Quynh, Xuan 1942-1988
Quynh, Xuan 1942-1988
Born 1942, in Viet Nam; died in an automobile accident, 1988; married; husband's name Vu (died, 1988).
Poet, journalist, and author.
Association of Writers Literary Prize, 1981-83, for poem "Bau troi trong qua trung," and 1988-89, for poem "Tho."
Author of poems, including "Choi Biec" ("Green Bud"), "Hoa Doc Chien Hao" ("Flowers on the Combat Trench"), and "Thuyen va Bien" ("The Boat and the Sea"). Poems have been published in books, including Tho Xuan Quynh, by Edward Hirsch, Hoi Nha Van (Hanoi, Vietnam), 1990; Six Vietnamese Po- ets, translated by Nguyen Ba Chung and Kevin Bowen, Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), 2001; and Poet's Choice, by Edward Hirsch, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2006.
Xuan Quynh was a Vietnamese journalist and noted poet whose works often consider how humanity inevitably blossoms and grows, even during wartime, and how strength and determination can emerge from situations of deep suffering and intense deprivation and want. In a review on the New Pages Web site, Denise Bazzett described Quynh as the "female poet of the North writing from behind the domestic scenes of war."
In Quynh's poetry, images of nature and idyllic scenes of human interaction lie just outside harsher scenes of devastation and desperation caused by war. In "My Son's Childhood," Quynh asks her young son, "What do you have for a childhood / That you still smile in the bomb shelter?" The child learns to crawl and to walk while safely hidden from enemy troops in that shelter. There, "Our deep shelter is more precious than a house," Quynh writes, and though he begins the process of growing up in an environment where he will not see the blue of the sky or the green of the grass, he will still have the opportunity to grow up because of his unnatural early days in the tomblike shelter. "In the future, when our dreams come true, / You'll love our history all the more," Quynh reassures him."
In "The Blue Flowers," anthologized in Six Vietnamese Poets, Quynh asks an unnamed childhood companion, "Were those blue flowers there or not / In those months and years of our childhood?" Though war intervenes, and the cherished memories of the past were endangered by destruction and violence, the hope of youth remains intact between Quynh and her companion: "You must have believed those flowers were there, / And that the valley of our youth was blue with them." Bazzett observed: "It is difficult to read such passages as this," while at the same time trying to imagine and comprehend "the devastation surrounding the lives of the poets, the people. Yet, at the same time, it is clear how inseparable the two are" in Quynh's poetry. In the anthology Poet's Choice, containing Quynh's work "Summer," the poet declares that "bitterness turns into poetry," as though there is no other option; in Quynh's world, perhaps, there existed no other choice. In a review of Poet's Choice, for Curled Up with a Good Book, Luann Gaines observed: "To absorb the depth of these poems is to appreciate the differences inherent in the world we inhabit, elevating the consciousness and reaching for the finer self, one with the universe in human experience and the source of hope."
Quynh and her husband, Vu, were killed in an automobile accident in 1988.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Eugene Weekly, May 12, 2002, "Holiday Sampler," profile of Xuan Quynh.
Publishers Weekly, March 18, 2002, "In Translation," review of Six Vietnamese Poets, p. 96.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (September 29, 2006), Luann Gaines, review of Poet's Choice.
New Pages,http://newpages.com/ (September 29, 2006), Denise Bazzett, review of Six Vietnamese Poets.
Viet Nam News,http://vietnamnews.vnanet.vn/ (August 8, 2004), obituary of Xuan Quynh.