Sun, Nov 05, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Hung Hung recaptures the world with words

The award-winning poet and filmmaker talks about his art and the current state of reading and poetry in Taiwan

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

"I want to introduce different kinds of contemporary poetry to Taiwan. From different areas, culture[s] and different styles because it's the only chance to introduce contemporary foreign poetry to Taiwan," he said.

The other function of bringing poets from outside Taiwan to these shores is to raise awareness of the existence of other countries.

Hung Hung has few good words to say about Taiwan's education system, claiming that it fails to teach students to appreciate the literature of other cultures and the arts in general.

"Our education for children and teenagers is terrible. It is a cruel life. They kill all the interest in literature and poetry," he said. He adds that the literature taught at the university level is also too conventional.

"It's not creative, so people [are] writing poetry only for the beauty of the words. Of course this is important, but I think it's not all of what poetry is about," he said, adding that a lot of the poetry currently being written in Taiwan is divorced from the real world, something that he feels needs to change.

"What I can do is write my own poetry to prove that poetry can be connected to society and politics and still be a good poem," he said. Through magazines that publish contemporary Taiwanese poetry like Poetry Now or events like the poetry festival, Hung Hung said he could provide different forums to discuss poetry.

In addition to his work as a poet, Hung Hung has also spent the last decade working in the realm of film and documentary cinema. His films have been critically well-received at festivals throughout Europe and Asia and can be described as fusing the streets of Taipei into the lives of its inhabitants, of which The Human Comedy (人間喜劇) is the most well-known.

Comparing poetry to film and documentary, Hung Hung sees the former as a highly personal statement of his own experiences written in a special code.

"But images are also codes. We can recognize ourselves in the images more readily [than text]. So when I have more and more to talk about the world, then I think [film is a] more powerful way to present what I want to say," he said.

Yet Hung Hung always fuses his poetic sensibility of place into the films he makes.

"When I write about Palestinians or ... Chechen people I am writing about Taiwan. That distance, to look back at one's self [helps me] to think much more clearly. For example, The Human Comedy is about life in Taipei and the locations are all very important in this film. But, actually, I wrote that screenplay in Paris when I stayed there for one year. [What I] realized [is] that I am a Taiwanese and that remains important [to] me and I write that story," he said.

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