• Today is: Tuesday, November 12, 2019

50 Poems for Flood

Phina So
November18/ 2018

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.  

San Sothea also read a piece. He told that it was written during a contemporary poetry workshop with Chheangly and another female poet Heng Raksmey. Here is the translation!

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.

Besides, writer Soy Sina and Sok Chanphal, Vong Socheata and Teav Bandol also read their poems. I asked Tola to read ‘Someone Has Already Taken’, another poem, but she didn’t.

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.