Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hô Xuân Huong

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Ho Xuan Huong-whose name translates as “Spring Essence”-is one of the most important and popular poets in Vietnam. A concubine, she became renowned for her poetic skills, writing subtly risque poems which used double entendre and sexual innuendo as a vehicle for social, religious, and political commentary.

The publication of Spring Essence is a major historical and cultural event. It features a “tri-graphic” presentation of English translations alongside both the modern Vietnamese alphabet and the nearly extinct calligraphic Nom writing system, the hand-drawn calligraphy in which Ho Xuan Huong originally wrote her poems.

It represents the first time that this calligraphy-the carrier of Vietnamese culture for over a thousand years-will be printed using moveable type. From the technology demonstrated in this book scholars worldwide can begin to recover an important part of Vietnam’s literary history. Meanwhile, readers of all interests will be fascinated by the poetry of Ho Xuan Huong, and the scholarship of John Balaban.

“In the simple landscape of daily objects-jackfruit, river snails, a loom, a chess set, and perhaps most famously a paper fan-Ho found metaphors for sex, which turned into trenchant indictments of the plight of women and the arrogance, hypocrisy and corruption of men… Balaban’s deft translations are a beautiful and significant contribution to the West’s growing awareness of Vietnam’s splendid literary heritage.” The New York Times

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