Department of English Language and Literature
Something sets us looking for a place: Poetry of Jennifer Wong and Sarah Howe
As the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the first Hong Kong-based online literary journal, I have had the opportunity to read many submissions centring on the Hong Kong experience since the magazine was established in 2007. In the wake of Hong Kong’s handover, the question of Hong Kong and the idea of ‘home’ has acquired new significance, an issue that I will explore through a reading of selected poetry by two female Hong Kong writers who published their work after 2010. I have selected these particular writers for several reasons. Firstly, though nearly two decades have elapsed since the 1997 handover, the spectre of Hong Kong’s colonial past still haunts the city, and there is a need to explore the extent to which this historical background continues to preoccupy recent writing about the city. Secondly, in choosing texts by female writers, we can locate a revisionist gendered reading of the city, as writers turn their back on earlier sexualised and exoticised narratives of Hong Kong, exemplified by novels such as Richard Mason’s The World of Suzie Wong (1957) – a text that ‘eclipses every other novel or film that has ever been set in Hong Kong’ (Lee 89) – and which emphasises a white male-oriented perspective and ethos. Thirdly, I would like to contemplate the definition of ‘Hong Kong’ and its ownership in the literary imagination – who is a ‘Hong Kong writer’ and who is not?
In this discussion, the focus is on the second poetry collection by Jennifer Wong, Goldfish (2013), which includes a number of poems on Hong Kong and Sarah Howe’s award-winning debut collection Loop of Jade (2015), which features works inspired by the city, where she spent part of her childhood. For someone who left Hong Kong at a young age, such as Howe, or later in life, as did Wong, is it possible to see the city in terms that transcend nostalgic remembrance and myth? What does it mean for the expat to turn towards ‘the fragrant city’? What does it mean for the immigrant from the city to still turn ‘always home’ (Howe Loop of Jade 5)?
Source Publication Title
Taylor & Francis
Link to Publisher's Edition
Ho, T. (2017). Something sets us looking for a place: Poetry of Jennifer Wong and Sarah Howe. Wasafiri, 32 (3), 41-45. https://doi.org/10.1080/02690055.2017.1322302