Poet, Publisher, Photographer, Scholar:
One Fine Blend
Everything’s preserved: whispers, gossip,
the rising chatter
in a crowded restaurant.
Ever and forever, it all vibrates in the air
in a diminishing, fixed ratio
beyond the end of the day,
after we are all gone.
Excerpt from” Instrument”
(Connotation, September, 2013)
Pirene’s Fountain welcomes Hong Kong born writer, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, founding co-editor of the first Hong Kong-based English language online literary journal, Cha, which features poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, photography and art. A unique feature of the journal is “A Cup of Fine Tea”, which includes in-depth reviews of its previously selected works. Since its launch in 2007,the journal has garnered numerous awards and honors for its dedication to quality Asian-themed writers’ and artists’ work, while introducing emerging talent from around the world. Ms. Ho is the marketing director of the London-based editing and literary consultancy, Fleeting Books, and a contributing photographer to This literary magazine. Currently, she is an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.
|Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
Tammy obtained her BA and MPhil from the University of Hong Kong, and has presented papers in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Poland, the Netherlands, Japan, Italy and various places in the UK. She recently completed her PhD in English Literature at King’s College London, focusing on Neo-Victorian fiction. In addition, she has published academic articles on Victorian and contemporary literature and is the editor of the journal, Victorian Network.
Book credits include Hong Kong U Writing: An Anthology (University of Hong Kong School of English, 2006), edited by Ho, which brings together a community of new and award-winning writers associated with the University of Hong Kong; and Love & Lust (Chameleon Press, 2008), a collection of short fiction authored by the members of the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle, co-edited with her Cha collaborator, Jeff Zroback, on the themes of love and lust with an Asian spin.
Ms. Ho’s own writing has been widely published in print and online. The poem which follows is one of three of her works nominated to date for the Pushcart Prize. I particularly like the last stanza, and the poignancy of the final lines.
Elegy to a Brother Who Wrote Autobiographical Poems
I'm not her: the woman whom he sunbathed with
By the pool every afternoon for two months.
Was he thirty? She was much older. Those lilies
In her garden he vividly described in a poem;
The grease of his sweat in the sun.
I do not doubt he really joked about
Shooting the alarm clock on her lingerie chest.
I'm certainly not habitually depressed--
That other woman whose belly button's scarred
Is not me. They met in an underground disco
In 1973. Busan? I believe him:
If he wrote she burned his manuscripts, twice,
When they were fighting (and there was
Always a net of cords on the floor
Of her granny's house), then she
must have done so.
My age is probably closest to this girl
(Boxcar Poetry Review, June 2008)
Whose neck was short. Like Scheherazade
She told stories into the night. Sometimes,
When she thought he finally fell asleep,
She let out an exhausted sigh
Long enough to celebrate the end of a day.
Perhaps he loved her, for only
positive remarks of her survive.
Decades ago, I urged him not to write about me.
Only fictionally could he put me in his work.
But I was told (and I could see)
Traces of me are everywhere,
Buried in his poems. Brother,
If you could be resurrected, I would punish you
For promise-breaking. I would tickle you
Breathless, like when we were still young.
As evidenced in the haunting lines of Elegy, Ho’s writing contains strong imagery, a sense of history, raw honesty and humanness. In the lyrical lines of the poems that follow, one is transported to place and time:
Remembering Li, a Tiananmen Activist
Clock set forward,
Bell early rung.
Blinded and made deaf,
A sheet strangely knotted,
without sound or sight.
Silenced in ear shot.
Disappeared in plain light.
(Radius, June 2012)
It was a kind of thatched hut. Outside,
cars whisked past on the never-busy road.
Or perhaps it was not a hut but a house made of wood.
Small, mean. Maybe it was stone?
I cannot rebuild that place with my brick words;
there are no pictures left to verify my description.
I was not yet three, only half conscious of space and clocks.
And my twin sisters, younger than me,
looked like rude boys, wore second-hand pyjamas.
One time, they played with the yolks of broken eggs,
calligraphed on the cement floor. Of that we have a picture.
There is no trace of me in that familiar frame,
but I was convinced that I must be there somewhere,
in that same room. For many years, I imagined myself
standing just behind a cupboard or a broom,
looking on adoringly at my sisters and their toys:
shells, scraps of indistinguishable paper, dust balls.
Later I was told that my too young mother, who had had
three by twenty-two, couldn’t handle us all under one roof
and had sent me to a village on the Mainland.
I was not present when that picture was taken.
(Berfrois, May 2013)
From the past history of Frames to the present day selfie, Fame—more raw honesty:
I would prefer to be unknown,
and let red nail polish adorn my fingers
and yellow ribbons mark my suitcase.
Like someone who delights
in cheap Thai handbags,
and is occasionally mistaken
for a prostitute.
On the lighter side, the sensual Counting Sheep gives us a wonderful visual, and conveys both a sense of connectedness and fragility/vulnerability.
I counted the ways you could kiss me for the first time
as though I were counting sheep.
I counted to twelve, I think. But the memory is hazy.
When I told you this you said:
“Are you using me like sheep? The nerve of you!
You objectify me. That sounds exciting.”
Then you kissed my back, at first gingerly,
(Black Heart Magazine, March 2013)
as though I was an item in your glass circus.
Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
A Cup of Fine Tea
Recent Publication credits:
// Prairie Schooner
// Connotation Press
// SAND: Berlin’s English Literary Journal
// Martian Lit
Please click for Lark Vernon Timmons' interview with Tammy Ho.