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Poetry fosters cross-cultural insight, say Richmond poets

Chinese writers host reading of North American classics
A group of Richmond writers and poets took to Zoom to share a number of classic poems written by American and Canadian authors

Poetry might not be seen as a priority in times of crisis, but a group of Richmond Chinese-speaking poets recently found solace and sparkle by reading and discussing some of the great North American poems of our time.

Last week, a group of local writers and poets took to Zoom to share a number of classic poems written by authors, including American poet Robert Frost and Canadian poet Francis Reginald Scott.

The online poetry reading event - initially organized to keep people connected during the pandemic - turned out to be an “absolute blast for everyone,” according to event organizer and local poet, William Chen.

“Poetry and literature allow us to express ourselves freely. For me, the most exciting part is when people resonate with your writings - the feeling of both of you vibing together,” laughed Chen.

Chen said they have also received overwhelming feedback from event attendees, with many of them asking when the next reading will be held.

Retired lawyer and writer Tommy Tao, co-organizer of the online event, said good poems are like well-made noodles, they require people to take time to “chew.”

“A poem’s success relies on the reader’s willingness to spend time to chew on it. The more you chew it, the more benefit you will get out of it. Most poetry is written in a super spontaneous way and you need to take time with it,” said Tao, who described himself as always having his head in literature.

Tao encourages more people to squeeze time from their busy schedules to read poems because, he believes, there is always something for everyone as long as you are willing to explore.

“There are a variety of poems, some discuss the dark side of human nature, some focus on social issues.”

As Chinese-speaking residents, Tao added, we can better understand North American culture by contemplating North American poetry.

“Overall, it’s a blessing and also a privilege to understand both cultures and languages. Therefore, we need to return the favour by helping more people understand the living beauty of the world of English literature and poems,” said Tao.

The project of creating greater cross-culture understanding through poetry will continue, said Chen, as a group of local Chinese-speaking poets plan to publish a book in English this year.