Brookes PhD student wins Hong Kong Young Artist award for literary arts

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Jennifer Wong

With her poetry book Goldfish published by Chameleon Press, Hong Kong-born writer Jennifer Wong has received the Young Artist award for literary arts, presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

The awards were given annually to art practitioners in different streams to recognise their contribution towards arts development in Hong Kong.

Inspired by the rich and colourful history, Chinese culture and traditions in Hong Kong, Goldfish captures many scenes and settings familiar to the Chinese community. From voodoo doll practices under Gooseneck Flyover in Causeway Bay ('Menace'), the elaborate tea rituals in a wedding banquet ('Ceremony'), the impossibility to rely on fengshui to alter a marriage ('Sign'), thoughts of an afterlife ('Shanghai Street'), to the poetic film still from Wong Kar-wai's '2046' ('2046'), the book fuses folklore with imagination, collective history with childhood memories, and conveys Chinese culture as the unifying force that connects Hong Kong people with China. In other poems, familiar cityscapes such as a snake soup restaurant in 'Intact' or herbal shops in 'Turtle Jelly' are juxtaposed with vivid moments of womanhood. Inspired by Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant, 'What Happened to Miss Chang' mocks the superficiality of beauty culture and celebrity entertainment.

The book is also a reflection on the myriad connections between Hong Kong, the former British colony, and its motherland. Classical Chinese poems from Tang and Song dynasties such as 'The Golden Coat' (金鏤衣) and 'Chinese Valentine' (元夕), so often memorised by Chinese students, are translated and included in the collection. The motherland looms as a mysterious metaphor. In the poem 'Leap Year', the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony turns into a surreal dream where one catches a glimpse of ancient China.

In March this year, Wong was a featured poet in the Hong Kong Young Readers Festival, where she offered school talks and writing workshops to children aged 6 to 14.