Lim Phanna is an emerging young writer in Phnom Penh. She’s just finished her first book of poetry, Beautiful Life and Youth’s Heart, a journey of brilliantly composed anecdotes that brings the reader through the real events that have shaped her life.
Phanna was born as the youngest daughter to a poor family in Phnom Penh; often times, they struggled to afford food and her parents weren’t able to finance her studies. But due to her immense talent in Khmer literature, Phanna quickly rose above the adversity.
Phanna scored higher than anyone else on her literature exam at Sontormuk High School, and was offered two separate scholarships to study accounting at Mekong University or psychology at Royal University of Phnom Penh. She pursued both, without trepidation, and was eventually granted a scholarship from the Korean government to finance her studies during her third- and fourth-year of Royal University.
Phanna sees more than monotony and repetition in every-day life. Her poems are simple; although they focus on every-day occurrences, she weaves her words to bring beauty and a fresh perspective to what others may find mundane.
A former Royal University student, who now resides in America, was so taken with Phanna’s poetry – which he first noticed on Facebook – that he offered her a publishing deal.
Eight years of poetry then went into Beautiful Life and Youth’s Heart, a poetry collection that reflects back on both tough times and loving times growing up to a poor family, Phanna’s school life and of course – young love.
When she’s not writing, Phanna joins literature competitions and competes with author budding poets across the Kingdom. In 2010, she placed third in the International Volunteer Youth Day. She also placed third during the Youth’s Duties in Reconciliation of Victims in The Khmer Rouge Regime in 2011, and was runner-up in 2012 during a competition sponsored by the Spreads Association. Just recently, in a program created to raise awareness on men’s sexual health, Phanna was invited to compose poetry and happily returned home with honours.
Although poetry helps pay the bills, Phanna is driven to write from an inner passion.
“When I feel hopeless, I always express myself in my poetry so I can release the feelings,” she said. “I’ll be better.”
“For instance, because my family is poor, I only have one bike. So when I see others ride expensive motorbikes, even if they’re bad at their studies, I feel unhappy because I don’t have the same as they do.”
“But, it’s not my family’s fault of mine. I would never ask my family for something we can’t afford, so out of these feelings came the poem My Bike. I freed my stress and gave myself confidence.”
“Difficulty is the biggest obstacle that stops us from doing something. But if we just go ahead, we’ll see many good things ahead of us.”
Of her writing success, Phanna said: “You need to put in a great amount of effort, encourage yourself and keep a good relationship with the supportive people around you.”
Phanna is almost complete with both of her degrees. At the age of 22, Phanna is one of the youngest published authors in Cambodia.
In the future, Phanna wishes to pursue a career in counselling – and, of course, keep writing.