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Poets Printery

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Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong by PGR Nair

Ho Xuan Huong (1772-1822) was a Vietnamese woman poet born at the end of the Later Le Dynasty (Period 1428–1788: the greatest and longest lasting dynasty of traditional Vietnam) who wrote poems with unusual irreverence and shockingly erotic undertones for her time. She is considered as one of Vietnam’s greatest poets, such that she is dubbed “the Queen of Nom Poetry” and has become a cultural symbol of Vietnam. I came across her name first in a travel guide where one of her poems was listed. It led me to search more of her poems. It was a sheer delight to read her poems in the book titled “Spring Essence”, which is what her name means in Vietnamese language.

The epoch she lived was marked by calamity and social disintegration. A concubine, although a high-ranking one, Ho Xuan followed Chinese classical styles in her poetry, but preferred to write poetry in an extinct ideographic script known as Nom, similar to Chinese but representing Vietnamese. And while her prosody followed traditional forms, her poems were anything but conventional: Whether mountain landscapes, or longings after love, or apparently about such common things as a fan, weaving, some fruit, or even a river snail, almost all her poems were double entendres with hidden sexual meaning.
Further reading of her sensual poetry, please click on this link

With the kind permission from and the author P.G.R. Nair


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