From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (3)

Audrey Heijns_Tai Po Lam Gei Chaa Siu CROPPED_30 MAR 2020

83, Winter

When the weather is cold, a plate of lap-mei rice can make you particularly warm. After such a meal, you feel a warmth all over. If it’s even colder, you’ll see hotpot and claypot rice for sale in the street. The flickering flames resist the cold.

*   *   *

I don’t much like winter, it’s like I am more slow-witted, more sluggish in winter. Someone says: ‘you’re always sluggish, it’s got nothing to do with winter!’ When I think it over, that does make some sense.

*   *   *

No matter what, when the hot weather is gone, the cold weather comes along, and the street scene changes. Winter, whether you like it or not, always arrives on time, just like TV commercials, debt collectors, toothache, and bad luck.

Note: lap-mei rice is a traditional Cantonese dish of preserved meat with rice cooked in a clay pot.

 

83 冬天

天氣寒冷的時候吃臘味飯,特別感到暖。吃了彷彿整個人就暖和起來。再冷一點,你在街頭就可以看見火鍋和煲仔菜。晃動的火光,對抗寒冷。

我不大喜歡冬天,在冬天裡,人也好像呆一點,遲鈍一點。有人說:「你平時也是那麼遲鈍的了,關冬天什麼事?」想想又有道理。

不管怎樣,每年熱天去了冷天就來,街頭又有一番景象。冬天,不管你喜歡不喜歡,照樣準時來臨,像電視的廣告、像收賬的人、像牙痛、像噩運。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste

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● Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

Photograph: Lam’s Cha-siu, Tai Po (Audrey Heijns)

Love-Evol-Ution (He Watches Her Waver)

Tuen Hou Temple_11 MAR 2020

She mutes the wave upon her palm.
Tentative, she hangs one arm out
into the willing air. He watches
with the way he stands, well-wishing her
to understand: will love,
will love now finally show him
a way ― muscular ― exerted in her wrist,
extending frankly tip by fingertip,
till it signals (wing to wing, at last)
joint flight, blood-hope, first trust?

 

Photograph: 香港屯門口角天后廟 Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (2)

Ye Si Cover Image 1_21 MAR 2020

46, Taste

The taste of coffee has gone bland. In the past one spoon of powder was enough for one cup of coffee. Now with one and a half spoon the coffee is still weak. Has the quality deteriorated? Or am I losing my sense of my taste?

*   *   *

The taste of coffee has gone bland. The taste of films is getting salty. The words in the newspaper are getting sour. People’s talk is getting spicy.

*   *   *

As time goes by it’s getting difficult to trust your own taste buds. Have you changed or has the flavour of things changed? In the restaurant, someone is madly putting salt on everything, someone else pours a thick layer of ketchup on his steak. Take a bite and you can’t tell whether you are eating vegetables or meat, if it’s carnivorous or vegetarian.

Note: In Cantonese 鹹 hàahm or “salty” can also mean “pornographic; lecherous”.

 

46 味道

 咖啡的味道淡了。以前一匙的咖啡粉便夠味道,現在一匙半還是淡淡的。是不是咖啡粉的質素差了?還是我的口味變了?

咖啡的味道淡了。電影的味道越來越鹹了。報刊的文字越來越酸。人的說話越來越辣。

日子久了,你越來越不相信你的味蕾。是你變了,還是事物的味道變了?在餐室裡,一個人拼命灑鹽,一個人在牛排上倒下厚厚的番茄醬。嚼一口,你分不出是菜還是肉、是葷是素。

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Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

Skirmish

 

Sunflower & Bees LANDSCAPE_21 MAR 2020

I am writing this down, drop by drop, just as it falls from the sky ⸺ a gentle rain, again perhaps the start of a Summer storm.

Faint thunder detonates the distance and growls down mountains, triggering an avalanche of decibels.

Small, unopened sunflowers stare sightless up into the overcast atmosphere, while the heavens’ only sol-bloom shies blind-ed behind dense acres of cloud.

A whole world between words upsets a particle or two here and there of some absolute boundary inscribed in the dust; plummeting water sculpts tear-drop-shaped craters in sand-drifts banked along the road.

Now there is no eagle to stand the sky on end, and no fox to set its dirty orange fire to the gloom.

Suddenly, I am jumped out of my skin: all the fault-lines in my nature are analyzed both with and against the grain by a forked strike of instantaneous X-ray lightning and, almost in the same split-second, thunder deafens (and defines) the length and breadth of my fragile auditory nerves.

Lost in the moment, one large white cockatoo feather twirls ⸺ gloriously ⸺ back to Earth.

 

Photograph: 澳洲唐人溪:向日葵 Sunflowers, Chinaman Creek, Australia (2020)

A Tea House that Makes Dim Sum with Heart

Zolima City Mag Dim Sum Image 1_13 MAR 2020

Zolima City Mag recently posted a new short video on YouTube.

