As part of the Cha Writing Workshop Series I visited Ying Wa College on Monday 9 July 2018 to work with the students on their poetry. Particular focus was given to trying to capture Hong Kong in a way that goes beyond normal forms, techniques, or cliches, and to do so using contemporary English–language poetry being written in Hong Kong.
To set the stage, students worked through a series of simple images, devising cliched or boring versions of an image, and then coming up with contrasting weird or fantastical versions. The students took to this quickly, embracing the idea of trying to deliberately undermine standard images. This concept was then applied to crafting descriptions of Hong Kong, and trying to capture elements of the city that tend to defy description, are inherently ambiguous, or downright absurd.
To reinforce this, the students were introduced to “Flowers”, a poem by Hong Kong-based poet Vishal Nanda that uses similar elements and subversion of expectations. In groups they analysed the poem and tried to understand and interpret the meaning, subtext, imagery, and tone, especially delving into the ambivalence the narrative voice has towards Hong Kong as a place to grow up. They were encouraged to understand through the poem that poetry about Hong Kong, or in general, doesn’t have to follow any preconceived pattern or limitation of topics. It can deal with their direct and real experience, as they genuinely feel about it, not as they think they are expected to write about it.
Finally, the students were directed in crafting their own pieces with the things they had learned. This was then coupled with a quick exercise on performance and stage presence before each student read their piece aloud. The final pieces dealt with everything from politics and pollution to the burdens of academic stress and mental health.
///// The Cha Writing Workshop Series: We plan to hold one to two writing workshops every month, for local school children (all levels), as well as economically and socially disadvantaged groups. If you’d like to suggest an idea, please contact the organisers, Tammy Ho (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or Eddie Tay (email@example.com). Click here to see a list of past and future workshops. And click here to read instructors’ reflections on the workshops. /////