Reading naughty Vietnamese poems
I was looking for my favourite Korean food place at the Windmill food-court at Holland Village in Singapore and I found that they had moved out.
It was always nice to talk to the lady running the place. She would keep me updated on the current Korean food scene in the city. Some consolation though; the new stall serves Vietnamese food and is run by equally kindly women from Vietnam. They were happy when I mentioned that I have been to their hometowns.
It always seemed easier to make friends with immigrants. I guess a little bit of connection, like having been to their hometowns or knowing how to speak a few phrases in their language is enough to bring up smiles. Coincidentally, I have also been re-reading poems by a Vietnamese poetess who lived in the 17th century.
Ho Xuan Huong was a rarity as she wrote at a time in Vietnamese history when under the influence of Confucianism from China, the status of a woman in Vietnamese society had suffered. Spring Essence is a collection of poems translated by John Balaban.
Ho Xuan Huong also wrote poems with double meanings, often sexual in nature.
Ho Xuan Huong used Nom, a writing system that uses Chinese characters for sound only. Most Vietnamese poets at that time used to write in proper Chinese — a language of the elite.
Below is another naughty poem by Ho Xuan Huong. Can you guess what she is talking about?
And how about this one?
There is also some speculation that many of these are just folk verses that were attributed to Ho Xuan Huong.