[REVIEW] “Lim’s Limes Call To Mind…” by Dean A. F. Gui

{Return to Cha Review of Books and Films.}

Shirley Geok-lin Lim, In Praise of Limes, Sungold Editions, 2022. 106 pgs.

In this review of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s In Praise of Limes, I attempt a process which I coin: “poetic review”. It is based on, in part, my shame in never truly reading any of Professor Lim’s poetry until only now, and, in part, the absolute privilege I feel at being personally asked, by the poet herself, to write a review of this 2022 publication. This is my way of connecting to this collection of poetry both figuratively and literally. It is my way of saying thank you for a friendship that has flourished though the professor’s visits to Hong Kong, having co-hosted scholarly events via Zoom, and reciprocal support and laughter on Facebook. In this review, I take the first letter of every line of poetry to develop my response (thus, all letters are lowercase, except the first ones, which are uppercase). While I keep the ordering of each respective poem, which the reader will observe is restructured as stanzas of prose poetry, I do take liberties to rearrange the order of lines from each poem in the collection, to make a rather impossible undertaking more tenable. To interrupt any potential monotony in this reading, I have divided the text into seven parts, the headings for each containing the first and last titles of poems from the range of poems to which that respective part of my review refers. As a means of organising the writing for myself, I try to follow the following general structure in each part: an occasion that Professor Lim and I had met in Hong Kong; a contrast in my own personal experiences while living in California (and across the USA) to the ones expressed by Lim’s poetic voice; parallel/comparable, personal experiences in Hong Kong to the one’s expressed by the poetic voice; and, as clearly as possible, a view towards the future. The reader will note, that while any oddities in the review are purely due to self-imposed restrictions towards this review process, I do (albeit to minimally intrusive extent) cheat (I confess to these occasions, nevertheless, which include hyphenating words or phrases exhibiting such veering off-path, communicating in another language, and phonetic spelling, when absolutely necessary). Finally, I give full credit to any potential author(s) of similarly executed processes in reviewing poetry, whom I might have neglected to acknowledge here. 

Part I. Passing through the incomplete gardener

Professor Shirley lIm Was Giving A lecTure, cIty
unIversity, Hong kOng, Two-thousand-ten. She
oFficiously glanceD At

Me. iT waS duriNg uNdergrad Studies mAcomb iLlinois
That Her Name Touched These Lips But unFortunately
eveN The Lengthy caLifornian Period Brought

Me No Closer Towards Reading Teaching Studying lIm’s
poeTry. Barring thAt shortComing wheN Book

Waned wHere litErary Absorption lAcked lecTure And
fAce-to-face Absorption Reverberated.
This nEw mooN contriBution

callS To mInd hkSar’s incompleTe eVenings Like graCe
joneS’ Proserpine’d neW yoRk stretChing And yAwning.

cAlls tO rAiny minD hOng kong’S gArdeners: Bauhinia,
Azalea iriS, Shiuying Bamboo, balSam camellia,
Tutcher’s mAple, Rhodoleia, dogwood paveTta.
In Flowering Flora Florae prAise.

Calls tO Mind Fragrant harBour’s frAgrant Weather
Typhoon Seasons’ memoRies Written jUne To ocTober:
Cobra(1944), hoPe(1979), Gordon(1989), paBuk(2007),
hagupiT(2008), rammasUn(2014), mangkhUt(2018).

callS To Mind hk’S (posT) cOlonial chriStmases British-
local-mainland luNar holIdays Wishing-trees Symphony-
of-lights Nin-gOu fake-snoW Pancetta… eveRything
paSsing Through.

Part II. Serendipity otherness

Two-thousand-eleven waS Our seCond rendez-voUs
Jointly co-Hosting By yOurs truLy, engL, eLc oF Polyu:

“An eveNing Of Poetry wiTh Shirley lIm”. Beautiful
decemBer tabulA rAsa momenT.

During Strange yearS Alongside rEdwood Woodside
ciTies Lost iN The American faBle:

Basking noT So mucH In Hmong Farmer’s markeT,
Kalian, Learning To drIve In My Thirties, aMy taN’s
faBulously niP-tucked Book sIgning; But By Crystal
metH, Road rAge, onCe straighT booksTores noW
Hopeful wIth unbeliEvably Macho papIs needinG Cuir

Brings tO mInd The sTrangeness Of histOrically
inConsequential American inFluence In hOng konG.

