poetry with sal kang

I spend most of my time reading, writing, and teaching poetry; if not, I’m either working shifts at a museum, recording lo-fi tracks in my bedroom, or designing spreads for a magazine. School comes dead last in my priority list.

I spend most of my time reading, writing, and teaching poetry; if not, I’m either working shifts at a museum, recording lo-fi tracks in my bedroom, or designing spreads for a magazine. School comes dead last in my priority list.

I Mistake Dignity for a Gumshield | Pantoum

The boy's bruised lungs

punch me right in the face

He is staring without blinking

as they beat him


Punch me right in the face

I don't want to feel my teeth anymore

as they beat him

in the alleyway; or should I say slaughterhouse?


I don't want to feel my teeth anymore

Everything is consumed by darkness

in the alleyway; or should I say slaughterhouse?

Has he stopped thinking about salvation?


Everything is consumed by darkness

as the starlight in his eyes fades

Has he stopped thinking about salvation?

After something like that—how does one heal?


As the starlight in his eyes fades,

he is staring without blinking.

After something like that—how does one heal

the boy's bruised lungs?


From the Diary of a Fire Alarm

I don't move or talk much.

No one pays attention to me

even though I'm easily the brightest thing in the room;


people used to jokingly speak

of touching me

when they were all in middle school and that was still sort of cool.


…Ok, I admit that I fantasize

about it sometimes. There's a disaster

somewhere, a kid drops a burning cigarette

by accident, and suddenly I become their savior. They're all running

towards me, arms outstretched, screaming for help. I become their gateway

to oxygen. I become a pinhole they need to crawl through to blink

without it hurting. And somehow, in the middle of all that gasping,

something feels… Good. You see, I need to be reminded

of my purpose sometimes too. Of my reason for existing.

Maybe I'll never get to help anyone in this life. Maybe that's a good thing

because it means there’s never a crisis too close to me but is that really a good thing

because what about the fires getting set off on the other side of the world? What about

the fires that aren't fires? What about gunfires and the sparks in the voices

of separated immigrants and the flicker inside a starving child's eyes?

I don’t want to give hollow help. But I also don’t know

where to start. I feel like I will die here.

Do you notice me when you walk

inside the room? I mean, I know

I’m small. I don't move

or talk much.


But I know I can be loud.


5 Things You Should Know About Growing Up a Quadrilingual Third Culture Kid

After G. Yamazawa


All my poems are half-knitted sweaters. Let me explain—


So you're writing a poem and the perfect word pops up in your head

and it's in the wrong language. You know what it translates to; the problem is,

it just doesn't translate right. I leave blanks in all those spaces

so all my poems end up looking like a sweater with holes.


Not quite deserving to fall apart, not quite ready to fall in love with itself.



“Where are you from?” is the most difficult question

to answer. Like, harder than “what is the meaning of life”

or “how many genders are there”. Do you mean the city

where I was born? My nationality? My current home?

The place I made the most friends? I have left equal pieces

of myself in all of these places, divided my body into quarters

to be scattered across the globe; you see, if you type my name

into Google Earth it will give you four different locations.



Please forgive my stutter—

I got it from lifting my tongue a little less than others

when I speak because I hold the Korea in me under it.

I hide the China and the Southeast Asia and all my

other accents under it and I'm afraid of them slipping

out when I'm not careful



They say similarities beget friendships

but how the fuck are you supposed to find similarities

with anyone when you listen to Korean music, watch

American TV shows, have Chinese city slang embedded

in your speech and like eating Japanese food? 



When God made me he was probably trying

to get some kind of a message across. Like

prove that all cultures are inherently similar

by engraving them all in one person. The thing is,

God can fuck himself because does he know

what it feels like to have four countries fistfight

over who owns more of your body and then decide

that no one actually wants you? How you can feel

abandonment and belonging at the same time?


The Chisel

Perhaps, I was an expert at destroying skin

even before the actual bloodshed began. From

ripping up my own mouth's insides with incisors

to picking at the skin beside my fingers habitually

to the overlooking of scars. I was a woodcutter

and my flesh was the bark I kept carving away at


I've tested my own malleability for so many years

I’m not even sure if I can break properly now &


that’s the terrifying part.



Conversations About Hurting

My skin bruises easily, I tell him.

My bones break and sprain often,

he says back. I reply, telling him

that my old scars sometimes start bleeding

again for no reason, without even stopping

to let me feel it. We spend the night

talking about scars that we can fold

into paper boats and float away in.

Impermanent pain stains our conversation

like black ink that turns purple

under running water: the color of bruises.

The color of melancholy, the color

of the deepest sunsets. Perhaps

that was why we were so drawn

to each other: I caught a glimpse

of violet on your tongue & mistook

it for wine. The lavender of your musk

became amethysts at my touch. Fingers

round and intertwined like lilac petals slowly

fell away one by one upon feeling your skin.

Q: You wrote a poem titled “5 Things You Should Know about Growing Up a Quadrilingual Third Culture Kid”—obviously there is a bit of a story behind this poem. Could you tell us what inspired you to write this? How are your own experiences appearing/not appearing in your writing?


A: I wrote this piece during an introductory workshop about intersectionality; it was deeply inspired by the spoken word poem titled “10 Things You Should Know About Being an Asian from the South” by G. Yamazawa. Almost everything about that piece intrigued me: the poet’s impeccable delivery, the thought-provoking comedy, the perfect flow that makes you forget it’s a list poem… In short, it’s a beautifully written and performed—and utterly underappreciated—work of art. It’s also a piece that made me finally muster up the courage to stop writing shallow persona poems and dive into more autobiographical work.


