During Buddhist monk Ly Van Aggadipo's final days, he wrote often in a notebook. Temple followers knew the nonagenarian spiritual mentor to many local Cambodian refugees was recording some sort of personal history, but they weren't sure what.FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2008 file photo, Samkhann Khoeun holds at the Glory Temple, in Lowell, Mass., a Khmer language manuscript of poetry by the Buddhist monk Ly Van Aggadipo that features his photo on the cover. On April 1, 2010, friends and followers will release a bilingual edition that includes an English translation of his poetry. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)(AP)
"He told me, 'When I'm gone, make sure others read this so people don't forget what happened,'" follower Sokhar Sao said. "I didn't really understand until he was gone."
Next month, friends and followers will release a book of poetry by Ly Van, who survived the brutal communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and later led the Glory Buddhist Temple in Lowell from 1988 until his death in January 2008. The book, entitled "O! Maha Mount Dangrek," is a collection of two lengthy poems: one an autobiographical piece on the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, the other about a friend's story of love in the time of genocide.
The title in English means "Oh Mighty Mount Dangrek" and refers to the mountainous plateau between the Cambodia-Thailand border that refugees were forced to climb in order to escape the Khmer Rouge regime.
Organizers plan a 14-city tour to promote the book with readings and accompanying musical performances by two young Cambodian artists. The tour will begin April 1 at a Middlesex Community College reading in Lowell and continue with stops in Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and Long Beach, Calif.
The publication of Ly Van's work, printed in its original Khmer and in English, completes a two-year project by followers. The day he died, a follower found the poetry tucked under stacks of old Buddhist texts inside the temple.
On worn pages were handwritten, carefully crafted poems describing Ly Van's memories of labor camps, starvation and infant executions and his dreams of escaping to America.
"We all said, 'Wow ... we have to publish this,'" said Samkhann Khoeun, who studied under Ly Van and served as the book's editor. "Here was something so beautiful describing something so horrible. It brought tears to our eyes."