Piglets' plight poem nets a top contest prize

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 September, 2008, 12:00am

A Hong Kong civil servant has scooped a top prize in an international poetry competition.

Arthur Leung Sai-chung, 39, was second runner-up in the first Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition, in Scotland, for which more than 1,000 entries were received.

Leung also won GBP500 (HK$7,300). The prize was presented at the Edinburgh International Book Festival two weeks ago.

His winning poem, What the Pig Mama Says, tells the story of a sow losing her piglets as butchers take them away one after one, with the mother not knowing they will be slaughtered.

Leung said creatures treated as food by humans had their own ways of thinking, and the poem was trying to imitate the thoughts of 'the smaller life on Earth'.

The theme was initially inspired by the rising price of pork, but also touched on environmental concerns and global food shortages, Leung said. 'I was glad that readers will relate the poem to many contemporary issues,' he said.

The competition's judges described Leung's work as 'a powerful poem with good techniques'.

Leung said he was surprised by the award, as he employed an experimental method to write the poem.

He often repeats words, in phrases such as 'safe safe', 'think think' and 'sorry sorry', or invents words such as 'pupoh' (pig community) and 'bastang' (butcher).

Leung explained that departing from traditional grammar allowed readers to connect with the subjects.

'It would not be convincing if I used perfect English in the poem, therefore I invented a pig language,' he said. 'But still, I had to make the language understandable to humans.'

Leung is as a cultural services manager for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

His previous writings have been published in international publications including Pulsar Poetry Magazine, the Crannog Literary Magazine and Loch Raven Review.

A government spokesman said: 'The award not only represents success for a Hong Kong Chinese poet writing in English in international literary circles, but also showcases to the world the cluster of top talent in the cosmopolitan world city of Hong Kong.'

The award-winner

What the Pig Mama Says

The pupoh stopped to cheer. Leklek

was took away. He was mine biggest boy.

A good heart. Saved the best for Yenyen

and Hokhok. His-self eating leftovers.

I cried I cried. Not knew the bastang

took him where. Gokgou told me was hell.

We ate much as we liked. The white fence

put us safe safe. Always we talked, cheered.

The pupoh liked to play with Hokhok.

Mine little boy talked to them sweet.

He knew how make make community.

But Hokhok too was took away by same

same bastang they took Leklek before.

Mine only girl Yenyen too sad to see

her little brother went. She kept quiet

everydays think think. I begged the bastang

not took mine boy. They not understood.

Heard only something like 'pok is good'.

The pupoh talked little little. Yenyen

stopped to eat. She said, 'No Hokhok play

wis me!' I sorry sorry for her. The bastang

came to take Yenyen. I saw her away.

I not cried. Maybe it better for Yenyen.

She will stop to think. No more think.

No more think think. Maybe I say

too much. Who is listening to my story?