Nguyen Chi Thien

Nguyen Chi Thien, 1939–2012, Vietnamese poet. Thien began composing poetry during the three years he spent in prison after he told his history students that their textbook wrongly credited the USSR with the defeat the Japanese in World War II. With pen and paper forbidden, he committed his poems to memory. After his 1964 release, he recited his work to friends, and his poetry spread by word of mouth. Arrested (1966) on suspicion of writing dissident poetry, he was held without trial in reeducation camps, and again composed and memorized poems. Released in 1977, he write out some 400 poems and two years later brought them to the British embassy, which promised to take them out of Vietnam. Thien arrested and imprisoned in Hoa Lo prison (the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”) for six years, but his poems were widely translated and published—in English as Flowers from Hell (1984). Finally released in 1991, he immigrated to the United States in 1995. His Hoa Lo/Hanoi Hilton Stories was published in 2007.

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