In July 1979 a young
Vietnamese dissident ran
through the gates of the
British Embassy in Hanoi.  

He had 400 poems in a
manuscript under his shirt.

His country was at war with  
China and Cambodia.  Four
years earlier the Communists
defeated South Vietnam, the  
hope of democracy which  
was abandoned by the  
United States government.
Arrested outside the
the poet Thien would spend
twelve more years in
Communist prisons.  
He had been there for
fifteen years previous,   
crime: anti- propaganda.  

Ho Chi Minh sent  Nguyen Chi
Thien and  other intellectuals
to re-education camps.  
There they were  
starved and forced  to labor to  
serve the state.  Denied pen
and paper, he composed  
poems in his memory.  

Somehow, the dissident poet
survived twenty-seven years in
the Communist Gulag--eight in  
solitary darkness.   
After his release in 1991 due to outcry
led by Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch, the poet was still under
house arrest and not regaining health.  

He emigrated to the United States to join
his brother, whom he had not seen for
forty-three years after the division of
North Vietnam and South Vietnam in
1954.  In 1998 Thien received an award
from the International Parliament of
Writers.  He wrote seven stories of life in
the Hoa Lo prison as he experienced it
between 1979 and 1985.

Now in 2007 the stories are in English, named Hoa Lo/Hanoi Hilton                                       
in honor of the Americans who were imprisoned there
during the Vietnam War.  

They are published by Yale University Southeast
Asia Studies, who first published the poetry of
Nguyen Chi Thien in 1984 when he was still in
the Vietnamese prison known as Hoa Lo, the
Hanoi Hilton.  

Hoa Dia Nguc/Flowers From Hell, translated by
Prof. Huynh Sanh Thong, won the Rotterdam
International Poetry Prize in 1985.                                                                                                                     

They did not know if he were alive or dead.                                                                      Nguyen Chi Thien and  Jean Libby
Trích Hỏa Lò ĐÀN BÒ                              
Bilingual poetry and prose in student editions

Life, Poetry, and Prison—Cuộc Sống, Thi Văn, và Tù

Hai Truyen Tu--Two Prison Life Stories
by Allies for Freedom publishers
2007 and 2008
Students at UC Berkeley in 1981 sing the poetry of Nguyen Chi Thien
while he was still in prison.  Music composed by Pham Duy.

The singers in the photograph are from right to left: Singer Thu Ha (Nguyet Mehlert),
Ninh Ngoc Bao Khanh, Nguyen Thi Hue and Ha Thuy Dung.  

Photo from the collection of Bui Van Phu, program organizer.  
He reprised the event on November 17, 2007, in San Jose,
to congratulate the author, now a free American citizen.
Chris McCooey,   
Hanoi Prison  
Images,  2004
photo by Jean Libby,
October 2004
Nhà Thơ Nguyễn Chí Thiện Ra Mắt Sách
Nov 20, 2007

Cali Today News - Vào lúc 2 giờ chiều ngày thứ
Bảy 17/11/07 tại hội trường VIVO 2260 Quimby Rd.,
San Jose nhà thơ Nguyễn Chí Thiện đã cho ra mắt
tập truyện Hỏa Lò bản tiếng Anh với tựa đề Ha Noi
Hilton Stories.

Số người tham dự ước lượng khoảng hơn 50.
Trước đó là buổi nói chuyện của hai diễn giả Giáo
sư Bùi Văn Phú, và ông Nguyễn KhoaThái Anh. Xen
kẻ giữa 2 buổi nói chuyện là chợ sách, rất nhiều
sách của nhiều tác giả Việt Nam bằng tiếng Anh đã
được bày bán trong hội trường cùng với các tác
phẩm của nhà thơ Nguyễn Chí Thiện.
The author (center) with Nguyen Huu Hieu (first  
publisher) and Phung Cung, dissident poet
imprisoned with him during the 1970s.  

1994 photo in Hanoi is following the release of Nguyen Chi
Thien with the help of Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch.  He emigrated to the United States in 1995,
and is now an American citizen.
Bui Van Phu, who is now a Science  
teacher in middle school in  
Oakland, California, organized the   
May, 1981 event.  His interview with
Nguyen Chi Thien at UC Berkeley
on  November 1, 2007, are linked
here (Vietnamese language press)