Issues 39-40 (March 2018): CHA Tenth Anniversary Special Feature

Editorial: Varied and Plenty: Ten Years of Cha Poetry and a New Beginning at Voice & Verse
by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

The first issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal {asiancha.com} was published in November 2007. Some months before that, my co-editor Jeff Zroback and I put together a very simple Call for Submissions webpage featuring a photograph entitled “City Lantern” by Mark Stringer. It shows a lit lantern perched on a Sheung Wan rooftop against a backdrop of the illuminated windows of Hong Kong flats: a common sight but a glorious one nonetheless. We didn’t include our names in the call, as we were conscious that we were unknown, and our names would add little to the credibility of the project. We sent the webpage to some organisations and local writers. And we waited.

I remember being both heartened and bashful when I received, weeks later, an email from the American poet Bob Bradshaw telling me excitedly about a new online literary journal being set up in Hong Kong: heartened because the webpage had somehow reached him—the internet had worked its wonder; bashful because I had to unmask myself and inform him that the only Hong Kong-based online journal he knew of was in fact co-founded by the only Hong Kong poet he knew. 

Jeff and I will always remember these humble beginnings of Cha. Now, ten years on, we, with our reviews editor Eddie Tay, are more assured of the focus and direction of the journal as well as the role it plays locally in Hong Kong, regionally in Asia, and globally. Among other things, we want to introduce Hong Kong writing to a wider readership and, conversely, to introduce writing from around the world to Hong Kong. And we would like to believe that we have achieved this aim, at least to a small extent. 

Photograph “City Lantern” by Mark Stringer


Over the past decade, we have published more than 900 poems in Cha—in the regular poetry section in each issue, in special features, and in various poetry contests. Many of the poems are Asian-themed or about Asian places, people, practices, fears, festivities and food. There are also personal poems, story poems, poems foregrounding particular forms or techniques, and political poems—slanted or otherwise. 

I have often been asked about my selection preferences for poems in Cha. I wish I had something seemingly profound to say, like Emily Dickinson: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I want to simply say “I know a good poem when I read one.” But this is, I suppose, not a very helpful response. I especially like narrative poems, poems that are not afraid to challenge existing linguistic or thematic preconceptions, and poems that document an event or an occurrence. Poems, sometimes full of whimsy, that need to be reread so as to be better comprehended. Poems that highlight a cherished moment or exchange. Poems that turn a mundane encounter into something remarkable, primal, haunting. Poems that use language in ways that surprise or disturb me, that make me wish I had written that particular gut-wrenching line, invented that particular charming collocation of words, penned that really good poem. 


Out of the 900 or more poems published in Cha, I have personally picked the pieces included in this special edition of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. It was painful to have to leave out so many other great poems—and I hate to think that I might have offended some writers by omitting their works. It wouldn’t be the first time an editorial decision of mine has caused some level of heartache for someone else. I will never get used to this.

Many of the poems in the present collection are about Hong Kong, while a number of the others were nominated by us for the Pushcart Prize or discussed on our critique column, A Cup of Fine Tea. Some of the selected poems are my all-time favourites, very dear to me, such as Reid Mitchell’s “Flowers are as Permanent as Brick”, Elbert S.P. Lee’s “Ginger Flower Woman”, Nicholas Y.B. Wong’s “Panda, Macao, Gondolas”, Greg Santos’ “Siem Reap, Cambodia”, Martin Alexander’s “Smashing up the Grand Piano”, Anuradha Vijayakrishnan’s “Suicide Note”, Alistair Noon’s “The Expat’s Partner: An Email”, Bryan Thao Worra’s “Zelkova Tree”, Robert Masterson’s “To the State Electrical Worker” and Eddie Tay’s “Whose Woods These Are”, to name a few. They tend to come from earlier issues of the journal. With the passing of years, I have read these poems so, so many times. Some of their lines have been etched on my mind and I hope they will be similarly etched on the minds of our readers.


This special edition also coincides with my joining the editorial team of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine as English editor. I am very honoured to have had this opportunity bestowed on me by Chris Song, editor-in-chief of the magazine, to help develop its English-language content, in keeping with its bilingual vision. The co-existence of the two languages (and their different scripts) in the pages of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine makes it a very special, even heroic, literary publication in Hong Kong. Ultimately, I value the links such an initiative engenders, links which transcend the barrier of language—it is literature that matters. Lastly, I hope the present collection, a unique collaboration between Cha and Voice & Verse Poetry, will bear witness to this: We stand together, and are stronger as a result. May we continue to cultivate an environment in Hong Kong that is instrumental for bold and unfettered creative expression, and for the writing of poetry that fears nothing—poetry that continues to sing—in voices that are varied and plenty. 


