Peel Street Poetry / December 2017 (Issue 38: Writing Hong Kong)

Peel Street Poetry

by Peel Street Poets

Denis Tsoi was the Winner of Peel Street Poetry's annual slam, which took place on 15 November 2017. "Born" is from the first round of the slam where the word prompt was 'born'.

When I was born,
I was born without your privilege,
I was seen as the immigrant,
The Chinese kid from the Chinky,
The Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, karate kid wannabe.

When I was born,
I learned your language, your words,
Your whips of "you will never be one of us".

After all those years in the sunken place,
trying to fit in within the white space.

I am still told,
"You speak such good English"

When I was born,
My father believed knowledge is power.
The power to survive.

My father doesn't speak your language.
So I'll tell his story.

Father! I will give your grandchildren your story.
The times your body sunk behind a kitchen,
The times when you didn't want to wake up,
The times you kept silent with racial slurs.
Though I can never tell you this.

I was born with your strength.
Denis Tsoi is a non-academically trained three-time Peel Street Poetry Slam Finalist. When not writing code, he spends his time supporting local PoC artists and initiatives. You can find more of his work here.

Samantha Bradley was a Finalist of Peel Steet Poetry's annual slam.
"Heavy" was inspired by being blocked by a friend minutes before the poetry slam final.


And so it ends tonight
My dear friend
No last cry
No heavy goodbye
Just you blocking
But not a mocking
We won't cry
It's your time to fly
Instead my dear friend
We will remember with respect
Last February when we met
And you set my fun ablaze
With that amazing
You heavy with expectation
Of happiness
Of liberation
Of marriage
Of love
But I couldn't return it
Because I was already taken
As you and I both know
Thank you darling
For becoming light as a feather
For letting me go
Samantha Bradley is a lawyer living in Hong Kong with her teenage son Luke. Her daughter Meg is training to be a doctor. Finding inspiration in daily events and those around her, she writes spontaneously in bed, on the ferry, in the bar, on the street.

Jeff Chow was a Finalist of Peel Steet Poetry's annual slam. "Heavy Star" is from the final round, where the word prompt was 'heavy'.


Here comes Jeff Chow Jung Sing.
Jung Sing, in English where
the "J" and "S" are consonants I can't fathom,
mouth shapes devoid of meaning.
I learnt my a  b  c
and d  e  f  g  h  i  j  k  l  m  n  o  p  q  r—
is the indefinite of the verb
sang sung, sing sang sung.
Try it at home please do try
But it you can’t pronounce it, I can queer myself—

reconstruct the handsome strokes into
turns and rounds;
just outside this bamboo scaffoldings
I will reach inside the jade green gossamer and pick out a stick.
Chew on it with my bare tongue and
let the remains tell my fate.

A fisherman somewhere westward:
J — fishhook deep beneath the open sea;
e — stomach filled with fishes, overflowing;
f f — hooks on shoulder ready to dive again.

Or a sunchaser somewhere eastward:
Jung Sing 重昇 is the combination of
A thousand 千 mile 里
And the 升 rising 日 sun.

Or somewhere not east nor west;
in between,
as my lucky names somehow utter each other each time.
Jeff Chow Jung Sing is a Hong Kong-born poet interested in Asian, queer and postcolonial literatures. He was awarded the "Most Creative Award" in the Hong Kong's Top Story 2016 and was recently anthologised in Twin Cities (Landmark Books, 2017).
Jason Lee was a Finalist of Peel Steet Poetry's annual slam. "Magnets" is from the first round, where he won his group. The word prompt was 'turns'.


Taking turns—
we waltz around each other,
never touching,
like magnets repelling.

Our eyes locked, desires loaded,
we turn
from strangers into friends,
friends to strangers,

like magnets repelling.
Turning and turning in some widening gyre,
you cannot give yourself to me,
I must not give myself to you.

So we turn—
you face your side of the bed
I face mine
like magnets repelling.

Yet each night, under this forceful sky
we take turns to make amends,
waltzing round each other,
our eyes locked, desires unloading,

until we fuse together,
lost in some strange, perfect union.
Like magnets, like magnets,
I find myself turning into you.
Jason Eng Hun Lee is a poet of mixed British and Chinese ancestry. He has been published in Envoi, Acumen and QLRS. His first collection Beds in the East was a finalist for the Hong Kong University Prize (2010).

Vishal Nanda was a Finalist of Peel Steet Poetry's annual slam. "Control Alternative" is from the first round, where he won his group. The word prompt was 'search'. 


