Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong
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Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong

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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  100 ratings  ·  19 reviews
H� Xu�n 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 risqu� poems which used double entendre and sexual innuendo as a vehicle for social, religious, and political commentary.

"The Unwed Mother"


Because I was too easy, this happened.
Can you gues
...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Copper Canyon Press
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PGR Nair
SPRING ESSENCE

Ho Xuan Huong (1772-1822) was a Vietnamese woman poet born at the end of the Later Le Dynasty (Period 1428'1788: the greatest and longest lasting dynasty of traditional Vietnam) who wrote poems with unusual irreverence and shockingly erotic undertones for her time. She is considered as one of Vietnam’s greatest poets, such that she is dubbed “the Queen of Nom Poetry" and has become a cultural symbol of Vietnam. I came across her name first in a travel guide where one her poems was...more
Ben
Ho Xuan Huong, whose name means "Spring Essence," was a concubine during the end of Vietnam's second Le Dynasty (1592-1788), a period of unrest and social decay. She was a woman who wrote poetry in male-dominated, Confucian tradition--a remnant, both social and artistic, of the Chinese who had once dominated Ho Xuan Huong's country. Though the poems are full of double entendre, sexual innuendo, and subtle attacks on all levels of male authority (social, religious, political, etc), she and her wo...more
Leola
I enjoy anything that has survived against the odds of history, and even more so if it's the work of a woman. There's a permanence to these poems, a sense that Ho Xuan Huong's spirit is alive in them still. She writes about mountain passes, wellsprings, rusted coins, willow trees; a second reading reveals the innuendos behind these nouns. So, too, we have poems about men and women, life and death, sexuality and love.

"Pluck the low branches, pull down the high.
Enjoy alike the spent blossoms, the
...more
W.B.
Jan 12, 2008 W.B. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Fascinating, often sexual poems written by an eighteenth century concubine.

When I first read this book, I was sure that it was a hoax perpetrated by a scholar or a gaggle of them, but now I'm not too sure and I simply don't care because the writing is so interesting.

This was written in Nom, "(a) nearly extinct ideographic script." From the jacket: "This book is the first in history to have Nom printed as type, and features the 1,000-year old script alongside its modern Vietnamese equivalent, quo...more
Penelope
I've been in the mood for poetry lately; went shopping in my poetry shelves and pulled out Spring Essence. Sat down in the morning and had it read by nightfall. Think I will keep it on my current stack for a while, so I can pick it up and re-read a poems now and again.

Ho Xuan Huang is my kind of poet. I have a strong affinity for certain types of poetry: Asian forms such as Haiku, Tanka (in the case of Ho Xuan Huong, the form is "lu-shih"), actually forms of all kinds, particularly Sonnets; wom...more
Eric

it's tempting to compare the poet Spring Essence to some better known women poets who also wrote of their lives with passion and intelligence: Izumi Shikibu and Sappho come to mind. What distinguishes SE from her peers is her rawness and her social protest.

these brief poems will get you inside the mind and body of a vietnamese concubine of the 18th century. in a strictly confucian society, SE talks about what it feels like to be a second wife waiting on the occasional visits of her husband--and...more
Julie
I love the subversive themes. She's very subtle about being very bold. I typically like more prosish narrative poems, but I respect the intent of these so much that I really enjoyed the book.

I love the fact that the work is translated, because it keeps me wondering where Xuan Huong stops and Balaban (the translator) starts. It's very interesting to read about his translation (read the introduction!). How much of the innuendo, implication was there, and how much did his environment / education /...more
ChromaLadyTones
Not sure about these translations, preferred Lady Borton's in 'The Defiant Muse: Vietnamese Feminist Poetry'.
Heather
Dirty, dirty poems, with a nice introductory section on form, language & tonality, and translation.
David Orphal
Simply beautiful. Definitely a keeper and a rereader.
Jenna
Ho Xuan Huong's clever way of loading her poetry with naughty double-entendres and delicate sexual undertones really resonated with me. Her poems on themes other than sex were comparatively uninteresting; I simply wasn't very moved by them. In light of the fact that Ho Xuan Huong is considered one of Vietnam's great poets, I would guess that the fault lies with the translator rather than with Ho Xuan Huong herself, though.
Mark
Sep 24, 2013 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
"A gentle spring evening arrives
airily, unclouded by worldly dust.

Three times the bell tolls echoes like a wave.
We see heaven upside-down in sad puddles.

Love's vast sea cannot be emptied.
And springs of grace flow easily everywhere.

Where is nirvana?
Nirvana is here, nine times out of ten."
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
What a fantastic poet! Her poems are fascinating to read because they can be read 2 ways-- all have double entendres!
The translator has certainly done justice to this poet's concise, carefully chosen words and images. Highly recommended!
Rich
Jul 02, 2008 Rich rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
While nuance cannot be translated sometimes, Balaban gives the reader a window into a classical figure in Vietnamese poetry.
Laren
Tom Robbins sent me this book. The poems grit and flutter. Amazing.
Mario Rivera
fuck you stupid ass website dont help for shit thank you :}
Christa
AMAZING! Intensely beautiful. Highly suggest.
Lauren
Erotic protest poetry!

In translation!

Mills College Library
895.92211 H6786s 2000
S.
Nice bite to these poems.
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“Drop by drop rain slaps the banana leaves,

Praise whoever sketched this desolate scene:

the lush, dark canopies of the gnarled trees,

the long river, sliding smooth and white.

I lift my wine flask, drunk with rivers and hills.

My backpack, breathing moonlight, sags with poems.

Look, and love everyone.

Whoever sees this landscape is stunned.”
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