Ù Ơ | SUO Vietnam – Wales Digital Residency

Ten poets and artists from Vietnam and Wales featured in an online showcase of work created during a three-months’ digital exchange residency.
The Ù Ơ | SUO  project was supported by the British Council, and brought together ten early career Vietnamese and Welsh women / non-binary poets and artists to exchange ideas and collaborate on new work that experimented with translations between cultures, languages and art forms.

The project ran from November 2021 until late February 2022 and the public showcase launched on 27th February.

The title Ù Ơ | SUO evokes the familiar sounds of Vietnamese and Welsh lullabies sung by grandmothers and mothers, which became the starting point for a collective reflection on the origins of poetic language and transmission of language and memory within families. The encounters between the poets, artists and editors from both countries covered a range of activities during the three-months’ programme, including weekly joint online workshops, smaller group sessions, and individual work. The participants experimented with different forms of translation between languages and art forms, creating formats that do not belong to conventional genres: poems in response to poems, interwoven trilingual texts in English, Vietnamese and Welsh, painting or drawing poems, video poems and more. 
The results were showcased in a digital publication and multimedia activities during the week of St David’s Day 2022,and  included discussion sessions, readings and new individual and collaborative work produced during the residency. The programme also included a conversation with two guests, the well-known authors Trần Thị NgH.and Menna Elfyn, who looked back at their creative journeys in the broader context of history, politics and national culture, and offered perspectives on writing and living as (female) writers and on translation and its importance in reaching a wider readership.
Alexandra Büchler, Director of Literature Across Frontiers, said: “All participants appreciated the opportunity for virtual collaboration at a time when travel was not possible and for some, the project inspired a new confidence to work bilingually. The Welsh poets and artists were able to present Wales as a bilingual country with a rich poetry tradition and a vibrant contemporary art scene on an international platform.”
“I had to look at Wales through an outsider’s eye, to be a virtual tour guide and to explain those things that we take for granted about our history, and our language. That really made me see Wales in a different way,” reflected Rae Howells, a poet, journalist and lavender farmer from Swansea. “It has also made me pick up my Welsh. I have journeyed into not only my correct grammar, but also my tafodiaith, my dialect Welsh that I remember from my childhood, from my grandparents. I’m using my Welsh a lot more in my daily life as well.
“In a period where we’ve not been able to travel and experience the world, it’s been really lovely to see the world from other people’s perspectives, and somewhere that’s so different to Wales,” said Esyllt Angharad Lewis, a visual artist and poet who lives in Cardiff.
Translator and poet Nguyễn Lâm Thảo Thi said: “I’m very grateful to have had the space and time to read other people’s work, to hear people’s perspectives. To peek into your world is a very refreshing and valuable experience.”
“The impact that the project had on me,” said Hanoi based Thu Uyên, “was rethinking my Vietnamese and English, and also trying to step into the unknown—that feeling of approaching a language that you don’t know. It was a very interesting experience.
Sara Louise Wheeler, a bilingual poet who lives on the Wirral, found working with other poets a refreshing change: “I enjoyed seeing such different ideas and then finding how inspired I am by those—looking outwards and sort of falling into a sort of almost Alice-in-Wonderland kind of experience.”

“It’s been an incredibly valuable experience for me as a newer poet,” said actress Rhiannon Oliver from Cardiff. “It’s the first time that I’ve ever worked with a group of poets, so for the first time in my life I feel connected to a community that I’ve never been part of before, both in Wales and of course in Vietnam,”

“I feel that the whole project has been pushing me further in my writing, so I think that has been something that has opened new doors more than anything in my writing process,” said Ness Owen, a lecturer and poet from Ynys Môn.
Chu Lan Anh is studying in New York  and said “I’m happy with my collaborations with many people, especially Ness and Esyllt, we’ve had a lot of conversations and sharing. I think the project is just the start of many things in the future,”




You can see the showcase programme on the project Notion platform, Facebook page and You Tube and read the digital publication below

Literature Across Frontiers has initiated and coordinated international literary and artistic cooperation projects for two decades, with many collaborative exchange residencies across Europe and beyond. We are experienced in cross-cultural work and have worked with partners in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. This was our first collaboration with a partner in Vietnam.