1. Brief description of project

Bilingual (English – Vietnamese) essays on the marginalization in Vietnamese contemporary poetry: essential matters and avant-garde poets in Hậu Đổi Mới period (Post–Renovation).

2. Background and rationale for the project

After the setback of the wave Đổi Mới, since 1994 up to present, in the Hậu Đổi Mới period, marginal Vietnamese literature has emerged and strongly developed into a considerable counter-cultural power. Underground literature, in parallelism with the contemporary trends of independent visual-art, cinema and music, promotes emancipatory aspects of arts, representing an international phenomenon, which is especially observed in countries in post-communism or Third World countries.

The process of marginalization, marked by pioneering authors, who have strong political–cultural consciousness and a desire to revolutionize literature, has raised controversial issues. Particularly, in poetry, heated “marginal” debates on samizdat, feminism, alternative poetry and soon have been inspired by the underground group Mở Miệng (Open Mouth), with their publishing house Giấy Vụn (Scrap Publishers) as a “mouthpiece” for “sidewalk” literature, “garbage poetry”, “cemetery poetry” “dirty poetry”, and other marginal groups such as Tùy Tiện (At Random), Cửa (Door), Da Vàng (Yellow Skin), Ngựa Trời, etc.

Until now, these issues and the groups, despite having attracted attention from at least intellectual and art communities as a symbol of artists’ struggle for both renovation of Vietnamese literature and freedom of speech, have not been officially recognized and reported in mainstream media, propaganda instruments of the Communist Party. Additionally, governmental authorities, afraid that underground literature would undermine the official ideologies, are applying measures to prevent and suppress its growth. As a result, many authors have lost their right to publish. However, many marginal authors have affirmed their independent personal viewpoints toward art and social issues. A number of writers and poets in Vietnam have marginalized themselves as an active strategy to maintain their independence in art and life. Some well-known authors and critics of Vietnamese Diaspora literature have established numerous websites to empower diverse voices. Prominent examples are Damau, Tienve, and Talawas, art forums respectively based in the United States, Australia and Germany.

While underground voices have been influential during the last decades, there has been no considerable research on contemporary poetry. My proposed project would be the first serious attempt to make a comprehensive investigation into the issues and processes of underground literature. This project develops from my M.A thesis for philosophy at Hanoi National University of Education titled The Marginal position: Open-Mouth Group's poetic experiments from a cultural perspective. (Open–Mouth group is the most considerable phenomenon in marginalization in Vietnamese contemporary poetry for the last decades).

3. Aims / Objective / Goals of project

The project is to result in 10-15 critical essays that focus on the forming of underground poetry, its development, its (dis)continuation with the Vietnamese poetry tradition, and its marginal existence in the contemporary context of Vietnam. Among the most important questions to be explored are: In what contexts has contemporary underground poetry emerged? What have been its impacts on Vietnamese poetry and society today? What are the disruptions of contemporary poetry in comparison with “traditional notions” or “outdated notions” in Vietnamese poetry? What are the differences/similarities between the trend and movements such as Dadaism and some regional cultural phenomena such as Xiao men Dada and Political Art in Chinese contemporary art? More specifically, significant problems such as gender in women’s poetry, samizdat, censorship and artist’s choices, the development processes of experimental poetry on the internet, “postmodernism”, or so–called “Vietnamese postmodernism” in poetry would be discussed.

It is expected that the essays will not only provide insights into contemporary Vietnamese underground poetry but also encourage new ways of thinking about cultural problems in Vietnam. The project can be considered as conservations between Vietnamese generations as well as between local and regional artists. Moreover, the creative experiences of Vietnamese authors would be a precious reference for artists in Asian areas that share political–cultural characteristics. The project would not only help authors develop deeper awareness of their conditions and limits but also foster the diversity of voices in presenting identities in globalization.

4. Methodology / Implementation of project

The realization of this project would experience in four stages. Each stages has its own particular task.

Phase I: Research

Since its complex sources, it would require the collection of various types of materials about contemporary poetry, literature and art as well as political – cultural issues in general. It is necessary to collect not only the writing of underground poets but also the debates around this literary phenomenon as well as a lot of polemics that these authors engage in. In this stage, I intend to interview directly some authors among these underground writers. Besides that, I would like to make a documentary film to serve my project (the film is not included in the grant proposal). This film, if it could be finished, is also a contribution to understand these underground voices.

Phase II: Creating & translating essays

In this stage, I must finish 10-15 essays based on the materials collected from the first stage. I would like to experiment “freedom” critical forms, with the use of a hybrid forms/approaches rather than the conventional styles. Some key concepts of feminism, political–cultural study, and deconstruction would be applied into my literary essays accompanied with my personal perspective and experience as an independent young writer.