YEt callS tO minD hOrny fAthers Wanting motherS
gOlden ayaM broWn sIblings: freNch, japaneSe,
malaysIan, portuGuese, filipinO, germAn, nIgerian,
sHanghainese. Worldwide Heritage. cuLturally
unimaginaBle othernesS.

ReminDs mE abouT bHabha’s hybridIty, rooT’s
multirAcial Identity And ecoLogical developmenT
frameWork; Picking cloWdberries, Winter-bamboo-
shoots, Wood-ears… undErstanding The otHer.  

proFessor Shirley geOk Lin lIm wAs stIll aD asTra—All
jpEgs And Word tO mE.

Part III. What rough beast re-reading moby dick?

ManY yeaRs laTer In Two-thousand-seventeen We
Reconnected “lIve From hOng kOng” At tHe cccD iN
Shek kiP meI. Professor sLim, miSter Shea jointlY

reaDing poetrY. Tammy laI-ming-ho hosTing. We drAnk
Event dedIcated Wine, lisTened To hArp, meditateD oN
Behemoth purvieWs oF poetry-Books.

fulbrighT disTinguished lecTurer lIm sigNed mY arS
poeTica Copy And aSked, “haven’T We meT Before?”
Too mAny yeArs Passed. We meTamorphosed Into
sTrangers aGain, jusT lIke The

Strangeness Of Things That goT Me haPpy While aSh-
storms Blanketed My oceanSide flaT fRom

Ten yearS priOr: ceciliA, marIne bOys, vlOgging,
Washing clotheS, While Wildfires Warm.

This Cluster oF poeTry Brings pArallels To tHe
perFumed Harbour: Cassandra, hunTer, iShmael,

ChiLdren Living coNtradicting cuLtures, perpetuaL
orphAns, Inanimus hybrId Lovers Lingering oN

The pRecipice Of A Once easT meeTs wesT. iT iS The
mOon thAt Connects thiS World; wAtches aLl People;
delIvers everyboDy Stars, untiL Blurred By vIrus, Fog,

Part IV. Oxymoron wake!

TwO yearS alonG I Emailed pOetess Lim A Cordial lunCh

Within The hoNg-kong polytechnIc unIversity stAff cLub

She, squid-iNk sAlmon; I, Baked porTuguese fAn.
suDdenly The barDess sTarted Whispering Worldly

The lAnguage oF scHolars That dId Not floW eAsily
frOm My tonguE (inJected Boobs

oF Silicon, She sAid. hUh-huh-huh. HEh-heh-heh).
FeelinG Like aN aMateur, The Neophyte eAts morE riCe,
Admits aWkwardly Being gAy, Wishing

To regreSs To simPler American dAys Writing Personal
muLtiracial Poetry. Question: Was I Perchance Another

SittinG With tHis dOting Future mentoR mAkes Me

With thOughts Towards The geneSis Of worldS, oF The
Unwoken World fornIcating Itself Over.

Part V. Evacuation fog after fire

A Budding F2f frieNdship waS oBstructed By Covid19
Within Two-thousand-twenty-one thereaboutS, While
Forced unWillingly,

buT Possibly ineVitably, To coLlaborate oNline, yearS
prIor, I, coeditiNg With Dr JasoN poLley (Who
Fortuitously Happens

To Be My Doctoral sUpervisor) On A routleDge booK
Project: poEtry In pedAgogy. We Invited proFessor Lim
To Submit A Chapter. Lim Found publishinG diKtates
Worrisome. I Worried proFessor

lIm’s Commitment Would wAne. Subsequently, Over
The yearS We leArned tO Roll wIth Each other’S
Punches And ouR Bantering Back And Forth vIa eMail
anD messenGer brouGht uS cloSer To eaCh oTher. aT
The Time The Book Was publiShed caliFornia Was anD
Would Be experienCing unpreCedented Forest Fires
valLey Floods—Flutes oF nature’S Champagne, Wafers
oF gloWing Snow, ceLebrating

Symbolically (oR Perhaps mockinGly) oUr rouTledge
bOok launcH, As Hk crimeS And arresTs increaSed.
Seemingly disTinct, isolaTed, disparaTe evenTs, buT consequenTly,

TheRe Were Shared

Skies; Wuhan’d Skies; fiBrosis’d Skies;
nasopHaryngeal’d Skies; Breathless Skies; viRus’d Skies;
wHo’d Skies; omiCron’d Skies; airborNe Skies;
Desensitised Skies. ouR sOcial-distanced sKy.

