Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Life

I Want to Live
I want to live with Wu Sung the tiger-fighter
With Guan Yunzhang – red face, black beard
Become a musketeer and make friends with Athos
And his buddies, d’Artagnan, Porthos and Aramis!
I want to find Palestine where Christ was buried
And go crusading together with Ivanhoe
Live one thousand and one nights in the palace
Built by the lamp genie so that Aladdin could get married
Cross over to the American wildernesses
And go treasure-hunting on a sled with Jack London
I want to go to Russia and banquet with the tsar
Converse with Andrei one evening on a river bank
And walk with Pechorin in the Caucasus
Have pistol & sword duels and dance to the last
Meet with Dostoevsky in a sleepless night
Sitting by a samovar and ignoring the snow
Offering words of sympathy to the student murderer
And urging Filipovna to marry the nice idiot
Continuing my travels, I reach Spain
Where I follow Don Quixote on his chivalric missions
After a full life abroad, I’ll come home to our ancestral
Go to Lam Son to seek an audience with the Le king
Sit and fish by Nguyen Khuyen in a country pond
Discuss with Nguyen Du the issue of talent and fate
In the painful and suffering life of Kieu
Then I’ll go to Khan Xuan District to laugh with
Xuan Huong
Visit with Truong’s faithful wife in Nam Xuong District
Listen to the flute playing fellow, Truong Chi,
Sing his pain and dreams
Follow the North Pacifying King as he launches the
To go into Thang Long of the Nung Mountain and the Red
I want to live plentifully & exhaustively
Going back in time and in ancient history
So that I can satiate my love of life
Which in the present is being trampled & crushed
In this life where yam and manioc are coveted items.

By Nguyen Chi Thien

A Vietnamese poet who endured over  23 years of his life in prison ,off and on , for speaking out against power.
From 1960 when he was imprisoned for teaching that Soviets did not bring about the end of WWII  (as written in textbooks) -- that it was the American bombs that did -- until after  1977 when he was arrested  outside the British embassy after delivering over 400 of his poems, which he had envisioned and memorized while being imprisoned, and sentenced to 6 more years without trial;  three of them were in solitary confinement.

He died yesterday at 73 after living the last of his life in self imposed poverty in Santa Ana California.  He would not accept money for his presentations.    There was a nice writeup by the New York Times for his obituary.

More of his poems can be read  here .  Why are those so few that represent justice?

I couldn't find any photos of him smiling, on the searches.


  1. Inspirational - his resilience and will to live ... Though I admittedly feel sad for him, for the burdens of his life on earth (what of love, of beauty, of tenderness ?)

    As I said of Robert Lowell - thank god he had poetry - it was what probably kept him sane. In Nguyen Chi Thien's case, his poetry kept truth alive.


  2. I am afraid that love, beauty, and tenderness never entered his life.
    He never married and I can find no evidence of happiness. But I will keep looking!

  3. It's a sad and scary thought (for me) that some people are born to be our witnesses: witnesses of man's humanity and inhumanity. It makes me want to hug Nguyen Chi Thien; though he would probably find a hug from me as odd and disturbing as people attempting to pay him for his poetry.

    Thank you for posting this and the links - very interesting reading!


  4. A sad, sad story...of one man's life journey.

  5. Wow this is a new learning for me ...I will for share would share this through tweets and face book other can appreciate his life at least

  6. inspirational and yet a bit sure he did not smile coz he was beset by the problems of the world..and its injustice!!

  7. I know this is off subject, goatman, but here are a couple of dumpling recipes for your chicken soup! ;)

    Here are a couple of dumpling recipes for you to try next time you make chicken soup.

    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1 egg, beaten
    2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine, melted
    3/4-1 cup milk
    snipped fresh parsley, optional

    Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
    Stir in egg, butter and enough milk to make a moist stiff batter.
    Drop by teaspoonfuls into soup.
    Cover and cook (don't peek) for 18-20 minutes.
    Sprinkle with parsley if desired.


    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup fresh chives, thinly sliced
    1 tablespoon salt
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 cup milk (1%, 2% or whole)
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

    Whisk together flour, chives, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl to break up any lumps. Stir in milk and butter until dough just comes together (it will be very thick).

    When the chicken soup is almost cooked -
    Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough at a time into soup and repeat until all dough has been used. Cover and cook until dumplings are fluffy and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

  8. goatman, I've put my reply in my own blog as well, but just in case you don't go back in there to see if I replied to your query...I added it here as well.

    If you use self-raising flour, gm...just don't add the baking powder. So self-raising is just fine to use.

    In the recipes I gave you, "all-purpose flour" aka "plain flour" is used, hence the addition of the baking soda.

    Your berry jelly sounds great.

  9. A tortured soul. Always the best.