In order to think about what it means to be a Hong Kong poet, one must first think about Hong Kong itself. It was famously labelled a borrowed place on borrowed time: it may since been returned, but if anything, Hong Kong can at times seem less permanent than ever, and Hong Kong poets have lived through transitions, particularly in the last two decades.
Readers of the Asian Review of Books may have noticed an increasing number of young adult (YA) books among its reviews. This is in part a function of increased coverage, but it’s also a result of there being more books to cover. As a genre, Asian YA has grown in both depth and breadth, a development which, as it turns out, is relatively recent and has been led, on the whole, by books which ethnically deal with the Eastern part of the continent. And since publishing is a business after all, one can presume the increase reflects changes in the market. Yet one can’t help but wonder whether it’s a leading or lagging indicator of changes in society, or if it’s entirely coincidental.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), a leading contributor to the bel canto opera style, was one of the first composers who channeled drama and emotion to the stage with music in a time when the singers’ part was considered key to conveying emotions instead. His one-act opera Rita, posthumously premiered 160 years ago, was one such example,and may make the point again when locally-based Italian music director Marco Iannelli revives it in Hong Kong.
The Asian Review of Books is not given to running op-eds, but a recent article in Electric Lit entitled “Where Is Hong Kong Literature When We Need It Most?” merits some reflection.
Chinese remains inaccessible to most English-speakers; Chinese poetry doubly so, so Western readers should be grateful to Zephyr Press for issuing these two excellent bilingual versions of contemporary Chinese poetry, which introduce us to two unfamiliar and very different voices, Ya Shi from the mainland, and Wu Sheng from Taiwan.
Maung Shwe Yon was a highly acclaimed 19th-century master silversmith from Rangoon. Harry L Tilly, the aforementioned British expert on Burmese art, was effusive in his praise for Maung Shwe Yon. He described one of his pierced bowls as ‘the best example of this kind of work ever produced’ in his 1902 monograph, The Silverwork of Burma.
For my generation, born after the “Renovation” reform of Đổi Mới in 1986, “The War”—as most Vietnamese call what almost everyone else calls the Vietnam War—only exists in history books.