I need to look for a collaborator who helps me translate my essays into English.

Phase III: Workshop & Discussion

This work will be presented to art and literary community via some workshops/discussions (expectantly held in Oct, 2011).

I would like to invite authors who appeared in my essays to join in these seminars. And these seminars are open to common readers.

Phase IV: Publish a book of bilingual essays

My essays would be arranged into a book and then, like other my books, I intend to find opportunities to publish in Vietnam. I also hope for a chance to introduce my book to oversea reading public with English translation.

The funding from this grant will be used for the research and production phase of the project, especially in finding collaborator to translate my work into English and holding a workshop about Underground voices. At the end of this phase, I will have finished my draft book that will be available to publish. Publication will not be included in the grant proposal.

5. Time Frame

Phase I: November 2010 - March 2011

Phase II: March 2011- September 2011.

Phase III: A discussion would be held in Oct, 2011 in Ho Chi Minh City and/or Hanoi.

Phase IV: From October 2011

6. Projected output of project (Is it a workshop, a discussion, a showing, etc.?)

- The archives of research materials are personal documents.

- 10-15 essays will be published.

- At least a discussion about underground voices (furthermore, some discussions will be held in universities and art centers).

- The end product of the project will be a book of essay and (maybe) a short documentary film.

7. Who is your target audience for your project?

Literary and arts communities both within and outside of Vietnam, not only Vietnamese but also Asian readers would be project’s target audience. This project is especially oriented to younger artists and poets as well as students in humanity departments.

Additionally, I hope my project also will attract a huge number of common readers as well, who are interested in contemporary Vietnamese poetry and Vietnam.

8. How do you propose to disseminate information about the project to your target audience?

To introduce this project to the target audience, firstly I intend to publish my essays in some prominent Vietnamese magazines such as Tienve, Damau, which are important and open literary and arts forums in Vietnam today. In fact, many significant discussions about literary, art as well as political – cultural issues which attract avant-garde poets and writer, critics and “new readers” are held on these forums, although they are labeled as “unofficial media”. I also think of publishing some of these essays in Youth’s Literary and Arts (Van Nghe Tre), one of “official magazines” (but I really think it’s more difficult for my essays to be accepted by official media in Vietnam).

With good translations, I intend to publish in Asia and other English magazines.

Of course, I will create a menu to present this project through my website I believe that there are many ways to promote my project and to broaden reader with supplement of Internet.

At least a discussion/workshop will be held in universities (such as Hanoi National university of Education, Ho Chi Minh National University of Human and Social Sciences where I can contact directly) and art centers. For these events, I plan to distribute a little amount of printed version and catalogue of project.

As with my previous books, I plan to submit Underground voices to publishing house in Vietnam as well as publish an eBook on Internet. I believe that my work will have great potentials for publication. When the publication comes out, the Publishing House will organize a large press conference to announce it worthily.

9. How do you think your project will create impact on the art communities/the cultures that you want to engage with? How will it develop the field of your art form?

As mentioned above, although underground voices ‘development during the last decades, there has been no considerable work or book of underground voices in Vietnam published by any Vietnamese institutions. On the other hand, strange and curious eyes of the Vietnamese mainstream media have seen them. This fact must be changed and my project is a contribution to change it. I strongly believe that the project would raise many considerable questions, which are not yet paid attention. What’s Vietnamese contemporary poetry? What are its essential issues and prominent authors? Why are marginal phenomena not accepted up to now, even if with Open the Door policy of State?

In fact, most of considerable young poets and artist choose another way without dependence of state mechanism to speak their voices. My project, with personal experience from a marginal position, “in – between” position of myself, will encourage independent artists, who are not only interested in their Vietnam's contemporary art but also trying to give out their voices internationally.

It is the fact that there are not many straight voices that confront with many contemporary issues in poetry criticism in particular and in literature and arts in general in current Vietnamese cultural context. The lack of new knowledge as well as methodologies accompanied with a non-biased vision about political and social is also another problem of art criticism. Personally, this project is also to find my own path in literature and to seek new creative possibilities to present myself. I hope this project - of course, this is a big ambition - will be not only a personal work but also an effort to speak out notable contemporary voices. The project will greatly help not only me develop as poetry and critic but also it would be encouragement many independent voices in general, particularly young generations.

Contact: Nhã Thuyên (Ms)
Address: No. 9, 164/9 Alley, Hong Mai Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
Phone: +84. 0914 262 487
Home: +84. 046275080