Newsletter No. 412

12 No. 412, 4.2.2013 郑竹文教授 英文系助理教授 2012新加坡文学双年奖得主 你是怎样开始写诗的? 我的学士和硕士学位都是在新加坡国立大学念的。我修了一个新加坡和马 来西亚文学的课程,很喜欢,我用传统和学术的方法去研读,但是文学不应 只是阅读别人的作品,也应该涉及创作,以及了解作家写作的动机。所以, 我开始对创意写作和诗产生兴趣。诗赋予你破坏和分解语言的自由,容许 你不合情理(起码在最初阶段)而随意地把事物聚合,以达致更高境界的 情理。散文则较为凝聚和平面。有一段日子,我每晚花两三个小时写小说, 一年后才发现那根本不适合我。 除了在‘A Second Language’一诗里你所表达的自觉不足(但愿更认识 中国文化)之感外,你认为诗人最大的挣扎和挑战是甚么? 我喜欢文学,因为它给我充分理由去阅读、写作和离群独处。我不善交际, 不过,做诗人也意味要朗读自己的作品,组织一下活动,我得迫自己走出 去读我的诗,我也曾在香港国际文学节和香港书展等公开活动演讲。 在中大教授创意写作的经验怎样? 每年,选修我的课的学生背景殊异。写诗讲求的不单是掌握和运用语言,而 是生活和感受。只要你有感受,就可以写诗。在香港,英文是实用语言,是 工具,但我尝试向学生显示,它也是思想和感受的媒介,是关乎他们的文化 认同的东西。 写诗应用各种不同的方法构思,要做到这点,我教学生各种写作策略。其一 是把一首诗逆向建构,通过这个拆解的步骤,他们会找到自己的风格。有时 我他们在诗句之间插写,又或假装明白一首法文或意大利文诗,然后翻译 成英文。我也会向学生展示一些影像,请他们回应。 你的诗集 The Mental Life of Cities 获得英语组别的2012新加坡文学双 年奖,集内大部分作品都是自由体。格律对当代诗有多重要? 大体来说,今日大部分诗人都用自由体写作了。所谓自由体,其实是舍弃传 统格律而追随其他艺术规则;诚如艾略特所说,从没有绝对的自由。一首诗 听起来的感觉是怎样,变得十分重要。话虽如此,诗是可以用不同的审美方 法来欣赏。有些诗人不善经营声音,但精于处理抽象概念,他们的意念带有 美妙的节奏;有些对声音触觉敏锐,所写的诗十分适合朗读。 在后殖民时期的香港和在后殖民时期的新加坡写作,主要分别在哪儿? 英语在新加坡更为普及,所以用英语创作的诗人可以申请拨款资助出版、在 文学节办读诗活动或参加研讨会。新加坡的英语写作受众较多。在香港,中 文写作所得到的支持要多得多。 可有最喜欢的诗人? 有。Edwin Thumboo。他可说是新加坡诗的始祖。我念本科课程时,有一年 他曾是我的导师。我们班上有七人,每周见面两次。现在他来港时我还有跟 他见面。 Photos of Prof. Eddie Tay in this issue are by Keith Hiro  Prof. Eddie Tay Assistant Professor, English Department Recipient of the biennial 2012 Singapore Literature Prize Please tell us about your path to becoming a poet. At the National University of Singapore (NUS) where I did my first and second degrees, I took a course on Singaporean and Malaysian literature. I liked it and studied it in a traditional, scholarly manner. But literature is not only about reading people’s works, but also about producing them and understanding why writers write. So I became interested in creative writing and poetry. Poetry gives you the freedom to destroy and decompose language. It allows you not to make sense (at least not initially) and to bring arbitrary things together to achieve a higher kind of sense. Prose tends to be more coherent and linear. There was a time when I spent two to three hours every night working on a novel only to find that it wasn’t working for me after a year. What have been your major struggles and challenges as a poet, apart from the sense of inadequacy (from not being as well-versed in Chinese culture as you’d like) as expressed in ‘A Second Language’? I like literature because it gives me a good reason to read and write and be solitary. I’m not a very socially inclined person. But being a poet is also about reading your poems and organizing events. I have to force myself to go out and give readings. I’ve also given talks at various public events such as the Hong Kong International Literary Festival as well as the Hong Kong Book Fair. What has your experience teaching creative writing at CUHK been like? Students from different backgrounds take my creative writing course every year. Poetry isn’t only about your grasp of the language; it’s about life and your feelings. As long as you feel, you can write. In Hong Kong, English is a pragmatic language. It’s a tool, but I try to show my students that it’s also a medium of thinking and feeling, one that has to do with their cultural identity. To write poetry, you have to think in different ways and to do that, I teach them various writing strategies. One of them involves reverse-engineering a poem and through the process, they would find their own voices. Sometimes I have them write between the lines of a poem, or pretend they understand a poem in French or Italian and translate it into English. I also show them images and have them respond to them. The Mental Life of Cities recently won the biennial 2012 Singapore Literature Prize (English Category). Most of the poems in the book were written in free verse. How important is metre to contemporary poetry? In general, most poets writing today engage in free verse. But free verse is about abandoning traditional rules to follow other artistic rules; as T.S. Eliot says, it’s never really free. How a poem sounds becomes very important. That said, there are different aesthetics to poetry. Some poets have no sense of sound, but handle abstractions very well and there is a wonderful rhythm to their ideas. Some have a great sense of sound and their poems lend very well to being read out loud. What is the main difference between writing in post-colonial Hong Kong and post- colonial Singapore? English is more commonly used in Singapore, so English-language poets can apply for publishing grants and for funding to read at literary festivals or take part in seminars. There’s a larger audience for English language writing in Singapore. In Hong Kong, there’s a lot more support for Chinese writing. Any favourite poets? Yes, Edwin Thumboo, who many consider to be the founding father of Singaporean poetry. He was my mentor for a year while I was an undergraduate. There were seven of us in his class and we met twice a week. I still meet up with him when he comes to Hong Kong.

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