Inside I'm going, I'm going to say it, I'm thinking it,
I'm not a poet, they say I'm a poet, but that's stupid,
It's retarded, that's politically incorrect, whose a poet?
How do you get to be a poet?

Inside I'm going

With my life, Not the slam,
For the slam I'm like...writing poetry man?

C: Regard self

Ctrl F

Boot up the ass:

I've got to find myself?

Between the day jobs, the nights pastimes,
Netflix choices, Netflix is telling me online what I might like.

I need to find myself.

What do I want to eat today?
It's tough, tough choices, from breakfast onwards,
See the carbs a bad diet, high GI, I know,
My Mom, she read this headline, of this article once
And VO2 gym says to buy their protein powder now.

What game shall I play?
I got time, I got so much free time today,
My phone's gonna vibrate, it's gonna knock on my balls,
It's holding touch screen choices; Bejewelled, Clash of Clans, some good old fashioned,

Victorian fucking porn.
(I swear I'm not into that.)
But you'll never know.

Only Facebook, or Google, or the NSA
And everyone else I signed my privacy over to
When I clicked accept

I got to find myself.

Somewhere on the Kindle ad page,
Fucking yes!
They got a book for me, on mindfulness.

To find myself.

Ten thousand books and they found one for me,
Beautiful what a future,

One day I'll hope I'll be someone, some writing, something made
For someone else to find, on their Kindle top ten page...

I need
Find myself?

Control F

Control, the effort, fuck,
What the hell is going on...
Buffering man, buffering load, I'm buffering


Holy shit.

What a large crowd.

Okay, I got to write a poem,
Something about searching, I could do a pun,
On church yeah, churching, something religious,

Something...about how

We're programmed to search.

We have so much freedom, no, yes?

Control F-
to find myself,

Google helps, the Facebook, the oracle, s'why our fingers go straight to whatever top five websites you end up on.
Instant search criteria fulfilled

Inbetween, clicking, actually living.

Control the F

I used to believe the internal dialogue,
I used to follow my feelings like fucking candy crushed shit,
I'm talking Hansel Gretal diabetes droppings,

But through our eyes, ears, mouths of friends,
We're addicted to the dopamine.

I'd play video games till I could feel less depressed,
I'd call it finding myself—I mean, that's what I felt,
What I wanted,
Cuz we're always searching for what we want.

That's it, that's how we find ourselves,

We've forgot, we always get what we want,
What we need,
The fucking Stones, a YouTube Throw away,

But the top song of all time on YourTube trending,
Is Wiz Khalifa,

Saying something about how we've come a long way,
Without someone else,
We'll tell you all about it when I've found myself.

Control the Eff




Control Alt F

Alternative Fuck the screen

Alternative fuck them all,


Alt F 4.

Stop searching.

Walk. Cut a path through.

They aren't distractions worth finding

They're assholes making money off of
Vishal Nanda is a writer and spoken word performer in between being an indie game designer, teacher, and editor. He has performed spoken word poetry at a variety of events, including TEDx Wanchai, comedy shows, fundraisers and on RTHK radio three.
This year's judges:
Tegan Smyth has spent equal parts of her life in Hong Kong and Australia, where she was born. She is an aspiring writer and regular at Peel Street Poetry, writing about language, culture and identity politics, drawing from her experiences as a mixed-race woman. When not writing, she goes to her day job, organises community events (HK Community Connect) and watches way too much YouTube. 
Collier Nogues' poetry collections are The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground (Drunken Boat, 2015) and On the Other Side, Blue (Four Way, 2011). Her work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and Lingnan University. She teaches creative writing in the Chinese University of Hong Kong's MA Programme in Literary Studies, and is a PhD Fellow at the University of Hong Kong, where she studies contemporary poetry's response to US militarisation. She also co-edits poetry for Juked and curates Ragged Claws, Hong Kong's English-medium poetry craft talk series. Visit her website for more information.
Nashua Gallagher is the founding director of Peel Street Poetry, a literary arts collective that have ran spoken word sessions and other events in Hong Kong for the past twelve years. Her work has previously been featured in Not A Muse (2009), OutLoud Too (2013) and Cha. She has performed her poetry at several Hong Kong International Literary Festivals, TEDxWanchai's main stage event, and her first collection of poetry will be published in 2018. She lives, works and writes in Hong Kong with her husband, two children and growing menagerie of animals.

Henrik Hoeg is the organizer and emcee of Peel Street Poetry. His first collection Irreverent Poems for Pretentious People was an awardee in the Proverse Prize and was published in April 2016. He is currently working on a second collection of poetry and his first novel.
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
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All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.