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Irish poet John Liddy, known for his works in Limerick and Madrid, embarked on a unique collaboration during his visit earlier this year to Halong, Vietnam. It was a historic occasion for the Irish poet and made even more special when John, as far as he is aware, became the first Irish poet to have his work translated and published in a Vietnamese journal.
The meeting between John Liddy and Tran Nhuan Minh was made possible by Mark Ullyses, the editor of Live Encounters magazine. Mark connected John with Nguyen Thuy Hoa, the Director of The Voice of Vietnam, the country’s national radio station based in Hanoi. Through their arrangement, a meeting was arranged at a café in Halong, conveniently close to where John’s son, Marcos, resided. Marcos played the crucial role of interpreter during their encounter on January 2, 2023.
In the days leading up to the meeting, John felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. He pondered over how to greet Tran Nhuan Minh. Should he shake his hand or bow his head? These thoughts whirled through his mind until Marcos relieved him by assisting with the initial conversation. John wondered if he would receive a gift from Minh, something he could unravel and appreciate at his desk in Madrid. However, his worry was needless. Minh expressed his gratitude for the meeting and discussed his own poems, expressing a desire to foster connections between Irish and Vietnamese writers. John responded by conveying his deep honor and privilege in meeting Minh, even pointing out a page in his poetry collection, Arias of Consolation, where Ho Chí Minh was mentioned.
Although Minh seemed saddened by the mention of Ho Chí Minh, John was relieved to see a smile on Minh’s face when he spoke about the community-oriented nature of The Limerick Writers’ Centre and its publishing branch, Revival Press. He quoted lines from his poem ‘Advice To A Child’ and again that smile when he said that he would like to add Gaeilge to his long list of languages in translation, as he handed him signed copies of two substantial collections of his poems: In Goethe’s Native Land and People and the World They’re Living In, the former with translations from originals in Chinese, English, French and Japanese.
John and Minh agreed to maintain contact and translate each other’s work. When the time came to part ways, they stood up and embraced for what felt like an eternity. A profound bond had been forged. Following their meeting in January, John dedicated himself to translating Minh’s poems into English, Irish, and Spanish. Additionally, he arranged for sections of his own work from Arias to be featured in the review of The Vietnam Writers’ Association, further deepening the literary connections between their respective cultures.
John Liddy’s poetry books are available at: www.limerickwriterscentre.com

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