Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 22 July 2020

  • of butterflies


    Zhuang Zi said              
    the man does not know 

    if he dreams of a butterfly 
    or is it the butterfly dreams 

    of a man. It is unclear 
    who awakens first   or from where. 

    Neither do I  
    know      after all these years 

    if I am a Chinese girl who 
    wanted to go home 

    or a woman from Hong Kong 
    who will stay in England. 

    It's British summer time 
    in my living room 

    but my watch in the drawer 
    moves seven hours ahead. 

    The past: is the door still open? 
    The future: am I a filial daughter, 

    living so far away from my parents? 
    Wearing her marmalade camouflage, 

    the butterfly of unknowing 
    pollinates in one world              and another.


    by Jennifer Wong


    Our latest podcast features this week’s poet, Jennifer Wong, who talks to Niall Munro about her exciting new collection Letters Home 回家. Jennifer reads and talks about three poems, including ‘of butterflies’, and explores topics such as the Chinese family, her use of Cantonese and English languages in the poems, her formal choices, and the challenges of writing about the recent Hong Kong protests. You can listen to the podcast here, and subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

    The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website

    ‘of butterflies’ is copyright © Jennifer Wong, 2020. It is reprinted from Letters Home 回家  (Nine Arches Press, 2020) by permission of Nine Arches Press. Read more about the book here.

    Jennifer Wong was born and brought up in Hong Kong. She now lives in the UK and works as a writer, translator and teacher. She has published three collections: Goldfish (2013), Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl - a pamphlet with Bitter Melon Poetry (2019), and most recently Letters Home 回家 , published by Nine Arches Press in 2020, which was selected as a Wild Card Choice by the Poetry Book Society. Jennifer is an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and also teaches at The Poetry School and City Lit in London. You can find out more about Jennifer’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

    Letters Home 回家, Jennifer Wong’s vivid third collection of poems, unravels the complexities of being between nations, languages and cultures. Travelling across multiple borders of history and place, these poems examine what it means to be returning home, and whether it is a return to a location, a country or to a shared dream or language. The poet Hannah Lowe has called it ‘a remarkable collection, which makes a new and bold contribution to the genre of diaspora literature.’ Find out more and order a copy via the Nine Arches website

    Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin's book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke's debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here and follow Nine Arches on  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.