DAN PHUNG Poetry – A Vietlish Analysis

August 24, 2009

Extract from Joseph Hieu Dinh’s Blog: www.jhdinh.blogspot.com

MDXULast Tuesday, I had the opportunity to visit this amazing grandmother. Her name is Dan Phung, an internationally renown poet, whose works have once been published exclusively for Saigon Times and Van Nghe newspaper. Its quite ironic that she prefers a quiet lifestyle, in an old Bankstown unit, considering such a big name she’s established.

Learning that her age is 87, almost like my very own grandfather, I respectfully apologised and began addressing her as “Ba” instead of “Bac.” She smiled gracefully – it was one of those rare moments – it’s not every day a young Australian-born asks her about poetry and I felt blessed to have the Vietnamese skills, enough to be able to share a couple of laughs with her, and be inspired by her collection of poetry.

As gift, she gave me an original copy of four poems she’s written; each one describing a different season of the year (including the to-be released poem about Spring – September 2009). I asked her for permission to have it translated, to have her work appreciated by others. Here goes:


 Mùa Đông xứ Úc cũng vui thay !
Đào vẫn đơm bông…cúc nở dầy…
Ngoài cửa nàng Xuân đang ngấp nghé
Trong ta tâm sự cũng ngây ngây… !
Nhớ sao một bóng hình yêu dấu !?
Gợi mãi ngày xưa hạnh phúc đầy
Nay cảnh dẫu thơ, tình dẫu đẹp
Vắng tri âm, mộng chẳng hoài xây !

Dan Phung

Winter in Australia still brings about joy
The peach-blossoms develops; the yellow-perennial bloom,
Over the window,
The covetous eyes rests upon the emerging ‘Miss’ Spring.
Beautiful thoughts drifting in my heart !
I cannot stop reminiscing those loving images,
Of those happier days together.
No matter how poetic a place can be,
No matter what love can now promise to bring
Without your presence, thoughts keep building inside me.

MDXU1ANALYSIS: This is an octave poem (8-line), each lines composed with seven words. Other Vietnamese poetic techniques were used, which are yet for me to discover and learn. Feminist influences led to beautiful seasons being addressed as “Nang Xuan” (Miss Spring). This poem was written in the context of the 10th Anniversary of the passing-away of the poet’s husband. It was the love of poetry that they had in common, and the change-of-emotion is seen as the poem progresses: the first four line’s description of nature’s beauty contrasts with the final four lines in which the persona reminices the past.

Hope to hear your responses, suggestions and guidance to improve this brief poetry analysis: info@josephdinh.com


Pho Vs Hu Tieu

August 5, 2009

(Taken from Joseph Dinh’s blog: www.jhdinh.blogspot.com)

The table is cleaned. The patrons seat themselves. Momentarily, the waiter arrives with a pot of freshly brewed tea. He stands there patiently with his notepad as the patrons flick through the menu.

So many dishes. So many to choose from. However, once again the patrons choose the most popular dish. The waiter takes out his pen and jots down the order: “Two bowls of Pho”.

For now it seems that the battle has ended. A clear victor has claimed the prize. Pho. in all its sliced-beef glory, has toppled all contenders to become ‘the’ dish of Vietnamese cuisine. It has gained the coveted status of being what marketers would call “top of mind awareness”. Mention Vietnamese cuisine to anyone and the first thing to pop into their mind would most likely be a steamy bowl of Pho. It is for the Vietnamese what pizza is for the Italians, what tabouli is for the Lebanese and what sushi is for the Japanese.

Its massed concentrated attack strategy so far has proved successful. The taste buds are won over by the multitudes of thin beef slices which explode with flavour upon every bite. The succulent, moist rice noodles provide the perfect balance to the texture of the beef. The chewy beef sinew and other beef products provide further interesting notes. Nothing stands a chance against its beef battalions. Surely, it would be foolish if another Vietnamese dish were to draw battle lines and fight directly with such a foe. Who can outnumber Pho’s beef? Who can undermine its hold upon the title?

The restaurant door swings open. In walks a regular patron. He seats himself and the waiter arrives. The order is not Pho this time. Taking the order, the waiter passes it along to the chef.

In the kitchen a humble dish, revered by many, is being prepared. Underappreciated, it has always been in the shadow of Pho. It has a strong following yet has not reached the point where it can be seen as an equal of Pho. Its name is Hu Tieu.

Realising that it can never compete with Pho directly, Hu Tieu has chosen a rather interesting strategy for victory over the taste buds. It adopts subtle manoeuvres, with different units attacking in succession. What it lacks in numbers it makes up for in variety.

Hu Tieu is served. An array of flavours and textures burst to life on the palette. A bite into a tender qual egg releases the yellow sweet yolk. A munch on the crispy fat crouton sends a wave of rich savoury goodness through to the taste buds. The chewy sweet marinated pork slices enchant the taste buds. The egg noodles, with their slight crunch, give further flavour. So many flavours. So many textures.

And so the battle rages on. Are we seeing the dawning of a new era? The era of Hu Tieu brought about by its subtleness and variety? Or will Pho’s huge blasts of beef still prove decisive? For now it seems that the battle is in Pho’s favour.

Another group of patrons arrive. The waiter scuttles over with the tea.

With a smile, he asks, “What will it be today?”

He jots it down. And hurries back to the kitchen.

Pholicious Restaurant – 1 year Anniversary celebrations
(Cnr Ward & Slater, Fountain Valley, California)

P1: Joseph Hieu Dinh, Jonathan Huynh (owner) and friends Don Ho, Loan Chau, husband Huy, Linda Trang Dai
P2: Jonathan Huynh (owner) and Nhu Quynh (daughter Melody and husband Thang), Don Ho, Cong Thanh & Lynn