What are Cantonese and Chinese Doing in Contemporary Hong Kong English-language Poetry?
Jacky Ho Lung Chan University of Oxford
Contemporary Hong Kong poets depict their writing in English as a conscious choice. Departing from the Cantonese and Chinese with and in which they grew up, these poets embrace English for its traditions and the liberations it brings. Why, then, do these poets also infuse their poems with Cantonese and Chinese grapholects and characters? Is it to do with verisimilitude and issues of translation? But if that is so, why not simply write in Cantonese and Chinese? This talk makes the case that Cantonese and Chinese in Hong Kong poetry exist precisely in tension with English. This hybridity not only highlights the poets’ dual, liminal, postcolonial identities, but also puts the white reader in a position of linguistic disadvantage, making them experience what post-colonial peoples have long been subject to. The use of Hong Kong English even de-centers standard English and embraces a truly and uniquely Hong Kong identity. Surveying a unique literary langscape of Hong Kong through the works of poets such as Mary Jean Chan, Jennifer Wong, and Nicholas Wong, this talk explores the sociopolitics of what Rey Chow calls Hong Kong writing itself in its own language.