Thursday 21 November 2013


International poets to bring poetry into the general community

Co-presented by the British Council, International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong and Hong Kong Tramways Limited, Poetry on the Tram is a fascinating new project aiming to integrate poetry into the general community by displaying poems of various famous local and international poets on trams.  Through this meaningful project, passengers can experience the poetry that courses through our city’s veins and arteries.  An opening ceremony, attended by Kevin McLaven, Deputy Director British Council Hong Kong; Emmanuel Viviant, General Manager Hong Kong Tramways Limited; Professor Beidao, International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong; and numerous international poets including Menna Elfyn, Olvido García Valdés, Lan Lan, Jeffrey Yang and Adonis, was held on 20 November.

The Poetry on the Tram project, drawing reference to the successful collaborations between poetry and public transportation in international cities like London, New York and San Francisco, will display lines of poetry within the city’s public space. From mid-November, 29 tram cars decorated with ten poems in both Chinese and English will operate on Hong Kong Island until 30 January 2014.

Kevin McLaven, Deputy Director, British Council Hong Kong, said, “In Hong Kong where the pace of living is quite fast, many people can’t spare the time to appreciate poetry.  The British Council is glad to co-operate with Hong Kong Tramways Limited and International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong on Poetry on the Tram.  We hope this new project gives citizens the opportunity to read different poetry during their journey.”

Professor Beidao believes the theme Poetry on the Tram ‘invokes multifaceted connections between word and song, between stillness and movement, and between segments and impressions.  Three factors to stress here are the musicality, emotion, and the brief yet lingering rhythms’ of the work.  

“These words reflect a light back on the crowds as they work their way through Hong Kong, an international metropolis, offering brief encounters with international poetry, displayed in Chinese and English, and providing a chance for exchange and interaction between Hong Kong residents hailing from all walks of life.  These encounters will leave behind a perception of the poet’s words and feed the imagination.”

The ten selected poems represent work from poets around the world including the UK, France, Spain, the USA, Japan, China and Hong Kong.  They include:

  •  ‘Lightness’ by Menna Elfyn (Wales, UK)
  •  ‘Sky’ by Olvido García Valdés (Spain)
  • ‘Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake (UK)
  • ‘Days’ by Philip Larkin (UK)
  • ‘The Summer’s Night’ byYves Bonnefoy (France)
  • ‘Wind’ by Lan Lan (China)
  • ‘Cityscape’ by Leung Ping-kwan (Hong Kong)
  • ‘Kelp’ by Jeffrey Yang (USA)
  • ‘The Sea’ by Shuntaro Tanikawa (Japan)
  • ‘Travel Guide to the Forest of Meaning’ byAdonis (Syria).

Poetry on the Tram Facebook competition

In order to encourage primary and secondary students to appreciate poetry, the British Council will organise a Facebook competition on poetry review. Three of the above poems will be introduced on the British Council Facebook ( next week. Students can submit their feelings of the poems in a review of 20 – 50 words (in English) from 12.00p.m., 28 November to 11.59 p.m., 8 December 2013. Winners can win up to HK$400 English course voucher, and up to HK$300 Commercial Press / Starbucks coupon. Stay tuned on the British Council Facebook! 

Notes to Editor

About poets

Menna Elfyn (Wales, UK)

Menna Elfyn is an award-winning poet and playwright. She has published over twelve volumes of poetry including Aderyn Bach Mewn Llaw (Bird in Hand) (1990), the winner of the Welsh Arts Council prize for best volume of the year. Four volumes have appeared bilingually by Bloodaxe Books: Cell Angel (1996), Blind Man’s Kiss, (2001) and Perfect Blemish (2007) and her latest, Murmur, was chosen as Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for autumn 2012. Her other works include libretti for various composers in Wales and America. She was co-librettist for ‘Garden of Light’, a choral symphony for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1999 and more recently an oratorio for Welsh National Opera  ‘Gair ar Gnawd’ (Word on Flesh). She has also written numerous stage, radio and television plays and has a regular column in the national newspaper of Wales, The Western Mail, since 1995. She was made Poet Laureate for the Children of Wales in 2002-2003. She received the Foreign Poetry prize in Sardinia, Italy, in 2009 for her poetry and was also nominated for the Evelyn Encelot prize for European women poets. Her other awards include honourary Fellow of Literature Wales and Royal Literary Fellow at Aberystwyth University.  In 2009, she received an award from Arts Council Wales to write on ‘Sleep’. She is the most travelled and translated of all Welsh language poets and her work has been translated into 18 languages. She is Director of the Masters programme in Creative Writing at University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.

