Kit Fan’s Emergency Stir-fry Mixtape

Kit Fan mixtapeKit Fan’s poems ‘A Long Story of Moon’ and ‘Noh Mask, Yaseonna’ are published in The Poetry Review, 108, No 3. 

I never made a mixtape during the heights of mixtapes in the ’90s when nearly all my friends in Hong Kong were getting their fingers tangled up with the dark magnetic ribbon, fiddling with the plastic spools with pencils and not quite knowing if they were on side A or B, rewinding or fast-forwarding. I was mesmerised by their drama of stir-frying new tracks onto the old tapes. So this is my emergency stir-fry: the ingredients are top-notch but the over-salting, if any, is all mine.

1. Emily Dickinson, ‘One of the ones that Midas touched’

Play with the fascicle before opening the text view on the right to choose the Franklin Variorium 1998 addition. Scroll down and make sure you have unticked ‘hide edits’ and ‘physical line breaks’. Now, read it again. Just when I think it is about an oriole, the poem shouts at me, looks me in the eye, and says “It’s about me!”

2. Leonard Cohen, ‘Dance me to the end of love’

This live performance in May 1993 decluttered the MTV version. A line as sizzling as “Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon” is to die for.

3. Alice Oswald, ‘Vertigo’

The poem’s microscopic, drone-like vision is as haunting as its sedimentary form of intimacy. The text of the poem is also available to read online.

4. Robert Hass, ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’

“All the new thinking is about loss. / In this it resembles all the old thinking.” Hass, I often think, is rewriting Dickinson’s line “Tradition bear with me”.

5. Caitríona O’Reilly, ‘The Antikythera Mechanism’

This has to be one of the most mesmerising poems in the English language about a machine.

6. W.H. Auden, ‘In Praise of Limestone’

If Oswald’s vertical song dives from the aerial to the sedimentary, Auden’s geo-hymn goes four-dimensional, questioning our coordinates of time, people, landscape, and art.

7. Jenny Xie, ‘To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement’

Jenny Xie’s debut Eye Level is one of my poetic excitements this year. This poem about fasting makes me hungry all the time and is a perfect cautionary tale for an oily stir-fry.

8. Spencer Reece, ‘Road to Emmaus’

I encountered this poem in the printed version of Poetry. It was 1 a.m. in the morning and I was in bed. I read the long poem in one sitting and cried my eyes out. Then I read it again and cried my eyes out. It is one of these poems that the more you love it, the more you love the world.

9. Su Shi, ‘Water Song’ (sung by Faye Wong)

No mixtape made by any Hong Kong poets can go without the voice of Faye Wong, the ultimate diva. My teenage years were enchanted by her rendering of Su Shi’s poem and my CD player broke down multiple times because I put this track on repeat non-stop. There’s also this translation online along with the original text.

10. W.B. Yeats, ‘Man and the Echo’

“What do we know but that we face / One another in this place?”

Kit FanKit Fan’s second collection As Slow as Possible (Arc, 2018) is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.