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Ca dao Viet Nam
John Balaban
$15.00 paperback
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Ca dao Viet Nam
Vietnamese Folk Poetry
John Balaban

In Việt Nam, ca dao are folk poems—short lyrics passed down by word of mouth and sung without any instrumental accompaniment. 

Poet and translator John Balaban began translating Vietnamese literature near the end of the American war in Việt Nam, when he traveled the countryside asking farmers and fishermen, boat builders and housewives, 'Would you sing your favorite poems?' In his introduction to this revised and expanded bilingual edition, Balaban writes:

[In 1971] I made ten such journeys into various parts of the South, taping whoever would speak to an American, recording usually at night when the singer’s day work was done, taping by kerosene lamp, running my recorder on batteries, often picking up mortar and rifle fire in the background as these lone voices sang poetry they had learned from song.

Ca dao Việt Nam represents the first time ca dao have been translated and collected into any Western language. Balaban's work with Vietnamese literature has been featured on NPR's Fresh Air and All Things Considered, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

See also Spring Essence:  The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong

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For Ca dao Viet Nam, John Balaban

"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

  "Balaban offers enough of these simple yet rich folk poems to convince this reader that it is long past time for Americans to pay more attention to the literature and culture of Vietnam—on Vietnamese terms."—ForeWord

"These poems... have an extraordinary clarity—and address the listener without artiface."—The Santa Fe New Mexican

"It is tempting to think that nothing good ever came out of the Vietnam War. Balaban’s life and work are a witness that such is not the case. Because the war carried his life away in directions he could never have dreamed of we are now joining another rich poetic history to our own. It is not clear what would have become of that history—or of him—otherwise. In a happy irony, something of Vietnam’s folk poetry may have been saved—and John Balaban’s own skills as a poet and translator brought to our attention—by it. We redeem what we may."—Jacket

 "There is harmony in these short poems—a joining of man with his environment without fear or hatred."—Home News Tribune

"... A readable and faithful translation of Vietnamese folk poetry such as John Balaban’s is... a rare feast... Balaban has preserved the salt of the earth, while presenting it as flavors that fit the tastes of a Western audience. His superb work gives me hope that others will follow in his footsteps and roam the countryside of Vietnam with digital video cameras in hand to continue the effort that Balaban so courageously began thirty years ago."—Michigan Quarterly Review

"These are wispy and atmospheric poems, as lightly woven as a bamboo fishtrap, made to fit a specific landscape."—The Globe and Mail

"This is a splendid contribution to the preservation of Vietnam’s literary heritage and cultural identity."—Oklahoma Observer

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