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Becoming poets

The Asian English experience

Agnes Lam

Literatures in English have emerged in several Asian communities and have enjoyed a growing readership. Creative writing programmes in Asia and other parts of the world have also attracted many new voices from Asia. However, little is known about how learners from different language backgrounds become published poets in English. This book is a pioneering work on the development of poets and poetry in English in Asia. It offers a five-stage model to understand such phenomena. The life experiences of 50 published poets from five Asian locations: Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and India, based on interviews conducted by the author, and their poetry are analyzed to appreciate how learners of English in multilingual environments become published poets and how such individual metamorphosis contributes to the growth of literary communities at local, regional and cosmopolitan levels. Researchers on Asian Englishes and literatures in English, teachers and participants in creative writing programmes, policy makers for English in education or the nurturing of the creative arts and any one interested in poetry writing will find the book highly informative and inspiring.
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Chapter 3 – Macao: Creating poets

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Chapter 3 Macao: Creating Poets

Introduction

Macao (formerly Macau) (area: 29.9 square kilometres; population: 576,700) consists of a peninsula and two islands and is located 60 kilometres away from Hong Kong (Macao Government, 2013). In 1557, it became a trading post of the Portuguese, who began to pay rent to China for the lease of the peninsula from 1582. In 1887, Portugal assumed sovereignty over the territory but, in 1999, it reverted to Chinese rule as a Special Administrative Region (Cheng, 1999, p. 3, cited in Lam, 2008, p. 414). The population is now largely Chinese (92.3%) with a small Portuguese group (0.9%) and a Filipino minority (2.7%). While 40.9% of the total population were born in Macao, 46.2% were born on the China mainland and later settled in Macao. The official languages are Chinese and Portuguese; Chinese is spoken by over 94% of the population, Portuguese by only 0.7% (Macao Government, 2013). The two forms of Chinese spoken in Macao are Cantonese and Putonghua; Cantonese is widely spoken but, partly because of immigration from the China mainland, Putonghua also has a sizable number of speakers (Lam, 2008, p. 414). It is also worth noting that even if the number of Portuguese speakers is small, the language is still relevant for Macao’s positioning within the People’s Republic of China and China’s relations with the Latin world (Lam, 2008, p. 414–415).

Of particular interest to the present discussion is the enhancement of English...

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