In·ter·punct shares book reviews, art news, lit theory and daily musings from the intimate lives of writers. It seeks to highlight, in an edgy and sprightly fashion, the poetic moments that punctuate our lives.
The boarding pier for an orange-and-white boat, Star Ferry IV, is in one of the busiest and noisiest districts in Hong Kong where people walk down the street like Richard Ashcroft in ‘Bittersweet Symphony.’ The boat ride itself passes weighed-down barges and massive bridges while airplanes and helicopters zig-zag through the sky. Roughly 30 minutes later, when the boat’s engine finally putters out, and the Star Ferry IV lightly bumps into the alighting* pier on the island of Cheung Chau, it doesn’t seem like it’s possible that you’re still in Hong Kong.
The only vehicles are ambulances and police vans. Locals and tourists saunter between meandering bicycles and vendors leisurely chew mango moji, or deep-fried potatoes spiraled around a skewer. The tallest buildings are two or three-story, traditional houses either overlooking the fishing boat-packed bay or tucked away in alleys between locally-owned noodle shops.
I arrived early in the morning, 30 minutes before the Cheung Chau Wave Arts Festival was set to begin. I wanted to make it to the first event on time with my daughter and her extended family. It was a family-focused yoga session lead by a smiling and talented American, yoga teacher: Tina Wojewnik.
After an hour of breathing like we’re cooling hot chocolate and letting my daughter climb on me while I attempted a downward dog, we meandered down the tight, walking streets in search of something to eat. Where we stopped was not your typical place to eat; except for perhaps in Hong Kong. I bought a significant portion of curry squid in a bowl, and next to that we had a bowl of cubed cow lung and intestines, and a few dotted eggs from birds I’m not familiar with. Expert foodie tip number one: it tastes much better if you don’t think about what it is you’re eating.
The afternoon was filled with kung-fu tea, tai chi demonstrations, more unique foods(?), and an intriguing talk by Elizabeth Briel about eunuch singers within Chinese culture and allusions to shark fins being chopped off for soup. To be fair, the talk left my mind with some disturbing images, but it also helped shed some light on how people come to accept themselves and live their lives to the fullest despite the cruelties they’ve suffered in the past. Side note: the sharks don’t survive.
After a jam-packed morning and afternoon, dinner bells rang as the main event was due up while the sun set behind the silhouette of the sleepy island. Just as well; we were hungry. Though the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Center and Windsurf Bar had closed its kitchen almost entirely, they had left the deep-fryer on. Thus, chicken wings, French fries, and spring rolls covered our table in a speckling of light and dark brown platters.
The sun sets quickly in Hong Kong, and a bright, almost-full moon was glowing behind a microphone overlooking the sea. Poets and spectators filled the restaurant, some sitting in small groups and chatting in more languages than I understand, others sat alone, waiting intently for the spoken word event to begin.
Finally, the organizer for the poetry event, Laurence Genee, stepped up to the microphone, seated next to her was Graeme Morris, strumming his guitar lightly and accenting the entire poetry event.
Introducing poets and musicians from Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (including myself), Laurence kept the microphone stacked with talented wordsmiths. I sat back and absorbed the sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes lewd poetry in just as many different accents while I munched on crunchy, deep-fried delectables.
From people returning to Cheung Chau in remembrance of time they had spent there in the past, to poets who frequent a weekly poetry club in Hong Kong known as the Peel Street Poets, two hours of this poetry-burger was filled with saucy syllables and beefy words. Swallowing it all, my heart was full, and the delightful aftertaste remains today.
Upon its conclusion, as I packed up my things and made some small talk with attendees on my way out the door, I looked back at the almost-full moon. I locked in its image as a reminder that I must return next year for another calming day of yoga, art, music, and best of all, poetry.
*’Alighting’ is a term you will frequently see in Hong Kong that is used to describe the exiting of a motorized vehicle including boats, busses, airplanes, and trains.
For more information on the festival, go to www.cheungchauwave.com.
In·ter·punct shares interviews, expositions, poems and daily musings from the intimate lives of writers. Like the interpunct, which is a middot used to separate syllables, this blog seeks to highlight, in an edgy and sprightly fashion, the poetic moments that punctuate our lives.