Catherine Edmunds on “Where the Red Stone Crumbles”: The idea for “Where the Red Stone Crumbles” came from a visit with other members of Wear Valley Writers to the archaeological dig at Binchester Roman Fort, a mile or so from where I live. Previous generations had robbed much out—columns used as pit props in the local mine; cut stone and altars used to build walls and even churches. The cow’s skulls at the foot of a doorway remain a mystery—as does the identity of the tiny baby’s skeleton found just outside the walls of the compound. My father was a keen amateur archaeologist, so I grew up fascinated with such ancient remains and the stories behind them. The gaps in our knowledge intrigue and inspire and as a writer, I naturally want to fill them with words; with poems. [Read “Where the Red Stone Crumbles” here.]
Bio: Writer Catherine Edmunds cut-cut-cuts the words until she is left with poems; distillations of story compacted into reflective shapes.
Richard L. Provencher on “A Long, Long Time Ago”: I am a young almost 71 year person, and find my thirst for writing poems stronger than ever. I wish to gobble up everything within sight and give it a voice. As a former Home for Aged Administrator, I adopted 174 moms and dads who became my spiritual mentors. I see through their eyes and feel their hearts and my memories are their lives relived. I become the older lad looking through the window, observing activity within eyesight. The man in the poem becomes that young boy once again, fishing and needing love and attention. He misses those moments in the twilight of his life. [Read “A Long, Long Time Ago here.]
Bio: Richard L. Provencher believes poetry is a global adventure in a land without borders. Everything around him is his canvas.
Arlene Yandug on “Going Back to the Island”: The poem which is a part of a collection on memory as meaning-making reenacts the ruptures of my remembrance of a beautiful island called Camiguin. Lying off the southern part of the Philippines, this pearl-shaped island is where my grandmother lived and where I spent my childhood summers. Instead of presenting my memory linearly, I let sense impressions and snatches of conversations override the structure of the poem. Through this fragmentedness, I want to effect a kind of circularity that invites readers to read into the poem and fill in the gaps of a story aching for completion in the mind. [Read “Going Back to the Island” here.]
Bio: Arlene Yandug writes poems, paints landscapes, crafts origami and bead accessories.
Maj Ikle on “The City Park”: “The City Park” is a poem about how the green places in cities are not there for the benefit of animals or people really. Many kinds of animals are killed by the mowers that keep the grass from growing and the crows are there to collect the frog limbs or snail entrails. The runners are virtually not even there and dogs are not free to roam or socialise either they must poo as fast as possible to fall in line with someone’s work schedule. In London the plane trees are sterile and so “dry” or unable to reproduce themselves and even the sky is pockmarked by planes. This for me were some fragments that served to reveal the ‘wired up jaws’ the alienation of mother nature. [Read “The City Park” here.]
Bio: Maj Ikle is a dyke writer who now lives in remote rural west Wales as part of a women’s community. http://majikle.blogspot.co.uk
Hao Guang Tse on “Drafts”: “Drafts” was written as a meta-reflection on the difficulty of writing and the hysterics that can accompany any creative endeavour. Like the soldiers in the poem, my words circle around themselves again and again; I’ve tried to make the first, second and so on lines of each stanza sonically similar to those in previous stanzas. “Drafts” is thus both the wind and the discarded drafts of a piece of work. I guess the bigger question for me would be how these seeming dead ends can be made productive, just as how becoming lost can be a way of finding yourself again, and how voids might still signify. And, of course, I still feel the urge to revise the poem. [Read “Drafts” here.]
Bio: Hao Guang Tse’s poetry is in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Prairie Schooner, Softblow and Third Coast. His chapbook is hyperlinkage (Math Paper Press 2013).
Leondrea Tan on “Full”: “Full” seeks to present emptiness not as a lack of feeling, but a feeling that, like all others, can overwhelm and take over one’s senses. It is minimal, for I believe that excessive language will take away the essence of the poem. This poem presents the difficulty of expression when there is no expressible thoughts left, just a feeling of emptiness. [Read “Full” here.]
Bio: Leondrea Tan is an aspiring writer currently studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick.
Amit Shankar Saha on “Aphasia”: My poem “Aphasia” is born out of a personal experience of not being able to pursue formal higher education in the field of Literature during my formative years because of family issues. The trauma of not being able to fulfill my passion due to an extrinsic cause despite having the merit and opportunity for doing so made me withdraw in myself. This created a void or emptiness in my life and a pronounced symptom of it was aphasia or gradual speechlessness. It seemed that as I am not conversing and sharing words with my peer group it is useless to speak if not necessary. Creative writing became the predominant mode of expression for me. This condition became akin to the state of subalternity where the subaltern is not allowed to speak what she wants to speak or the way she wants to speak. Years later when family issues abated, I went back to pursue my passion and I had to reinvent my confidence despite the handicap of the loss of fluency in verbal communication. The poem expresses these sentiments with literary echoes. [Read “Aphasia” here.]
Bio: Amit Shankar Saha is an academic researcher and a creative writer. He has a PhD in English from Calcutta University.
Richard L. Provencher on “No More Space for the Pain”: During my early stroke recovery in various hospital beds, I lay immersed within memories which sustained me during critical times. It is true, when the end appears near, one’s past life becomes a beacon of remembrance. I have such a kinship with the outdoors, and spent much time tenting and fishing year round. My father said I might grow into a tree if I was not careful. During my critical moments, outdoor images became living symbols and I thrived in their presence. My ending sounded a little ominous since passing was that close on several occasions. Now I have recovered quite well from my leaking aneurysm. [Read “No More Space for the Pain” here.]
