The Old Man and the Sea

Coincidence is sometimes very beautiful

Nearly three years ago, I found myself browsing the online pages of Thomas L Le – a scholar and translator of Vietnamese and French poetry. I was so moved by one of the poems that it inspired a small painting of a Hoi An fisherman skilfully riding the surf in his coracle as he brought his small catch back to the girl waiting on the beach to take it to market. I wrote some lines from the poem directly onto the painting and it quickly sold at my Hoi An Exhibition in May 2014. The poem was by Xuan Dieu but being new to Vietnam, I found it difficult to commit the name to memory.

Some months later, I found myself living on Xuan Dieu in Hanoi. More recently, I found myself in a specialist printing shop on Xuan Dieu in Ho Chi Minh City, D5 and I thought ‘there’s that name again.’ I realized that this is no ordinary poet. I discovered that Xuan Dieu was born and died in exactly the same years as my father (1916-1985). Had my father lived, he would be 100 years old in May this year. So I could immediately identify with this poet and compare his life with that of my own father. Xuan Dieu was coming to life in my imagination.

The poet had started writing while at university in Hanoi and over a lifetime contributed around 450 poems, short stories, diaries and essays as part of the Modern Poetry Movement that took off in the 1930s. Under the influence of Western education introduced by the French, Vietnam was emerging from a highly structured Confucian, family-centered culture to become more individualistic and expressive. The Modern Poetry Movement gave voice to the discomforts of this transition. I imagined these poets were viewed with equal disdain as rock ‘n roll, punk and hip hop artists were by their parents’ generation. Now, of course, many of the early movers and shakers of modern music have been honored by their governments and they will be revered by generations to come. Xuan Dieu’s poetry will live on and his words are just as poignant and relevant now as they were in his day.

I don’t deserve to be the ocean blue

But I want thee to be the white beach sand

The sandy beach stretching calmly its hue

Under the crystal sun

The comely beach of yellow sand

Extending to the rows of pine

So dreamily and quietly

For eons by the roaring brine

Let me be the clear turquoise swells

That kiss ceaseless thy yellow sand

The gentle kiss that often dwells

The quiet kiss that has no end

I will kiss thee again, again

From here clear to eternity

Till none of this wide world remains

Before my heat can beat calmly

There’s times when I would fain surge in

As if to crush thy edges dear

It’s when my billows roar passion

To drown thee is ceaseless love sheer

I don’t deserve to be the ocean blue

But want to be the turquoise sea

To sing eternal songs by thee

In endless love for thee dear true

So when the foam comes boiling white

And wind gusts in from everywhere

Insatiably I will kiss with might

Cause I love so thy sand edge bare.

BIO: A professional artist and author of A Week in Hoi An, Bridget Marchspecializes in urban landscapes and aims to reveal the hidden treasures of city life and small town cultures through her illustrations. Bridget offers art classes and sketching tours in Ho Chi Minh City. For more of Bridget’s work, visit bridgetmarch.co.uk

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

Top 5 Effective Ways to Promote a Video Production Company

When it comes to starting your own production company, it’s a lot harder than said, and finding the right customers and building a clientele is another mountain to climb on its own. In the past couple of years, we have seen a sudden growth in video marketing. The video format dominates the current digital landscape

Read More »

“Arts for Smiles” Painting & Exhibition Week in the South of Hoi An

Every year typically has a few defining moments, but the past nine months, affected by the coronavirus pandemic have contained so many world-changing, paradigm-shifting developments that it’s getting hard to believe we’re not in a simulation that’s running every possible scenario at once. With a pandemic still raging, waves of social change swelling around the

Read More »

CH House

The house is designed for three family generations who wanted to create a harmonious space in the hectic city (Hanoi) in order to enhance traditional  family life. The site of the house is a typical plot for long and narrow local tube houses; with CH house the dimensions are –  4,2 m  wide by 35

Read More »

#Photojournalism

From climate change protests to democratic uprisings against biased and violent authorities, it is clear that 2019 has been a pivotal year for citizens all over the world. It’s in this context that mobile app Agora launched its first#Photojournalism photo competition, with the objective to give photographers a way to shed light on specific issues. 

Read More »

Soweto

Soweto, deriving from South Western Township, was established in the 1930s to remove native people from the capital cities and neighboring areas. The first permanent housing erected in this area were the mining houses: long dormitory-style buildings where only men and mineworkers could live. The nearby goldmines are all but exhausted but the large yellow

Read More »

The Walking Machine

Local metalworker Ly Minh Tien builds a spider-like walking machine to raise awareness on environmental issues A riddle: what has 12 legs, six on either side, and is made of metal? It’s not a metal spider, but that guess isn’t far off. A fitting comparison: “You know the movie Wild Wild West?”, its builder and

Read More »