Vietnamese poets, across various periods, have left an enduring legacy with their famous works which delve into the nation's historical and cultural nuances. If you are a poem lover, don't miss out on this article to explore the brilliance of 10 famous Vietnamese poets who have shaped the local literary landscape with their impactful verses.
1. Nguyen Du
When it comes to Vietnamese poetry, one must mention the great poet Nguyen Du (1765 - 1820). He was born into an aristocratic family in Thang Long Imperial City (former Hanoi). Considered a World Cultural Figure, this Vietnamese poet devoted his life to Vietnamese culture and literature. His monumental legacy includes three collections in Han and Nom script: Thanh Hien Thi Tap, Nam Trung Tap Ngam, and Bac Hanh Tap Luc.
Nguyen Du’s most renowned work is The Tale of Kieu. This masterpiece reflects the perspective of a humanist and realist poet whose heart was profoundly moved by the lives of the unfortunate. It praises the beauty of true love and loyalty, as well as an unwavering hope for justice.
2. Nguyen Khuyen - one of the most famous Vietnamese poets
As a prominent Confucian poet, Nguyen Khuyen (1835 - 1909) excelled not only as a superb lyrical poet but also as a leading satirical poet, leaving behind a legacy of over 800 works. His verses intricately depicted the essence of Vietnam on two fronts - the intrinsic nature of the homeland and the soulful essence of the people. Nguyen Khuyen can be credited as the first and most successful poet to capture the essence of the countryside. Among this Vietnamese poet’s notable works are Que Son, Yen Do, A Home Visit of a Friend, and, notably, three outstanding poems: Fishing in Autumn, Drinking in Autumn, and Versing on Autumn. Through these masterpieces, he reached the zenith of poetic expression, eloquently praising the idyllic village life of Vietnam.
3. Nguyen Binh Khiem
Nguyen Binh Khiem (1491 - 1585) was one of the significant Vietnamese poets who made substantial contributions to developing Nom literature. Nguyen Binh Khiem's poetry guided readers to "touch reality," offering a perspective on life through clear and eloquent prose that delved straight to the core. Influenced by Confucianism, ethical principles played a significant role in his poetry, particularly the moral duty within family relationships. His renowned poetry collections include Bach Van Am Thi Tap and Bach Van Quoc Ngu Thi Tap, featuring standout poems like The Duty of a Child, "The Changing World, Speaking of Wealth, Good and Evil, and more.
4. Xuan Dieu - the “king” of Vietnamese love poetry
Xuan Dieu (1916 - 1985) earned the title of the “king” of love poetry. He had over 400 poems that vividly expressed a spirited and passionate soul. Xuan Dieu's poetic repertoire revolves around the timeless themes of home, love, and nature. His poetry is characterized by its rich tonality, resonant voice, and lyrical tone. Among his notable works are Poetry, Send Incense to the Wind, National Flag, and My Soul Has Wings. A particularly renowned work of his is Voi Vang, which captivates with its soaring rhythm and lays bare the fervor of youth.
5. Han Mac Tu
Han Mac Tu (1912 - 1940) is among the most famous Vietnamese people regarding Vietnamese poetry. In addition to verses that explore madness, intoxication, and surrealism, his poetic voice also encompasses a more romantic, profound tone, expressing a deep, ardent love for life and an intense desire for human connection that burns passionately. Perhaps it is from the challenges of battling a severe illness for much of his life, the weariness of life, and the haunting interplay between reality and dreams that his subconscious soared, giving rise to surreal imagery against a backdrop of romance. Some standout works by this Vietnamese poet include Ripe Spring, Vi Da Hamlet, Sleeping with the Moon, and Wandering. These titles evoke a poetic beauty while also eliciting a sense of restlessness, loneliness, and melancholy.
6. To Huu - a great Vietnamese poet of the 20th century
To Huu (1920 - 2002) stood as one of the eminent Vietnamese poets of the 20th century. Recognized as the poet of the people and the founder of Vietnam's revolutionary poetry, To Huu's verses intricately mirrored the political and historical landscape of Vietnam at the time. His profound love for the nation, coupled with immense joy derived from the revolution and remarkable achievements of Vietnamese people, resonates through his poetry. To Huu's poems serve as a remarkable example of a seamless blending of politics and art. His several famous poems aimed to uplift the spirits of revolutionary soldiers and the people, such as Luom, Hooray Dien Bien Soldiers, Vietnam - Blood and Flowers, From Cuba, Viet Bac, and Tu Ay.
7. Phan Boi Chau
Phan Boi Chau (1867 - 1940) was a Vietnamese revolutionary figure in the anti-French movement. Phan Boi Chau's poetry reflects a progressive love for the nation, advocating unity and heroism. Through his works, readers can perceive a sincere and passionate writing style characterized by simplicity to achieve propagandist goals. Notable pieces such as Luu Cau Huyet Le Tan Thu, Nguc Trung Thu, and Hai Ngoai Huyet Thu vividly express his hatred for the enemies, showcase his love for fellow countrymen, convey his political viewpoints, and underline the readiness to sacrifice oneself for the country.
8. Che Lan Vien - a modern Vietnamese poet
Amidst the New Poetry movement, Che Lan Vien (1920 - 1989) stood out. In the tapestry of romantic poets, he had a world of artistic discourse and intellectual thoughts. In his notable work Dieu Tan, he showcased the aesthetics of romantic poetry and surrealism, featuring common themes of sadness and a touch of madness. Following the success of the August Revolution in 1945, Che Lan Vien's poetic journey underwent a radical shift, embracing the socialist realism aesthetic of revolutionary poetry. Some highlighted poetry collections from this period include To My Comrades, Light and Ash, Flowers on Rocks, and The One Seeking the Shape of the Nation.
9. Tan Da
The famous Vietnamese poet Tan Da (1889 - 1939) had a romantic soul and the idea of being "carefree and distinctive." He was acknowledged as a precursor to the emergence of modern poetry in Vietnamese literature. Tan Da's poetry often expresses a sense of enchantment in the realm of dreams. While embodying a philosophy of liberation, some of his poems also carry a subtle, underlying critique of reality. Some notable works that capture the essence of his poetic spirit include Spirit of the Homeland, Aspiring to be the Moon Boy, Drinking with Tan Da, Life is Tedious, and A Joyful Scene of the Poor Household.
10. Xuan Quynh - one of the best female Vietnamese poets
Xuan Quynh (1942 - 1988) stood as one of the leading female Vietnamese poets in the second half of the 20th century. The central themes in Xuan Quynh's poems often delve into the inner self, memories of childhood, family love, and more. Her poetry tends to be introspective, focusing heavily on personal emotions and intimately tying them to the harsh realities of life during a period of war in the country. Xuan Quynh's verses are rich in emotions, featuring a spectrum of feelings and a subtle sophistication. Some of her Vietnamese poems about love that continue to resonate to this day include Boat and Sea, Waves, Late Autumn Love Poem, and The Heart Sings.
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Vietnamese poets, with their eloquent verses echoing through the ages, stand as cultural architects shaping the soul of Vietnam. Their timeless works weaved a poetic tapestry that transcends borders. From classic to contemporary voices, these famous Vietnamese poets have left an indelible mark, inviting readers to explore the depths of the nation's literary treasures and discover the profound beauty encapsulated in each carefully crafted word.