Phan Nhiên Hạo | A Guide on how to write (6)

Phan Nhiên Hạo is a Vietnamese-American poet and translator, living in the United States. He was born in Kontum, Vietnam, came to the US in 1991 and now lives in Illinois. — Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the poet and translator, born 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

Phan Nhiên Hạo | A Guide on how to write (6)

By Phan Nhiên Hạo, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

A guide on how to write


Write as sweetly as a nail is nailed into wood.

Write as fast as the wind through an infected village.

Write as quietly as the coal shimmering slowly in the heart of the earth.

Write with the veracity of a lion about to pounce on its prey.

Write with the care of a ship meandering through a fog in the early light.

Write with the sensitivity of a dragonfly facing a storm.

Write joy upon the sand and connect them.

Write sadness upon the water and wait for the currents to carry them away.

Write loneliness upon a lantern then patiently wait for the candle to completely burnout.

You could write as shortly as you like but don’t forget the verbs,

the stagnation causative of the flooding of each and every punctuation.

Write after the sunset but never upon the rise of the eastern light,

that’s the bewitching hour upon the return of the spirits,

in a hunt for the burnt offerings.

Write as much as possible when drunk then throw it down the river when lucid,

within the inebriation try not to exaggerate.

Write the lost of death but never invite the trumpets,

the kind of music covered in plastic that can but suffocates the dead. 


Write whatever you want but write it probably

at a high melting point the vernacular slithering.

Write with the chill of a winter’s day in Oymyakon.

Write until you’re as sweaty as a day spent in a Dallol summer.

Write like the rolling meadows or New York either is fine,

but don’t wave a stick around, drunks are not blind,

even though they may barely stand up.

rite in desperation but wait for the moon to at least fall upon the church steeple.

Write with hope as though you’re waiting for your wife to give birth in Từ Dũ.

Write as though nothing was ever forgotten like six years ago,

the beautiful woman with twelve fingers in Bangkok.

Write with the imagination of a child,

listening the night long to the call of street vendors.

Write handsomely but avoid the contradicting double meanings.

Write beautifully but avoid the cheap make up.

Write amidst the crowd but independently,

wear around the neck the board “Do not disturb.”

At the square where nameless people were shot down,

note their faces in blood and not wash your hands,

until the bubbling freedom spreads like soap suds,

erases the dirty stain of history.

(October 2021)

Thanks for sharing 💛🌟