State and regime with many obscene poems - a mess of vulgar language. Also, they have used mocking tactics to slander, distort and smear our national cultural values. Poetry of such kind goes against the Fatherland and the people. Undoubtedly, the original sense of criticism has been shifted to a cunning plot of overthrowing the poetry which has brought true value to the nation and people. This humiliating act needs to be completely eliminated.

Needless to say, criteria for evaluating a literary trend in general and poetry in particular must be based on the contents and artistic values of the works. Poetry is not only a delicate field of culture but also a basic need for the people to express their dream of “truth, goodness and beauty.” True poetry describes, reflects, contemplates, and dreams about life and people. Besides seeking beauty to praise, nurture and flourish, it also detects the wrong, the bad and the evil to condemn. Its targets are to boost humanisation and to improve spiritual life as a great motivation directly contributing to building up the spiritual foundation of the society and the comprehensive development of people. Accordingly, poetry is the voice of the era for lofty ideals of the Fatherland and humanity. Poetry embodies real life in each historical period. During times of war, poetry performed its vital function of education and it was used as “a weapon to kill the enemy.”  In the thousand year-long history of national construction and defence, our people have made sacrifices and overcome hardships to expel foreign invaders, gain independence, unify and defend the country. Numerous literary and artistic works and poets in particular had been written during the period, encouraging and fostering patriotism, self-control, self-reliance, self-esteem and national pride as well as indomitable spirit against foreign invasion. During the resistance wars against French colonialists and American imperialists, in times of difficulties, poets were required to raise their voice to represent the people in the struggle for national liberation. Poetry actively joined itself in the struggle for national independence and freedom and the people’s happiness and became a weapon to fight oppression and exploitation. In fact, revolutionary poetry in this period had expressed pride in the nation and the glorious tradition of our ancestors during thousands of years building and defending the country. The two wars witnessed the appearance of a large contingent of poets with extraordinary writing skills and enthusiasm, including Nguyen Dinh Thi, Quang Dung, Hoang Trung Thong, Chinh Huu, Nong Quoc Chan, Ban Tai Doan, Xuan Quynh, Vu Quan Phuong, Thu Bon, Le Anh Xuan, Nguyen Khoa Diem, Pham Tien Duat, and Hoang Nhuan Cam. These poets had enthusiastically taken full grasp of reality and battlefields, worked and fought tirelessly in order to compose immortal poems that have been still passed down in folk today. Along with revolutionary poetry being created, their noble spiritual mission merged with people who “split Truong Son mountain range to fight the Americans,” encouraging the national bravery, greatly contributing to national victory, building up patriotism as well as affirming human noble beauty and affection. Poetry then was really a spiritual weapon with great power to arouse revolutionary heroism and willingness to fight and to believe in the nation’s ultimate victory. Poetry expressed people’s feeling in the resistance war, while promoting the lofty revolutionary action of the entire nation.

Artistically, poetry during the two wars, especially the one against the American imperialists, not only had historical significance but also acted as a great unique artistic phenomenon. It represented a period of strong development, with many outstanding achievements in the process of Vietnamese modern poetry. The sharp rhetoric had created a new mindset for Vietnamese poetry, which was convincing and inspiring to the public. Each poet of each generation had different writing levels but they served the same goal which was unmasking the enemy, affirming national strength, giving readers a bold impression on the all-people posture, verbally convicting the enemy’s crimes, promoting patriotism as well as urging everyone to fight and to sacrifice themselves for noble ideals. Typical examples were: Poems to fight the enemy, 1972 summer news with comments, A battlefield description, and A poem to destroy the Americans by poet Che Lan Vien; Hello Spring of 1967, Songs of Spring of 1968, Spring of 1969, and Songs of Spring of 1971 by poet To Huu, From Cao Lang to Vinh Linh and The Capital of Victory by poet Xuan Dieu, Sun of Aspiration by poet Nguyen Khoa Diem, and Drivers of Lorries Without Windows by Pham Tien Duat. Poets at the time studied relentlessly and promoted creativity to form great poetry worthy of the national status, making a significant contribution to the cause of national liberation and unification. It marked the qualitative and quantitative development of the movement and authors. Also, it was based on the harmony between the contents and form, between tradition and modernity, while displaying the consistency in a positive artistic conception for the sake of people and revolution.

Is poetry in the resistance wars against the French and the American just “petty” and “rustic”? The answer is: definitely No. The so-called “New Poetry” and “Young Poetry” deliberately ignored the perfect blend of philosophy between “the steel” and “the poetics” in once-glorious pieces. In comparison to pre-revolutionary poetry, they did not recognise a significant transformation with profound generalisation about the country and the people, about the present and the future, about the people and the era, and about the conscience, the responsibility and the reasons for living. The sense of our Fatherland had been felt in poetry in a specific and close angle: “Fragrant paddle-fields/ Endless roads/ Red rivers full of alluvium” or in poem lines that showed the era status like: “Vietnam! In times of blood and fire/ Rising as an angel.” It seems that their assessment is only based on the linguistic form. They see only the art but ignore humanism. They fail to embody human life and lack historical aspect. As a result, they only recognise the dedication and achievements with no limitations, hence highly appreciating and perfecting the movement of “New Poetry” and “Young Poetry.” Under the cover of freedom of speech, freedom of press, they distort, slander and smear the national spiritual values. Obviously, they oppose great cultural tradition of the nation. They just take advantage of culture to commit malicious acts against our regime and people. This is not a unique phenomenon but a very worrying trend when “peaceful evolution” turns out to be “self-evolution.”

Against this backdrop, the entire Vietnamese people have fought bravely and gained victory in their wars against powerful foreign invaders. Our people have been united to continue building the country in the current renewal process. Particularly, those who work in journalism, publishing, agencies of cultural and artistic management need to adopt a clear view, criticise wrongdoings, resolutely remove the so-called “New Poetry” and “Young Poetry” out of the people’s spiritual and cultural life to promote the development literature and arts for the development of the nation as well as the people.

Senior Colonel, PHAM QUANG THANH, PhD


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75 years Vietnam National Assembly accompanies the nation
To date, 75 years after the first General Election, the National Assembly of Vietnam, as the highest representative body of the people, the highest body of state power of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, has always upheld its extremely important role in the cause of national liberation, renovation, national construction and defence, and international integration. The development and maturity of the National Assembly of Vietnam has always been associated with the national revolution process under the leadership of the Party.