Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, peace activist, and poet. By 1971, when he joined Studs in the studio, he had spent years campaigning for peace in Vietnam; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh and Studs discuss the Vietnam War and two books of his poetry that had been translated into English at that time: Cry of Vietnam, and Vietnam: Lotus in A Sea of Fire.
In this clip, Studs tells Thich Nhat Hanh that he has heard about American soldiers finding poems in the pockets of the dead Vietnamese. Thich Nhat Hanh uses this story to demonstrate how important poetry is in the Vietnamese culture.
They continue the conversation about poetry in Vietnam, and its importance even among non-literate populations. Thich Nhat Hanh recites an example of one of the spontaneous poems of the farmers. This leads to a conversation of the ongoing destruction of this culture: “The kinds of things imported, together with this war, has been destroying much of our way of thinking and creating.” To show how hopeless things have become, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story of Vietnamese people trying to raise earthworms in order to save the land that was destroyed through defoliation.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks with Studs about his experience of speaking and reading his poems to a group of anti-war veterans in Washington, D.C. He tells Studs they are “very, very brave in recognizing the truth.” One of the poems he reads to the veterans is “Condemnation,” which you can read here.
Studs asks Thich Nhat Hanh about his feelings on the war. Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the policy of “Vietnamization” as opposed to a cease-fire. He also says that “most of the Vietnamese people feel the same way — they want the war to end at this very moment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh tells Studs about a family he knows whose home was burned six times in five years; they continually moved to escape the violence but were unable to. “Sometime[s] we don’t know [if] what we have in our heart is hope or just illusions, because life would be impossible without some hope in the future. That is why sometime[s] we are very ready to accept illusions as hope.”