While we were watching ‘Poetry in Motion’ at the 3rd Bramaputra Literary Festival, I said to Chheangly ‘We have to do this when we go back!’. As always Chheangly said ‘Yes it is a great idea.’ And we did it. This blog I write about our experiences and share some reflections with you.
Our event was on March 1st, 2019 at Meta House. There were YENG Chheangly, and SOK Chanphal and myself. When I told this to my colleague Jean-Baptiste Phou, he was interested with the idea and fortunately agreed to help directing the performance. First, we sent all the poems (three each) to him so that he can generate some ideas. Then, we met at a local restaurant followed by an actual rehearsal for almost the whole morning of the next day. The rehearsal was so funny, a great and enjoyable learning experiences for all of us. We laughed. We concentrated and really committed to it.
The photo above is a scene when I performed a poem ‘I’m Floating’, a poem written for a sex worker whom lost her life during a violent and inhuman raid of the municipality security force. She died as a result to which she fled the chase and then slipped into the Tonle Sap river. They left her to die although she called for help multiple times. It is a seven syllabus form of Khmer poetry. As you can see the men. They turned their backs to me. It represents how the heartless men who left the woman to die. In the poem, I chose to write about the Mekong rather than Tonle Sap as I believe that the Mokong represents more women in the region.
The photo above is a scene from reading my poem ‘The Poet’, an imaginary sensual poem. I wrote his poem in English. Followed by my performance, Achariya slowly stood up and performed ‘I, Myself’, a poem written in free verse by SOK Chanphal.
One thing I noticed is that we three wrote three poems at different times with the same genre and same titles ‘When Rain Falls’. My poem ‘When Rain Falls’ is a story about a lonely woman longs for her husband’s return during a rainy night. Of course it is a roman genre. Chheangly’s poem ‘When Rain Falls’ is an observation he witnessed at a Delhi street. This poem is special because he features my corresponded poem within his. Similarly, Chanphal’s ‘When Rain Falls’ is also an experience of seeing the suffering, inequality, and poetry of his countrymen when he traveled through a rainy night in Phnom Penh. We later decided to keep the same titles.
I did enjoy the performance. I wish to have such sessions again in the future. I believe Khmer poetry needs creative tastes to add to its existing beauty, aesthetics, and meanings. While I strongly believe that we need to preserve our uniqueness and valuable of Khmer traditional poetry, we also need to explore, do more experiments, create new tastes and voices to deal with our current contemporary society. While I share this sentiment, I’m aware that some poets believe that Khmer poetry shall remain the same as its original forms. I support the idea of preservation. However, I still believe that while we need to take care and preserve our ancestral legacy, we need to be open minded to provide spaces and opportunities for the young generation to create and develop their own tastes and voices to reflect the current issues that are affecting our contemporary lives. If we don’t create something news now, what and how shall we tell our next generation of what we are doing now?
We could not do this without the support from many individuals. Emily Howe and Prof. Teri Hamada who helped with proof read our English version. Thanks to Jean-Baptiste who generously contributed his busy time and creativity to help directing us on our first performance. Thanks to Meta House who always provides us the space! And thanks to SAY Tola, SAN Sothea and Venerable Nun Veasna for photographs and video.
Click here to access all the nine poems we performed at the first Poetry in Motion. Please stay tuned for our next Poetry in Motion. We will perform in Khmer and try to translate them into English for our non-Cambodian friends to engage with our poetry.