“Writing the Unwritten, Speaking the Unspoken: Epistolary & Poetry” by Jason S. Polley

As part of the Cha Writing Workshop Series, in partnership with the Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation and supported by the English Departments at CUHK and HKBU, I visited students at the Shek Mun campus of the College of International Education (CIE), a HKBU affiliate, on 1 Thursday November 2018 (All Soul’s Day!). I was invited by my colleagues Ms Sandy WC Chan and Dr Theresa Cunanan, both of whom participated in the 90-minute workshop.

I began the workshop by discussing Anne Frank, whom we know addressed the “Diary” of her early teenaged—and, sadly, final—years to an imagined ideal reader: “Kitty.” In that spirit, I asked attendees to take twenty-five minutes to write a confessional letter (or epistle) to an ideal reader, to a reader they won’t have to perform for, won’t have to edit themselves for, and won’t have to feel guilty for being deeply honest with (or, conversely, remorseful for being Hamletically “cruel to be kind” to).

Their suppressed secrets spontaneously overflowed—to appropriate Wordsworth—I then asked participants to highlight the favourite parts of these confidential letters, effectively extracting five to 10 pearls from each of their unrepressed confessions. With the use of thesauri, dictionaries, their smart phones, and their brains, I then encouraged individual group members to poetically translate or encode or disguise their pearls with poetic devices, such as homonymy, synonymy, antonymy, alliteration, and/or nonsense.

This complete, the partakers formed into three groups of five and collaborated upon making collective found poems from their translated pearls. Especially befitting the polyphony that is Hong Kong, each group collected their English found poems whilst interacting in a different language: one in Putonghua, another Guangdonghua, the last English. Let me close this reflection by including each of the three found poems completed over the course of the animated workshop.

LOVE
by Chiang Ching, Huang Yun Rong, Liu Mengqi, Chen Wan Yi, Li Shiqi

I act as a mute rubbish bin to restore all her piercing aggression
suggestions, not commands
cram smelly cells in your bloody brain
living in a pure and shining place,
that sick place full of violence, mess, hatred.
Freed me to wonderland;
pretend nothing happened to me.
It is fulfilling and strenuous at the same time.
You want to be the sun,
without being worried, frightened, angry at all.
Being defeated and never say die;
I enjoy.
The longest distance is that you don’t love me.
This is a lie poem.
I love thee.
Our relationship is as pure as crystal
but stars out of your orbit can’t be attracted.

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TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD
by Zheng Cui Ting, Tang Ziyi, Nattapong Chan, Dr. Theresa Cunanan, Sandy Chan

50’s virgins
with enormous wings
wordless, helpless, speechless,
short, curt,
go outside to take in fresh air.
Sky is sea
choices are paradise
Anvil from the sky
a breather from the nightingale
choking youth
All we can manage
Go out with friends to eat junk food.
Diva Drama
hating you dead with gluttony
Ladies services
peel yourself off
Hit the beach and enjoy sunshine
Sand is lava
Fair winds, Captain
Will never rises
Exercise is a great decompression method
keep writing, keep thinking
Blackout like you
Halloween on a wheelchair.

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FANCY
by Ng Yee Yan, Xiao Yu, Zou Minyan, Zhang Xinyi, JIan Haonan

The witch danced in the midnight
Shinning, shimmering, covering the darkness at its back
she put her mask up high
A sole mask with day and night
Black held it all, so dark, so calm
the bird is yelling
she yelling through the moonlight
I am a rounded egg.

Open, feel it, warm it, spit it out
I hold the knife toward myself
Quiet screaming. Stop it.
Peeking, Relaxing. Panic. Breathe.
break it before it hatches.
Thousand crisps, buried to the core.
Surrendering monster into riptide
vanished with those little crisps, leaving empty.

Strippers pretend to be angels.
Finding crowded destination
for standing outside the fake strait
on the edge, hanging by a rope, swinging, struggling
to let everybody feels right.
I trust you, I trust you
loudly, stop shaking.
You won’t be there, can’t.

///// 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 (t@asiancha.com) and/or Eddie Tay (eddie@asiancha.com). Click here to see a list of past and future workshops. And click here to read instructors’ reflections on the workshops. ///// 

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