Last year I met Sasa Simpraga in Berlin where we attended a conference ‘Global Community Forum:Truth, Justice & Remembrance‘. When I introduced myself as a writer from Cambodia, Sasa introduced me the concept of 50 Poems for Snow. It was an intimate, close-knit, and informal event where poets in Europe would gather on the first day of snow to read poems. I think it was a possibility to its version in Phnom Penh Cambodia. After a year, we organised the 50 Poems For Flood’ event. It was organised at the Meta House. This blog I write about the event and introduced some of the poems that were read and also discuss why poetry is so much fun.
I had a talk with Chheangly for such a long time about organising it. So, we thought we don’t have snow. What do we have? Well then we have rain season, dry season, flood, palm trees etc. So, we might need to call it for one of those problems we have. Finally, decided to go with 50 Poems for Flood. Chheangly and Sokorn created a public event on Slap Paka Khmer page. Rather than having a big formal event, we just aimed for a small gathering of people who love poetry and have some drinks and have fun.
Consequently, there were 12 people came. We took turn reading a few poems each. Some chose to listen. Below are some photos and poems that I tried to translate from Khmer.
One of the poems is ‘An Open Letter to Khun Srun’ written in Khmer and recited by poet Yeng Chheangly. Khun Srun was a social critical writer during the 70s. He was arrested and put to jail at least twice by the authority . I am not so clear why but I believe that was because of what he had written critically about the regime of that time. He was later killed by the Khmer Rouge. He left behind many literary works with great metaphors. He has touched many poets in this generations. I’m sure Chheangly is one of them that is touched by Khun Srun’s literary philosophy. Below are the poems.
An Open Letter to Uncle Khun Srun
(Written by Yeng Chheangly)
Dear uncle, I still remember
When you whisper to your wife at your last breath
You asked her to bury your dead body-
-under a mango tree, not in a coffin
With a graceful purpose to save a tree
Dear uncle, I also remember you mention
Please do not put your dead body in a cementry
To save a plot of land for farmers
So that the Khmers could farms freely
They would have plenty of rice
Dear uncle, the trees that you care about
They have gone far away
We are not aware where they would gone
Not remain for the Khmers.
Even the farmland that you care
They sold all completely
That’s all I want to tell you today.
(Style Inspired from the Fried Noodle Chin Meas)
Kor Sokorn also read a few poems. Personally, I also believe that his writing style also exhibits a great deal of influence from Khun Srun. Here is one of his poems.
You are boastful and so do I
We both are boastful
Why do you only blame me I boast alone?
How about you foolish boastful?
I also read two poems. One of which is ‘They Are Leaving’. This poem is about how I observe people, including myself, who are passive toward the society. We only complaint about issues we face on daily basis. It is a free verse originally written in Khmer.
They are leaving for a better life.
One after one they leave with great pleasure.
They are leaving.
They said breathing is hard here
Full of trashes everywhere.
People do not even know how to throw trashes in the trash bin.
People do not know what are the colors of the traffic light.
So they are leaving.
They continue to shout ‘injustice’ from their very mouth
Too bad this and too bad there
The voice is too soft and so low
The voice does not leave the town center
Not reach to farmers who are the owners of the nation.
I am a house that you had abandoned.
I used to be a house that gives you love and compassion.
I am the shelter for everyone. Now, you have no longer value me.
I have to swallow thousands of stories in darkness.
I left a shallow light for you so that you get to understand me.
Now the darkness swallow me
There is only little light left at the window
I have buried with me all the good deeds
but I wishfully and gradually deteriorate in secret.
It was such a fun gathering. Everyone was happy. I believe that poetry is fun because it brings us to many places around us. It also brings new knowledge and aware of slight little things that we didn’t aware before. Some poems can start a fire in our stomach. It can make our heart ached. Though poetry can be very charming and seductive, you should be very careful too because really great poetry can change you! You might be a new person after reading just a single poetry.
We hope to organise such a gathering again in the near future.