Interpreting Hong Kong Poetry: One City, Two (Language) Systems

  • HO, Tammy L M (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This research aims to study poetry on post-1997 Hong Kong written in both Chinese and English. It focuses on their representations of Hong Kong as city or urban timespace, and examines their concerns and preoccupations regarding the city. Analyses of the poems will draw out issues of thought and action, subjective emotions and social affect, poetics and politics. The objective of the study is to show how a multi-dimensional and multi-perspectival ‘Hong Kong’ is made visible in the literary imagination. Because both Chinese and English poems will be discussed, a further aim of this study is to offer a bridge between the two languages, often seen and studied as two separate and discrete domains. I will ask questions such as: How can the Hong Kong portrayed in English and Chinese poetry be discussed on the same scholarly platform? How does such a discussion enable their similarities and differences to be apprehended? And how does this discussion help deepen understanding of the creativity of English and Chinese in Hong Kong literature and culture?

Hong Kong’s historical and political backgrounds constitute its bilingual reality, which is reflected in representations of the city in English and Chinese poetry. This reality unfortunately leads to what I call a ‘separatist bilingualism’, as there is little contact between works portraying the city written in the two languages, as if Hong Kong existed in two linguistic and cultural universes. In 2014, the Umbrella Movement provided a glimpse at the poetic and interlingual possibilities for bridging this gap. The movement sparked an unprecedented cross-pollination of exchange between the two languages. Publications such as CURA, Drunken Boat and The Margins published Chinese poems about the socio-political situation in Hong Kong translated into English, while the local Hong Kong poetry journal Voice and Verse published English poems about the Umbrella Movement translated into Chinese. This linguistic and cultural exchange demonstrated that there is room and demand for interlingual discussion of poetry written about the city. These two groups of texts emerging from a single historical moment will be the starting point of this study which will expand into a broader investigation of post-1997 poetic perspectives on Hong Kong.
Effective start/end date1/09/1731/08/19


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