china as kafka

(Adam Cheung)
The February session of Kubrick Poetry took place in our new post-renovation hang-out at the upper level atrium of the Broadway Cinematheque. This afternoon, we were joined by Maori poet, Vaughan Rapatahana, who kicked off the afternoon by sharing his curious observations of Hong Kong, a place he has called home for the last seven years. The first few poems he shared conjured the vivid sights and smells of places like Tsimshatsui and Mongkok. Vaughan also expressed a genuine concern for the condition of our society when he talked about his observations of the social fabric of his neighbourhood in Tin Shui Wai,
The poem “china as kafka” captures his impressions of contemporary China as a country plagued by corruption and injustice. “cadre Wong is never wrong / remember that / you fool” are the lines that echoed throughout this reading. After Vaughan’s enthusiastic performance, a member of the audience offered her own verbal rendition, giving the audience and the poet himself another interpretation of the same poem via a different voice.

In addition to his two books of poetry, Vaughan also shared with us the books he wrote for teaching young people how to write poems. The books used English and Maori poems as examples. Vaughan read a poem in the Maori language and offered another member of the audience a chance to try to read in this foreign tongue. In this verbal exploration of the Maori text, the group enjoyed a few laughs as we discussed the wide range of sounds that the language offers. Vaughan also gave us some background history of New Zealand and the white man’s conquest of the local inhabitant’s land. He also shared many insights accumulated over the years having lived in various places in Asia including the Philippines.
At the same time as being an English teacher, Vaughan also expressed a deep interest in local language preservation amidst the spread of English as a global language. His concern is explored in a forthcoming book titled The English Language as Hydra. Vaughan is also well-versed in existential philosophy and has mentioned the works of Colin Wilson as a source of inspiration.

Overall, Vaughan has shown us that reading and listening to a poem can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience even if the language being read may be foreign for the listener or even the reader. He has shown us that poetry can be written and enjoyed across different languages, and across different countries. We ought to respect Vaughan’s non-judgmental curiosity for the local culture of the places he has lived in, and even amidst the mass commercialism and consumerism that plague Hong Kong, we are pleased to know that Vaughan will continue to call this place his home in the years to come.
(Photos by Paul Wan)