Called “A Tea House that Makes Dim Sum with Heart”, the clip deals with a small dim sum restaurant called 叁去壹 (“Three Minus One”) in 西營盤 Sai Ying Pun. It’s a finely crafted piece, and is almost as satisfying as a serve of prawn haa gaau dumplings! The camera and editing by Kevin Cheung is superb, and the interviewer Zabrina Lo does a great job in bringing out the rather quietly spoken chef, 王燦枝 Wong Charn-chee. There’s also a very moody soundtrack that complements the urban imagery brilliantly ⸺ the musicians responsible also deserve recognition for their efforts!

There are subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese, and there are some valuable language points in the Cantonese, including the use of the verb 頂 déng2; an instance of 拍檔 paak3 dong3; and a couple of uses of the colloquial numbers, 卅呀一年 and 卌呀一年.

You can view the video here.

The complete Cantonese transcript is as follows:

「叁去壹」本身就唔係我開嘅

● Both 叁 and 壹 are more formal characters representing the much more familiar 三 and 一 respectively.

就有一個朋友開嘅
就1978年嗰陣時
因爲佢本身就三個人嚟頂呢度做

● 頂 déng2 = to substitute; to replace; to take the place of

噉臨時有一個拍檔呢

● 臨時 làhm4 sìh4 = at the time when sth. happens (compare 到時 dou3 sìh4); (?) at the last minute
● 拍檔 paak3 dong3 = a partner (in a business venture)

佢就個老豆叫佢唔好幫人哋咁樣做生意啊咁
唔得啊咁
噉佢就臨時退出
噉嗰兩個咪改呢個名叫「叁去壹」喇

● The use of 咪 maih6 here is very colloquial and one that I haven’t seen explained in any textbook on Cantonese. Sheik Cantonese has “(often used with 囉) then; as a result; might just as well”. Here, it goes seem to mean more or less the same as 就 jauh6, “then”.

我 14 歲入行㗎啦,做點心

Zolima City Mag Dim Sum Image 3 CROPPED_15 MAR 2020

Continue reading “A Tea House that Makes Dim Sum with Heart”

Mouthful of Earth (A Brief Dream of Edward Thomas)

Thoughtful Edward Thomas

I was sure of the name of one of the ghosts;
instantly I knew it, in a dream without names
although, for a ghost, he was more like the ghost of a ghost
with his white unsunned skin and wrongly faintly red hair.
Choose to approach him? But all choice was numb:
the chill in his eyes was the spitting image of Antarctic-blue ice
or invincible reserve, not to be distributed. I willed my face
to disturb my dreaming mouth and quote his own lines back at him by heart —
Whatever happens it must befall, / A mouthful of earth
to remedy all /
Regrets and wishes shall freely be given . . . —

but my hoarse will by then could make no more noise
and when I forced a meeting through my haphazard orbitings
he half-looked at me only to look right through me, like paper,
as if I were the ghost and not worth his greeting,
as if transparent eagerness were the one precise flaw
that made my sighting so simply insubstantial. Yet unmistakably
he was there, even without a voice,
warding me off, watchful, difficult, uneasy, calling me gracefully
into question — or focus — or being — or something
beyond any dream, with a clarity that wasp-stings
even dead-weight sleepers bolt upright from torpor.

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (1)

Audrey Heijns_Rainy Mong Kok

21, Cold after the rain

There’s a glass pane in the restaurant facing the street. The people sitting inside can see a middle-aged man walking past slowly. He turns his head to one side, and casts a slanting glance inside. From the outside one can see a man sitting in a compartment seat staring out the window.

*   *   *

Outside the delivery van is unloading soft drink. Women, who bought groceries, carry baskets passing by. A Pakistani with a turban also walks by. It’s busy in the street, and crowded, the road is wet after the rain. The humid feeling indoors is the lamp light reflected in the glass of water that is half-empty.

*   *   *

People outside can’t hear the gentle music inside. People inside can’t feel the cold after the rain.

 

21 雨後的寒意

餐室有一副玻璃,對着大街。坐在裡面的人,看見外面一個中年男子緩緩走過,側着頭,斜斜地往裡面睨一眼,在外面走過的,看見裡面卡座位上一個男子,呆呆地望着外面。

外面汽水車正卸下汽水。買菜的婦人,挽著籃子走過,一個纏着頭的巴基斯坦人走過。路上熱鬧、擠擁,下過雨的地面,濕漉漉的。室內的濕意,是燈光反映在喝剩的半杯水上。

外面的人,聽不見裡面輕柔的音樂。裡面的人,不知道外面雨後的寒意。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

 

Photograph: Rainy Mong Kok (Audrey Heijns)

Hong Kong Footpath: Interview in Cantonese with Kwan Chuk-fai (Part 1)

RTHK Hong Kong Footpath Gwaan Jak-fai Image

Among his many roles, 關則輝 Mr. Kwan Chuk-fai is currently Chairman of the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund (Labour and Welfare Bureau), a position which indicates something of his concern for social justice. In this interview with Candy 車淑梅 Chea Shuk Mui, he says some interesting things about the shape of a human life, and the need in one’s later years “to build for significance” rather than to stay rigidly focused on personal success. He even talks about the meaning of life:

噉中間叫乜嘢呢,係叫做 build for significance ,啫話有啲咩重要呢,有啲咩係我認為人生嘅, 咦,佢意義喺邊度呢?咩叫快樂呢?會問多好多呢啲嘅。噉你會諗吓,我點樣回饋社會呢?點樣去幫身邊嘅人呢?Ah 有啲咩我應該多做呢?咁樣。好啦,七十五歲以後呢,其實基本上你係留低一個人生嘅軌跡啦,嗄。 啲人諗起,呀呢個人,拜拜咗之後,其實我印象對佢係咩嘅呢咁樣。呢個係一個,啫你留低啲乜嘢精神面貌呀,嗄。噉我覺得呢, 人生係,都係約略咁樣嘅 . . .

