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’s critical and creative work and her translations have appeared in magazines and journals such as World Literature Today, The Rialto, Magma, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation. Jennifer won a Young Artist Award from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in 2014 and was the runner-up in the Bi’an Writers Awards in 2018.
Having studied as an undergraduate at Oxford, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and then a PhD at Oxford Brookes University about identity, otherness and home in contemporary Chinese diasporic poetry. Jennifer is an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes and also teaches at The Poetry School and City Lit in London.
Jennifer’s collection, Letters Home 回家 , is split into five sections: ‘the ground beneath our feet’, ‘speak, silence, speak’, ‘Mountain City’, ‘just an immigrant’, and ‘remember to forget’. As these section titles indicate, the book covers a remarkable amount of territory - both literal and metaphorical, and it charts Jennifer’s growth as a person and as a poet. It is very much grounded in real places and down to earth in the ways that it treats real people, such as members of her family or Chinese writers such as Ba Jin or Bei Dao. Yet it is also at times a book about dreams and how dreams don’t always correspond with reality, especially for someone who has migrated from one country to another. These poems frequently offer subtle critiques of prejudice and oppression and explore the challenges of finding a home in the world, and they interrogate the kind of language that we use to describe our experiences.
In this podcast, Jennifer reads and discusses four poems: ‘of butterflies’, ‘Girls from my class’, ‘My father, who taught me how to fold serviette penguins’, and ‘Truths 2.0’. She explores topics such as the relationship between her past and present life, how far the Chinese family might be perceived as ‘a perfect state of happiness’, her use of Cantonese and English languages in the poems, her formal choices for these poems, and the challenges of writing about the recent Hong Kong protests.
You can read the poems that Jennifer discusses below and you can order a copy of Letters Home 回家 from the Nine Arches website, as well as the usual retailers. You can also visit Jennifer’s own website and follow her on Twitter.