Olvido García Valdés (Spain)

Poet, essayist and translator, Olvido García Valdés was born on December 2, 1950 in Asturias, Spain. She holds degrees in Philosophy from the University of Valladolid, and Romance Philology from the University of Oviedo. She resides in Toledo, Spain.

Her poetry collections, except for her most recent Lo solo del animal (2012), have been published together in one volume Esa polilla que delante de mí revolotea (Poesía reunida 1982–2008). She has translated into Spanish Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry books, and translated in collaboration a wide anthology of Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Sheisalsoauthor of thebiographical essayTeresa de Jesús,texts for art catalogues, and numerous works of literary reflection. She was co-editor of the literary magazines Los Infolios and El signo del gorrión. Her poetry has been translated into many languages. Among other awards, in 2007 she was awarded the Premio Nacional de Poesía (National Poetry Prize) for her collection Y todos estábamos vivos (And we were all alive).

Lan Lan (China)

Born in 1967 in Yantai, Shandong Province, Lan Lan is considered one of the most influential contemporary Chinese lyrical poets. She is the bestselling author of nine poetry titles including Life with a Smile (1990), Songs of Romance (1993), Inner Life (1997), Dream, Dream (2003) and From Here, to Here (2008). Also a prolific prose and children’s fiction writer, her work is translated into ten languages. Awarded the prestigious Liu Li’an Poetry Prize in 1996, she was voted the top writer of the “Best Ten Female Poets.” In 2009, she received four of China’s highest literary honours: the “Poetry & People” Award, the Yulong Poetry Prize, the “Best Ten Poets in China” Award, and Bing Xin Children’s Literature New Work Award. A regular guest at international poetry festivals, she lives in Beijing.

Jeffrey Yang (USA)

Jeffrey Yang was born in 1974 in Escondido, California. He is the author of the poetry books Vanishing-Line (2011) and An Aquarium (2008, winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award), both published by Graywolf Press. An Aquarium was published by Berenberg Verlag in Germany in 2012, with a preface by Eliot Weinberger. Recently, one poem from Vanishing-Line was chosen to be a part of New York City’s Poetry in Motion program where it has been displayed in the city’s subways, trains, and taxis. His poems have been translated into seven languages. For the past twelve years Yang has worked as an editor at New Directions Publishing, and has edited two anthologies for the publishing house—Time of Grief: Mourning Poems and Birds, Beasts, and Seas: Nature Poems from New Directions. He is the translator of Liu Xiaobo’s June Fourth Elegies, Su Shi’s East Slope, and the collection of Tang and Song poems, the Qian Jia Shi, titled Rhythm 226. With the translator Natasha Wimmer, he edited the annual anthology of world literature, Two Lines: Some Kind of Beautiful Signal. Yang also works as an editor at the New York Review of Books, where he helped start their new NYRB/Poets series.

Adonis (Syria)

li Ahmad Said Esber, known to readers as Adonis, was born in a rural village in Syria in 1930.  He graduated with a degree in philosophy from Damascus University and went on to earn a doctoral degree in Arabic literature from St. Joseph University in Beirut.

Adonis has written more than fifty books of poetry, criticism, essays, and translation in his native Arabic.  He is recognized as one of the most important poets and theorists of literature in the Arab world, and one of the most important contemporary poets and thinkers in any language or context.  His influence on Arabic poetry can be compared with that of Pound or Eliot on poetry in English, combined, however, with a radical and secular critique of his society.

Adonis’s many awards include the International Poetry Forum Award (Pittsburgh, 1971), National Poetry Prize (Lebanon, 1974), Grand Prix des Biennales Internationales de la Poésie (Belgium, 1986), Prix de Poésie Jean Malrieu Étranger (France, 1991), Prix de la Méditerranée (France, 1994), Nazim Hikmet Prize (Turkey, 1994), Lerici-Pea Prize (Italy, 2000), Oweiss Cultural Prize (UAE, 2004), the BjØrnson Prize (Norway, 2007), the Zhong Kun International Poetry Prize (China, 2009) and the Goethe Literature Prize (German, 2011).  In 1997 the French government named him Commandeur de I’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

About the British Council

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