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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 4 – Hong Kong: A cosmopolitan mix


Chapter 4 Hong Kong: A Cosmopolitan Mix


Hong Kong (area: 1,104 square kilometres; population: 7.17 million) (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, 2013; Census and Statistics Department, HKSAR Government, 2013) consists of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula (ceded to Britain in 1842 and 1860 respectively) and the New Territories and many outlying islands (leased to Britain in 1898 for 99 years) (Lam, 2008, p. 412). In 1997, Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule and its official name became the HKSAR. The official languages are Chinese and English and competence in both forms of Chinese (Cantonese and Putonghua, the standard dialect on the China mainland) and English is an educational goal. While the majority of the population is Chinese-speaking (89.5% Cantonese speakers; 1.4% Putonghua speakers; 4% other Chinese dialect speakers) and speakers claiming English (3.5%) and other languages (1.6%) as their usual languages are in the minority (HKSAR, 2013), the actual language use is more complex as many Cantonese speakers have some familiarity with Putonghua and many Chinese speakers also know some English (HKSAR, 2013).

Although both Chinese and English may be adopted as the languages of instruction in the schools, English is often the language of higher education in Hong Kong, especially in the more competitive programmes (Lam, 2008, p. 412–413). This is in keeping with Hong Kong’s prominence as a world city in financial services. In the literary arts as well, Hong Kong is becoming more appealing. The...

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