Bio: Richard L. Provencher believes poetry is a global adventure in a land without borders. Everything around him is his canvas.
Previous Cha contests:
Thank you to all the poets who sent work to Cha‘s “Betrayal” Poetry contest. Judges Andrew Barker and Tammy Ho Lai-Ming have selected the following six poems as the finalists. Please scroll down to read the poets’ biographies and their commentaries on the poems. All six poems will be published in Issue #20 of the journal, with Andy Barker’s commentary. The issue will be launched at AWP in March 2013. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our patron from the San Francisco Bay Area who generously donated the cash prizes.
Shirani Rajapakse on “Questions Left Unanswered”: Sri Lanka’s recent past is wracked with incidents of suicide bombings, of young Tamil women strapping bombs to their breasts and blasting themselves in public places in the capital. Most of the young women come to the city with stories of horror and poverty or in search of jobs; they find lodging in residential areas and live like any normal person would. No one knows their true mission until a bomb explodes and they find the remains of a head. And then story is pieced together. Their deaths leave many questions unanswered to the people who give them lodging. This poem was written from the point of view of a man who marries a suicide bomber never realising her true nature. The betrayal he feels and the shock and horror of not knowing anything about the woman he shares a life with for fifteen years shatters his thinking and leaves him wondering about life and what else he has missed.
30-word bio: Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and author. Her work is widely published in international magazines and anthologies.
“Uriah” by Theophilus Kwek
Sumana Roy on “The Third is a Betrayal”: I find myself living in a culture infested by abundance. That abundance, unfortunately, is not surplus. When I came to T.S. Eliot’s ‘third’ in The Waste Land, I found myself thinking about that ‘third’ as adulterous. We use that word almost always for the ‘extra’ in marriages, the ‘extra-marital’ as it’s accusatively called. In trying to write about love in marriages, I found that the ‘extra’ became the ‘third’ in my poem. When I was younger, I liked to think that postmodernism had encouraged this life of thirdness. Now I feel I know better: all our relationships are betrayals for the third is not necessarily a ‘name-place-animal-thing’. We are our third. We are the third.
Ian Chung on “The Virgin From Gibeah”: This poem is actually part of a longer sequence that I produced for my final year personal writing project at the University of Warwick. My intention with most of the poems in this sequence was to give a voice to Biblical characters that otherwise remain silent in their respective narratives, like the virgin of Gibeah in Judges 19. I find it intriguing to flesh out their stories, to imagine what might have brought them to the point when their lives intersected with a particular Biblical story in what typically amounts to a cameo appearance, or to speculate about where they might have gone on from there.
30-word bio: Ian Chung graduated from the Warwick Writing Programme. He edits Eunoia Review, and reviews for Sabotage Reviews and The Cadaverine.
Amy Uyematsu on “The Dare”: Many women have experienced a drunk and angry man.
30-word bio: Amy Uyematsu is a poet from Los Angeles. She has three published collections, the most recent being Stone Bow Prayer.
Heather Bell on “Survivor’s Guilt”: When I wrote “Surviver’s Guilt,” I was on a funny little tangent about poetry, concerning whether or not poems need to be “true to your life” when you write them and then have them published. After I had “Love” published in Rattle, I started receiving a lot of emails from other writers asking me if this was a true account of Klimt’s life. I guess my point was, does it matter? It really got me thinking about how important this seems to be for fellow poets (and which I did not realize previously) and what that means for creative writing in general. People seem to crave “truth” in some form, no matter what they are reading. So, I will say this: my grandmother died around the time that I wrote “Survivor’s Guilt.” Is the poem about a grandmother? No. What I intended was to write around the issue, to leave a reader with a sense of “truth” in a way that you have to wonder about these characters and also wonder about a deeper human thing: grief and how each person will keep a piece of another person, in whatever way they have to in order to survive.
30-word Bio: Heather Bell has published four books. Any more details can be found here.
Tom Mangione on “People are Fundamental“: I’ve always been fascinated with China’s endless stream of slogans. Not a day goes by when I don’t see signs urging passersby to work for the good of the country or to celebrate some new accomplishment of the government. But more fascinating to me than the slogans themselves are the meanings that locals must attach to them beyond their literal meaning. The slogan that I chose, 以人为本 “People are Fundamental” can be found at work sites throughout China. Given their ubiquity, I can imagine that these words have countless associations for people throughout China. It was from this idea that I found my story. Every morning on my way to my job, I used to walk over a pedestrian bridge by a large construction site where this slogan was displayed. I began to play with the idea of workers on the construction site having different understandings and interpretations of the words. The story came from there. READ THE STORY HERE.
20-word bio: Tom Mangione is a writer and musician living and working in Shanghai, China.
“Eclipsed” by Angelo B. Ancheta
Angelo B. Ancheta on “Eclipsed”:I have often wondered how the world might end. Whenever there are disasters such as quakes, tsunamis, or nonstop rains, I entertain the idea that the world could be ending soon. “ECLIPSED” represents many things for me that struck fear when I was young, apocalyptic things that could be scientific or supernatural, or both. But what makes such scenarios more frightening is when people such as one’s parents leave and never come back. READ THE STORY HERE.
“My Bhua” by Hema Raman
Hema Raman on “My Bhua”: My Bhua was inspired by a lone woman who is the caretaker of a dilapidated bungalow next to my house. She has no family but is everyone’s aunt. She pleads and borrows money for medicines and food from neighbours like me, but on a sunny day you can find her out in the garden with her brood of cats. She talks to them and chastises them while they purr eating their fish heads. One day as I watched them and imagined being her daughter, the entire piece came out like a song. I was singing it before writing it down. READ THE STORY HERE.
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.