So what is the middle stage called? It is called “build for significance”, which involves what I think is important, in what I think the meaning of human life resides. What is that thing called “happiness”? Lots of questions like this tend to get asked. And so you will begin to wonder about what you can do to give something back to society. About how you can help the people close to you. About what should do more of. Things like that. So that, OK, when you reach the age of 75, you have left a kind of track in life. When you’ve said bye-bye and shuffled off, people will think back and say to themselves, this is the impression I had of him. It’s a question of what kind of “spiritual appearance” you will leave behind you. And this is roughly what I think human existence is about.

There is plenty here for the learner of Cantonese. There are a couple of uses of that versatile aspect maker 住 jyuh6, as well as the final particle 噃 bo3. In terms of the vocabulary, you will hear the verb 湊 chau3 used in two different ways, as well as an unusual expression based on the English word “level”, 升「呢」sīng1 lē1. Other items of interest include 涉獵 sip3 lihp6 = (?) to dabble in, 司儀 sī1 yìh4 = master of ceremonies, 祖屋 jóu2 ngūk1 = ancestral home, and 均真 gwān1 jān1 = fair and just, as well as the four-character phrases 成家立室 sìhng4 gāa1 laahp6 sāt1 = to get married and establish a home, and 洗滌心靈 sái2 dihk6 sām1 lìhng4 = to cleanse one’s soul

Be sure to use the Sheik Cantonese website to check any item in this text: you can find their on-line Cantonese dictionary here. I will try to add more to the transcription in the coming weeks. In the meantime, any corrections or suggestions are welcome! This material is invaluable for learners of Cantonese, and it would be terrific if we could make it absolutely perfect.

To hear the interview, please click here.

……………………………………………………

車淑梅:佢係海陸大公關,佢係社會投資共享基金委員會主席關則輝

Part 1A【1:42】

車淑梅:一個人,又或者一個嘅機構,甚至乎一個政府是否成功呢,我相信公關嗰個嘅能力是否夠強係非常非常之重要嘅。噉今日呢,呢位嘉賓,嗄 . . .【2:00】好犀利呀,嗄 . . . 噉多年嚟,大家都睇住佢,海陸空三軍,佢都係曾經涉獵過嘅,可以話呢,海陸空嘅大公關。而家呢,就係社會投資共享基金委員會嘅主席啦 , 咁 ,佢亦都係香港公共關係專業人員協會嘅會員喎, 仲係呢,就喺恆隆地產集團傳訊及投 . . . 記者關係嘅董事嚟㗎。我想大家已經知道佢係邊位喇。冇錯,係我哋嘅大公關關則輝先生,早晨!

●  公關 gūng1 gwāan1 = public relations
● 海陸空三軍 hói2 luhk6 hūng1 sāam1 gwān1 = the navy, the army and the air force; it seems that 陸海空三軍 is also used. I am not sure what the phrase means in this context; perhaps it goes with the verb 涉獵 sip3 lihp6 to suggest that he has tried a lot of different kinds of work.
● 涉獵 sip3 lihp6 = (?) to dabble in; to dip into (not always with a negative connotation)

Continue reading “Hong Kong Footpath: Interview in Cantonese with Kwan Chuk-fai (Part 1)”

Six Letters, Starting with “A”

Evette KWOK_2 SEP 2019

A short word against the run of play
thirteen billion years long;

ETERNITY’s unassuming twin, first voice
of that tall-tale Big Bang;

its effortless forever bears just the right weight
of each thing;

inconspicuous amen, fresh whenever
whoever we are wakes

snug in the palm of its deft left hand
to plant the teaspoon-span of our only lives

down with the dust, dust —
slow-down diamonds of dirt and dust —

daily with the brief human galaxies.
(Solution: always . . . )

 

Photograph: 香港西貢赤徑 Chek Keng, Sai Kung, Hong Kong (Evette Kwok 2019)

Ocean and Notion

Tai Po Man-Mou Temple Cat TWO_3 MAR 2020

Ocean and Notion
Had little in common;
A freak of English
Enforced their union.

They took their honeymoon
Down by the sea
And talked all day
Of philosophy.

Notion went swimming —
A lover of quirks —
While Ocean kept watch
In case of sharks.

Sunburnt but happy
They drove back to town
To start new lives
As Proper Nouns.

 

Photograph: 香港大埔文武廟 Man Mo Temple, Tai Po, Hong Kong (Evette Kwok, 2020)