So In hoNg kOng, oUr thirD yeAr Cut oFf froM A
phySical World, tWelve Buwan mAs Beyond gloBal

LoCk dowNs, unBending Teachers Were gettiNg Weary
Of tHe Concrete; Others gettiNg uSed To Isolation,
Blinking sCreens, anD Bloody zooM.

The proFessor And I Promised To Be sUpportive: fB
messengeR, emOjis, Gifting, uPlifting, Breathing.

Part VI. The wind firefly

Two-thousand-twenty-two wAs A yeAr oF prolIferation
And Hard pebbleS. iT Was aLso The tIme That Internet
companIonship—menTorship—Warmed Between botH

proFessor liM Was positivelY eUphoric, hAving
announCed In prAise Of limeS Was Coming.

tHe cOurt Of liM waS Buzzing With creatureS Both
greaT aNd sMall: monarchS, ladybIrds, oWls, Fireflies,
aS Well aS maCaques, boGadeks, slUgs. I, The waTer
raT, Was taSked With rePresenting Baptist universiTy,
cO hoSting With chA, A zOom evenT For Her poeTry

aT eLeven, On Twenty-seven mAy, aNd Twenty
hUndred, On Twenty-six, Time zoneS, World clOcks
Welded—B F Fs:

“In praYse Of limeS: a-readinG a-celebratiOn”.

One Harp plaYer, Fifteen reAders. Some proudlY
shoWcasing giganTic Legumes harvesTed From privaTe

We weRe wIldlife From greeCe, new-zeAland, malaySia,
Uk, Usa, Hk. aT The concluSion To oUr reAding, Blushing
Bubbly sAnta

Barbara Lim kIssed Us wIth stinglEss thankS. wE

I Then suggEsted 2 The gOddess motheR oF sO mAny,
tHis hkBu Cooperative Was

perhapS heR favouriTe 1 Of tHem All becaUse So muCh
Busyness surrOunded It, everyBody wAs hAving Crazy

Part VII. Prayer for coyote what comes after?

So, shortLy After Dis waS wHen sHirley inviteD Me To
revIew Her Collection. But

What A wonDer To geT aSked! suCh A beePing I rIsed
Into! Per Chance

thiS Pair wAlked uneveneD Pavements togetHer:
Puddled, sPecked, whelPed, thiS Consideration oF iPols,

hOwever, iS alSo

In praIse expressIng lIm’s abIlity In connectIng cIties;
causIng Introspection wIthin Individuals, generatIons,
despIte dIffering Ideologies, varyIng maturIties,
seemIngly dIsparate lIfetimes. I notIced Inside lImes
thiS voIce Identifying With

An “oLd woMan”, The reSigned whO, In leArning To loVe
America, Seems readY, expeCting Burial By akhenaten’S

aS articulaTed By formEr poeT laureaTe daNa gioiA In
hiS Serene Preface To liM’s Limes. But aS poEts, As
creatiVe wriTers, We Have The lEgacy Of keyboaRds,
antitHesis, woRds, To conJure More

Than knoWledge oR aCceptance That “it’S tIme”. For
Me, Lim’s Voice inCants Webbed Wonder Women,
redBacked Priestesses,

rEad Within recenT fAcebook drafTs. To mE, Lim’s
Poetry Is moTher Of All vamPires:

Water, Wind, Wisdom, Wishes, Weft, Warp… uPon
Tasting oF kAkak’s sAnguine… Well… I Want morE.

What Pandanus! What Pulasan! What Plantains! What
Persimmons! What Pomelos! What Pitayas! What


How to cite: Gui, Dean A. F.. “Lim’s Limes Call to Mind…” Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 01 Mar. 2023, chajournal.blog/2023/03/01/praise-of-limes.


Dean A. F. Gui holds a BA in English Literature (WIU), an MA in Creative Writing with a Poetry focus (UIC), and is currently a PhD candidate (HKBU) whose dissertation topic is The Transformative Potential of Interstitial Poetry Across New Media and MMO Environments: An Investigation into Hybrid Diasporas & Cultures. He is also an Instructor in Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s English Language Centre, and co-editor of the Routledge publication, Poetry in Pedagogy: Intersections Across and Between the Disciplines (2021).

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