Nicholas Wong’s Meaningless Mixtape

Nicholas Wong’s poem ‘That World, According to Keanu Reeves’ was published in The Poetry Review, Vol 110, No 1, Spring 2020.

Everyone is now experiencing their new normal, trying to restore patterns and meanings. Language lovers, I invite you to enter a meaningless reality and explore its gorgeous form. Heartfelt thanks to Hong Kong-based composer Olivier Cong for his phenomenal work in pairing each poem below with a music track.

Shirley Kwan, ‘Forget Him’ (Music)

An atmospheric cover and magical transformation of Teresa Tang’s iconic single released in the mid-90s. This Cantopop song is chosen to both set the tone for the playlist and disconnect readers from a language that means.

Hsia Yü, from First Person to go with Yann Tiersen, ‘Porz Goret’

One of my favourite poets from Taiwan. Every poetry collection by her is tastefully designed. Her mesmerizing aesthetics and poetics should be taken more seriously in the Anglophone poetry world.

“I do not know if the sleeper passed away of a snowy evening because language is no longer inhabitable.”

C.D. Wright, ‘Obscurity and Empathy’ to go with John Raymond & Real Feels, ‘Minnesota, WI’

I never get tired of reading this poem by the late C.D. Wright, because every time I finish reading it, I have no idea of what is going on. Randomness that transcends the question of (ir)relevance. Turning points that steers to a new direction, but actually taking you aback.

“The hand is there to express shouts and whispers,
ordinary love,
The afterimage of everything
From the outside what light leaks through the blind

is blue, blue-grey.

There is a dog.
There is a fan.
The fan is on the dog.”

Vahni Capildeo, ‘A Personal Dog’ to go with Erik Satie, ‘Préludes Flasques (Pour un chien)

A poet who needs no introduction to dedicated British poetry lovers. I’m turned on by the poem’s seductive syntax.

Olivier Cong, ‘Beginners (what we talk about when we talk about love)’ (Music)

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart.
I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving,
not even when the room went dark.”

Kim Kyung Ju, ‘Three Poems’ to go with Jóhann Jóhannsson, ‘Flight From The City’

Get ready for Kim’s darkish urban/personal poetics. His work portrays the nihilistic, the mundane, and the erotics of both: “The space I don’t understand/ that I entered through borrowed time/ is moral in a different life.”

Nicholas Wong, ‘Golden’ to go with Mowg, ‘Burning OST

A shameless plug of my own work. Reason: the translingual poem serves as a queer and linguistic inquiry to the Anti-Extradition Bill movement that happened in Hong Kong since June 2019. Handle the internet slangs in the poem with care. Further exploration: playful Singapore-based online poetry journal, Of Zoos.

Tom Lehrer, ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’ (Music)

To go with the last two poems: Message to Bears, ‘Find Our Way Home’

Timothy Liu, ‘The Lovers’ (Poem)

Liu’s gay love poems sharply unveils the complexity of each (erotic) relationship.

Brenda Shaughnessy, ‘Artless’ (Poem)

Meaningless. Artless. Loveless. There’s more to being less.

Nicholas Wong is the author of Crevasse (Kaya Press, 2015), the winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. He is also the recipient of the Australian Book Review’s Peter Porter Poetry Prize. In 2019, his poem has been longlisted for the University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize. Wong has contributed writing to the radio composition project ‘One of the Two Stories, Or Both’ at the Manchester International Festival 2017, and the catalogue of the exhibition ‘One Hand Clapping’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Interviews (by Sarah Howe and Mary Jean Chan) of him were published in Wasafiri and Oxford Poetry respectively. His recent poems and translation will appear in Asymptote, Ninth Letter, The Poetry ReviewThe Georgia Review and Washington Square Review. His next poetry collection will be published by Noemi Press in 2021. He teaches at the Education University of Hong Kong. IG: @citiesofsameness.