Sharing our heritage and wisdom — HKU students celebrate World Poetry Month
Shun Hing College students at the University of Hong Kong are hosting a mini-marathon celebration of World Poetry Month by reciting selections from their countries and cities. The poems, delivered in respective native languages, are accompanied by short introductions of the poets and the selected poems.
“ As a global form of literature, poetry is an expression of individual and collective identity, culture, experience, and heritage. We hope to share with you our diverse heritage, beauty, and wisdom through poetry,” said Nicolo Ludovice, resident tutor of the college and the driver behind the initiative.
The recitations are produced by the Editorial Team of the SHC Media Club, Nicolo Ludovice, Sean Suntoso, Aurell Sulaiman, and Chong Sze Teng.
Enjoy the magical rhythm and recite aloud with us!
“First, A Poem Must Be Magical” by Jose Garcia Villa (The Philippines)
“ First, a poem must be magical/ Then musical as a sea-gull/ It must be a brightness moving/ And hold secret a bird’s flowering. /It must be slender as a bell,/ And it must hold fire as well./It must have the wisdom of bows/ And it must kneel like a rose./It must be able to hear/ The luminance of dove and deer./ It must be able to hide/ What it seeks, like a bride./ And overall I would like to hover/ God, smiling from the poem’s cover.”
Nicolo explains his choice of the poet and his work: “Considered as one of the finest contemporary Filipino poets, Jose Garcia Villa (1908–1997) was awarded the National Artist of the Philippines for literature. Although born in Manila, Villa lived most of his life as a Filipino exile in New York. A scholar contends that Villa is a “universal” writer whose mastery of the English language is impressive, making him a truly transnational figure.”
“The poem talks about how poems should be: melodic to the ear, captivating to the senses, and crisp without being extra. A poem is gentle yet strong enough to pierce through the soul. It speaks clearly without the need to shout. The couplet, in the end, is an instruction of how the poem must elevate from its materiality into divinity. Hence, a good poem comes alive and continues to speak to generations after it has been written.”
“ذوق و شوق (Zauq-o-Shauq)” by علامہ محمد اقبال , Allama Muhammad Iqbal (Pakistan)
“You are the Sacred Tablet, You are the Pen and the Book;/ This blue-coloured dome is a bubble in the sea that you are. /You are the lifeblood of the universe:/You bestowed the illumination of the sun upon the particles of desert dust./The splendour of Sanjar and Selim: a mere hint of your majesty;/The faqr of Junaid and Bayazid: your beauty unveiled./If my prayers are not led by my passion for you,/My ovation as well as my prostrations would be nothing but veils upon my soul./ A meaningful glance from you redeemed both of them:/Reason — the seeker in separation; and Love — the restless one in Presence./You are a witness to my life so far:/I did not know that Knowledge is a tree that bears no fruit./The old battle was then revived in my conscience: Love, all Muhammadﷺ; Reason, all Abu Lahab.”
Muhammad Shujahat explains: “Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), the official national poet of Pakistan, was a beacon of Urdu poetry and philosophy. Urdu poetry, in its essence, keeps one’s beloved person or idea at the centre of life and gravity such that the gentlest yet most passionate figurative and idiomatic expressions are used to convey romantic, religious, or political sentiments and ideologies, rhythmically, soothingly, and strikingly.”
“I have chosen this poem ذوق و شوق (Zauq-o-Shauq), meaning ecstasy or an extreme enthusiasm and liking for something, because it points indirectly to the great persona of and the poet’s passion for the Final Prophet of God — Muhammadﷺ — therefore, these can be interpreted to describe one’s romantic beloved as well. The couplets primarily summarise how the poet’s Beloved is the lifeblood for the formation, continuity, and future of this universe. The poet culminates that how adopting his Beloved’s individual, social, and political practices and principles can be instrumental in solving the current individual and social problems that humanity is suffering from.”
“Del Tropico” (In the Tropics) by Rubén Darío (Nicaragua)
“What a cheerful and fresh morning!/ He grabs the air by my nose:/dogs bark, boy screams/and a fat and pretty girl,/ next to a stone, grind corn.
A young man brings on a trail/his tools and his mouthpiece:/another one with caites and no hat/ looking for a cow with its calf/to milk it by the corral.
Smiling sometimes at the girl,/that from the stone passes to the fire,/a sabanero of good facha,/almost squat sharpens the axe/ on a shore of the gizzard.
Through the hills the light is lost/under the clear and endless sky;/there the cattle the leaves bite,/and there are on the stems of green grass,/Gold beetles and lipstick.
Sounding a corvo and sound horn,/a cowboy passes, and in full lightcome the cows and a white bull,/with some gold stains/by the belly and in the testuz.
And the patron, bat that bat,/I rejoice with the illusion/ from a big cup of chocolate,/ that has to pass me through the gaznate/ with the toast and the cheese.”
Francys explains: “Renowned for its depth of feeling and musicality, the poetry of Rubén Darío (1867–1916) has been revered by writers including Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz. A leading figure in the movement known as “modernismo”, Darío created the modern Spanish lyric and permanently altered the course of Spanish poetry, especially in Latin America.”
“ “Del trópico” (In the Tropics) depicts a morning scene taking place in the Nicaraguan countryside. Describing the way people in the countryside lived, the poem evokes the presence of farm animals and traditional food along with the tranquillity of life under the clear Nicaraguan sky. I have chosen this poem since I can picture vividly the scene that takes me back home, even if it is only for a brief moment.”
(Please return for the next recitation. Works by female poets forthcoming.)