​         Editorial: Varied and Plenty: Ten Years of Cha Poetry and a New Beginning at Voice & Verse/Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

​         Photographs by Aaron Anfinson

         Daryl Qilin Yam/A Contingent of Birds
         Piera Chen/Advice
         Toh Hsien Min/After Catullus
         Joshua Marie Wilkinson/After Reading Gozo Yoshimasu
         Eleanor Goodman/Alleyways, Shanghai
         Ouyang Yu/Bad English
         Natalie Linh Bolderston/Aubade
         Jeffrey Javier/Blackout
         Bernice Chauly/But we would have to write letters
         Nick Admussen/Can Send Not Receive
         Kathlene Postma/Chinese Box
         Judith Huang/Chinatown Bus
         Janice Ko Luo/Close Quarters, 1962
         Grace Chia/Dog Paddling
         Henry Wei Leung/Disobedience
         Jason Eng Hun Lee/Dragons Rising
         Arthur Leung/Earthen Houses
         Michael Tsang/Epicentre
         Divya Rajan/Factory Girls
         Wawa/Farming in the Air
         Reid Mitchell/Flowers are as Permanent as Brick
         Stuart Christie/Father and Son
         Joshua Ip/first date at jumbo eafood
         Boris But/Forgotten Golds
         Elbert Lee/Ginger Flower Woman
         Aryanil Mukherjee / Hand Movements of a Puppeteer
         Eliot Weinberger/From a Hymn to the Goddess of the Three Cities
         Russell C. Leong/Forms of Flesh
         Lai Kuen Seimao Chan/From “Dead Cat Soushi” (after Makuranosoushi’s The Pillow Book)
         May Huang/Hong Kong
         Shirley Geok-lin Lim/Hong Kong in Black Today
         Jennifer Wong/Home
         Marc Vincenz/Hunchback Rat of the Red Star Hotel
         Joshua Burns/Huang Yong Ping
         Reid Mitchell/I Planted A Banana Tree Outside My Window
         Louise Ho/Fact/Fiction
         Louise Ho/Muse
         Marjorie Evasco/In the Desert
         Isabela Banzon/Kids Everywhere and You and Me in Nowhere
         Alan Jefferies/Last Stand
         Luca Lum/Letter to Ru Yi, the River-Merchant’s Wife
         Michael Gray/Letter to Queen Victoria from the People of Hong Kong, 2012
         Shirley Lee/Letter to a Prominent Korean Man And to You
         Sumana Roy/Love: Made in China
         Theophi Kwek/Love Poem
         Andrea Lingenfelter/Master of Nets
         Alvin Pang/Magnetic
         Tegan Smyth/Mother Tongue
         Gilbert Koh/Not Home
         Blair Reeve/Of Horologists & Jazzologists
         Adam Radford/Old Shikumen Gate
         Andrew Barker/On Encountering Jean-Claude Van Damme
         Bob Bradshaw/On Giving Birth to Your Daughter
         Ocean Vuong/Paramour
         Kate Rogers/On The Flight To Manila
         Jim Pascual Agustin/Photographs Under Plastic Sheets
         Anna Yin/Raspberries
         Sithuraj Ponraj/Ravana
         Nicholas Wong/Panda, Macao, Gondolas
         Jee Leong Koh/Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting
         Akin Jeje/Reach
         Antony Huen/Remembering Hong Kong as 39 Everyday Objects
         Greg Santos/Siem Reap, Cambodia
         Lian-Hee Wee/Revolution Without Text
         Bill Lantry/Silk Road
         David McKirdy/Shining
         Martin Alexander/Smashing up the Grand Piano
         Viki Holmes/smoking double happiness at the grand stage dinner & dance
         Phoebe Tsang/Song for a Commuting Gravedigger
         José Manuel Sevilla/Sonia Wants to Rent an Apartment
         Gillian Sze/Sonnet II
         Phill Provance/St. Petersburg Has Many Churches
         Michael O’Sullivan/Stranger
         Mantz Yorke/Sunset, Kowloon
         Mang Ke (Translated by Lucas Klein)/Street
         B.B.P. Hosmillo/Subjections
         Anuradha Vijayakrishnan/Suicide Note
         David W. Landrum/Tan Yunxian 1461-1554
         Grace Chin/The Clothesline
         Kate Rogers/The Borrowed Children
         Alistair Noon/The Expat’s Partner: An Email
         Miho Kinnas/Sudoku
         Henrik Heog/The Flame and The Fist (Inez Beverly Prosser)
         Paul Christiansen/The Ice-Makers of Trần Hưng Đạo Street
         James Shea/The Phrase You Gave Me
         Ricky Garni/The Tarsier
         Ng Yi-Sheng/The Queen of the Night
         Bryan Thao Worra/Zelkova Tree
         Gregory J. Dunne/Treasure
         Kit Fan/To the Shadow-Millions
         Cathy Candano/Exercise: Unlearning “Heart”
         Robert Masterson/To the State Electrical Worker
         May Dy/We
         Eddie Tay/Whose Woods These Are
         Jason S Polley/Welcome to the Xiang Gang Museum
         Cyril Wong {Cy Rai}/What We Are Given
         Dena Rash Guzman/When I Was the Chinaman’s Granddaughter-In-Law
         Catherine Edmunds/Where the Red Stone Crumbles
         Mai Mang (Yibing Huang)/You Are Island
         Arian Tejano/When A Ladyboy Loves A Foreign Man
         Luisa A. Igloria/Who Was Your First Love?
         Jennifer Feeley/Why Not Say

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