Thank you to all the poets who sent work to Cha‘s “The Past” Poetry contest. In just one month, we received 440 highly accomplished submissions. Judges Marc Vincenz and Tammy Ho have selected the following seven poems as the finalists. Please scroll down to read the poets’ biographies and their commentaries on the poems. All seven poems will be published in Issue #18 of the journal, due out in late September 2012. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our patron from London, UK who generously donated the cash prizes.
Also see our previous poetry contest, “Encountering”.
Joshua Burns on “The History of Chinese Painting and the History of Modern Western Art Washed in the Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987) running commentary on the pulp Huang Yong Ping was making from Wang Bomin and Herbert Read’s respective tomes”: Huang Yong Ping’s work has been on my mind since last Spring. His washing machine may have been my first. It certainly seems to me to be one of his more mainstream works and, if not, I would, at least, argue it comes from his most provocative time, a time when he appeared to be doing the work of a Chinese Duchamp. fter selecting the artwork, the first five lines came easy. I had been listening to my roommate’s now slumbering noise project, Mega Diss, a pass the mic around kind of experiment, that had the energy, verve, nerve, and perhaps hatred, definitely hatred, that Huang Yong Ping’s statement required. One of Mega Diss’s lines, coming at the center of a track that is already too long and hate-ridden (how appropriate for an album entitled “We Hate”) goes “Zachary Eller’s losing his mind” followed by a swish of screeches, growls, and grunts that cannot be replicated here but carry the song on far after it has long expired. Mega Diss’s work is, after all, one that expires from the moment you put it on. This noise-ridden listening experience reminded me of my own washing machine. It barrels through long nights and blares to tell me when it’s done, long after I already know it is done and just do not want to get up and answer it. The last thirty or so lines came in a rush when I realized, in a grocery store which I hurried back from, that I could make the piece three even four dimensional, by including, first the artist, then Duchamp, then me, then my roommate and fold them over each other. Contractions here are tremendously important as they get the nice mushiness and urgency that comes from a piece that goes “Washed in the Washing Machine for Two Minutes”.
30-word bio: Joshua Burns continues to tinker with the rich tradition of Chinese art and specifically the outgrowth which is Huang Yong Ping. Chinese art has understandably been back-seated until Huang Yong Ping is completely washed, dried, and worn out.
“Letter to Queen Victoria from the People of Hong Kong, 2012” by Michael Gray
Michael Gray on “Letter to Queen Victoria from Hong Kong, 2012”: I spent most of Summer 2012 continuing to study Mandarin. I learned some Cantonese as well. My trip began with a five-week program in Chengdu. After it ended, I visited Guiyang, Anshun, Guangzhou, Foshan, Shanghai, Yuyao, Jinan, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Beijing, Dunhuang, and Xi’an. I was working on versions of this poem during the summer and recently figured what to do with ideas floating inside my head.
Read the poem here.
30-word bio: Michael Gray is a MFA candidate at California State University-Fresno and an editorial assistant for The Normal School.
“The Seamstress’ Goodbye to Liu” by Andrew Barker
Reid Mitchell on “Iron Arthritis”: My mother really did suffer from this disease, for at least half her life, and I really did think of this when I had some muscle problems. And I wrote it at the time. So the poem is uncharacteristically immediate for me. (Not to say that most of my work isn’t personal but usually I mull over things.) It is quite painful for me to “see” my mother standing in our yellow kitchen, reaching to open a cabinet door so she could take out some baking powder or a casserole or a package of cookies. All of us children loved my mother very much but this sight became such a normal part of our lives that I at least took it too much for granted. At least I learned how to make biscuits to help her get dinner on the table.
30-word bio: Reid Mitchell, a poet and novelist, has contributed to Cha several times since its inception. He has also published in Asia Literary Review, Pedestal, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Beijing.
Ken Turner on “Sapphics for Hue”: Sapphics, named for their use by the ancient Greek poet Sappho, are four-line stanzas with a strict syllable count and metrical pattern. The strictly controlled form, with its falling trochees and dactyls, evokes a powerful but contained emotion in a haunting way. Such a form seemed perfectly suited to my reactions to Hue. The city is steeped in layers of history, full of poignant reminders of the past—especially the Citadel of the Nguyen emperors, parts restored to their imperial glory and parts still in ruins from the battles that raged there during Tet 1968. My first visit to the Citadel was during a steady drizzle, rendering the scene all the more wistful and melancholy. Imagine my surprise in turning down a deserted lane and encountering a tethered elephant, mustered on sunnier days for pictures with paying tourists, now drenched and pacing forlornly in front of a decaying palace.
30-word bio: Ken Turner currently teaches in China and travels Asia, writing poetry whenever he can; recent work is in Waccamaw and Switched-On Gutenberg.
Adam Radford on “Old Shikumen Gate”: Few expatriates who have lived in China over the past decade will have failed to observe the rampant construction. At the time of writing this poem, I was living on Fuxing Lu and Huang Pu Lu near the site of the new metro station. This poem describes the Shikumen houses which I watched get pulled down. I was struck by the scale of the demolition and the people who were displaced by it. For the most part their lives went on, seen through the smashed in front room walls. Until one day, they were gone for good.
Read the poem here.
30-word Bio: Adam Radford lives and works in Hong Kong. He currently lectures part-time on Lifewriting at Lingnan University. His poetry collection Man on the Pavement will be available early 2013.