Two Poems by Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng, Writing in Vietnamese as Thường Quán, With English Translations by Ian Campbell and Tony Chu

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Thường Quán
Ian Campbell
Tony Chu


The poems ‘Ngoài Giấc Ngủ’ and ‘Hiện Ra’ were included in the book poetry collection—also titled Ngoài Giấc Ngủ—published in California, USA, in 1990 and featuring sixty-seven poems by Melbourne-based Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng, writing under the pen name, Thường Quán. In 1994 the Journal of Vietnamese Studies (Melbourne) published the poem ‘Ngoài Giấc Ngủ,’ together with a first English language version co-translation, titled ‘Beyond,’ by Ian Campbell and Tony Chu. An adaptation of the poem was sung in Vietnamese ngâm style by Thu Huong Huynh, as part of ‘A Spring Evening of Poetry, Translated Verse and Music’ held in 1995 in Sydney to mark 50 years of post-war migration to Australia. The English language version later appeared in 1996, with the original poem in Vietnamese, in a Sydney-based Vietnamese language newspaper, and in 2002 the English language translation appeared again in Sunlines: An Anthology of Poetry to Celebrate Australia’s Harmony in Diversity, edited by Anne Fairbairn (Canberra: Dept. of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 2002). Most recently the English language co-translation of the poem has appeared in Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng’s collection, Captive and Temporal, published by Vagabond Press (Sydney and Tokyo, 2017). The poem, ‘Ngoài Giấc Ngủ,’ now appears in its Vietnamese language original form (1990), and in an English language co-translation by Chu and Campbell which varies slightly from all previous translations. An English language version of the poem, ‘Hiện Ra,, has never been previously published and appears now in a co-translation as ‘Becoming Visible,’ together with the 1990 poem in its original Vietnamese language version.

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Author Biographies

Thường Quán

Born in 1956 in Danang, Vietnam Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng arrived in Australia in 1974 on a Colombo Plan scholarship. In writing poetry and literary essays in Vietnamese over more than thirty years he has generally used the pen name, Thường Quán. However, as Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng, his English language poems have been featured in the Poetry International Web series of Australian poets— (accessed 2 August 2018) as well as in a number of Australian poetry book collections, most recent being Captive and Temporal, published by Vagabond Press in its Australia Series——which collection was short-listed for both the 2018 Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and the Mary Gilmore Award in 2018.

Ian Campbell, Honorary Research Associate, Department of International Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney

Ian worked as an Australian public servant in Sydney for over thirty years, developing an interest in literatures, and translation, in various languages. His prior contributions to PORTAL are: Selatan-Sur-South, an e-collection of his own Indonesian language poems in Vol. 5, No.1, 2008; and two newer poems in Indonesian, with English self-translations, in 2017, Vol. 14, No.1.

Tony Chu

Tony Chu lived in (South) Vietnam before coming to Australia. After working in the Australian public service in Sydney, and then as a solicitor, he now enjoys reading in English, French and Vietnamese.