Recently, I co-hosted a poetry reading event at bookworm with my poet friend Helen Wing. Well, Helen was the driving force and the star and she just needed someone who can speak Chinese and English and knows a bit about poetry to facilitate. It was an honour for me.
Apart from Helen, there was Xi Chuan, who first made his name in the 80’s and now a world-famous poet. There were two lady poets, Zhai Yongming and Lu Yue, an American poet and poetry translator Jami Procot Xu, and two students from Harrow School where Helen is the poet in resident.
To our delightful surprise, the event was packed!
The first time that I was enthralled by poetry was in the early 80’s when I read the so-called ‘misty poems’, the modern free verse coined up by the young generation of poets in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. Before that, the only modern style poems (as opposed to the classic Chinese) were the poems – more like slogans with rhymes – singing the praise of Chairman Mao and the Party. Through the mist of those new poems, I saw a world of rich imagination, vivid symbols, feelings and emotions that had never been explored before. And they were private as the poetry should be – a place to explore personal truth. I was in the late teens, lovelorn. I fell in love with those ‘misty poems’ and its melancholy mood. With plenty time at my hands, I started to write my own lyrics, copying the ‘misty poems’.
After I grew up, I realized how difficult it is to write a good poem. So I stopped. And then life got busy, poems slowly disappeared from my life.
The poems read by the poets again brought me the sensual delights of poetry. I particularly loved Helen’s poems. She is usually a shy lady in public but when she reads her poems, she was consumed by passion. Her enthusiasm is really infectious. It was a treat to listen to her reciting. Maybe I can share part of a poem entitled Womb-an that Helen feels too embarrassed to read.
As I sit here at the brink,
At when and where our heaven starts,
My womb, my twin heart,
My feminine reflect,
Thumps, pumps, leaps, and furls
Urging on my waiting,
My sedentary sojourn at the garden gate,
My second heart,
Grinds and grinds
Resounding purple curls
All sorts of Latin words and Greek
Along with more direct ejaculations,
The usual lexico-graphic fare
Of Anglo-Saxon fuckery.
And I sit here and think that
Of our hybird,
Is not enough
To impart the wonton acuity, the crystal brazier
With which I am pleading for your gift,
Your foaming swollen prize,
As China has been besieged by commercialization, people are much less interesting in reading book, particularly poetry books. But I am glad to see there are still poets follow their passion. The majority of them take some kind of jobs, Xi Chuan teaching, Zhai Yongming running a bar in Chengdu and Lu Yue working for a newspaper.
Even since the poetry evening, I’ve started to read a few more poems. Good for the soul, I believe.