Obviously, the multitude of positives that come with being a quadrilingual third culture kid don’t appear in this poem. My language abilities have opened a plethora of doors that are inaccessible to most of the general population at my age (for example, I currently run a Korean blog, intern at a Chinese art museum, and write poetry primarily in English), which I am infinitely grateful for. Unfortunately, frustration is generally a much stronger emotion than gratitude, so that’s what I was primarily trying to express with this poem.



Q: Reading your work also made me want to know: how do you think identity impacts someone's writing and why an author's identity is important?


A: For me, the appeal of poetry boils down to the fact that a single piece of work can be open to dozens of different interpretations. My work is still very much in progress, which I’m completely okay with.


The question about identity is a difficult one to respond to; I’m still figuring out the answer myself. As someone who has intensively practiced empathic writing, I tend to think that identity and voice are separable. As terrible as it sounds, I’m usually one to differentiate the art from the artist. Having said that, I should also mention that I have experienced the powerful influence of identity while drafting a poem as well. I think it largely depends on the mood and purpose of the piece.




Q: I also thoroughly enjoyed reading your work “I Mistake Dignity for a Gumshield.” It really struck a chord in me; it made me think of some of the sadder movies I’ve watched. What inspired this work? What was on your mind when you wrote this?


A: This poem was initially produced in order to familiarize myself with writing pantoums (also known as pantuns), a Malay verse form I found deeply challenging to master. The piece is similar in topic to “From the Diary of a Fire Alarm” in that they’re both about feeling helpless while watching a devastating tragedy unfold right in front of my eyes; however, “I Mistake Dignity for a Gumshield” also subtly touches on additional themes such as fear and guilt. You could say that the boy is a personified version of those two emotions.



Q: What does writing mean to you?


A: Writing, as cheesy as it sounds, serves a means of catharsis for me. It always has, and I think it always will. There is no activity I enjoy more than wrestling with my keyboard for hours trying to fill an empty page with words. And the satisfaction of staring at a finished piece is unparalleled: one I wouldn’t trade for any other sensation in the world.



Q: Where do you want your writing to take you in the future?


A: While studying literary arts in a university in the U.S. (hopefully I’ll be admitted to a decent program), I want to participate in as many poetry slams as possible. I want to work for a literary journal and host open mics and publish a book, but I also kind of want to complete an MFA. For the most part, I don’t have a concrete plan. That’s terrifying to say out loud, but in a way I think I’ll enjoy having that freedom over the course of my own career. Plus, I know for a fact that the panic will just hit me harder if I map out a detailed blueprint for the next 10 years of my life and it doesn’t end up working out. To put it in a nutshell, I’m not sure—and I’m not worried. I’m very much ready for the self-directing lifestyle.


The end goal I want to achieve around the end of my 20s is basically to be able to make a living out of poetry. I know how naïve and unrealistic that sounds; but receiving acknowledgement from the editors of accredited journals and magazines such as Gravitas, The Rappahannock Review, and now InkBeat in the past year has really encouraged and reassured me that it’s not an unattainable target. I have confidence in my work and I really believe that it can get me somewhere if I continue putting in the effort.



Q: Do you have any more projects in the works now?


A: I currently have many ongoing projects. For starters, I’ll be assisting Sara Hirsch—an acclaimed, internationally touring poet and ex-slam champion—in running a series of spoken word poetry workshops for middle schoolers in March. Besides that, I will also be hosting a schoolwide writing competition and producing an anthology containing the winning pieces in April. In May, I’m planning to hold a showcase in which members of my poetry club will be reading some of their brilliant written works. It’s all very exciting.


To talk about some of my more personal projects: I recently drafted a chapbook manuscript, a small collection of poems I hope to get published by fall 2019. As of now, I’m simultaneously working on three new chapbooks and preparing to compile a full-length manuscript soon as well. I’ll also soon be filming myself reading some of my favorite poems; the edited videos will be uploaded onto YouTube around summer. It’s definitely a lot to stay on top of while trying to get through high school, but I don’t think I’ll be burned out anytime soon.



Q: I think above all your command of language and rhetoric was incredible. Do you have any advice for Chinese high school students writing their own works, both in English and in Chinese? Any feedback for students interested in writing in general?


A: Thank you so much for the wonderful praise—I’m absolutely flattered.


Aside from the self-explanatory need to read as much as physically possible, my go-to advice for fellow young writers would be to find a reliable source of critique. Solitary revision may seem effective at first; but editing with peers will bring about exponential improvement. Become friends with your English teacher. Start a poetry club at school. Go to a writing camp in the summer. I’ve done all of that in the last year, and the quality of my writing has been dramatically enhanced.


For those writing in more than one language: practice translating from one to the other. Most multilingual students live in an environment where one language is spoken significantly more often than others; keep pushing yourself to work on that language you’re less confident with.


Finally, aim to meet your favorite writer someday. It doesn’t matter how absurdly famous—or far away—they are. Really make it a goal you can strive for. There is no better motivator than being told by your literal literary hero that you should never stop writing, I assure you.



Q: How did you start writing? 


A: I like to tell people that I published my first book when I was eight years old, which is technically not a lie. At the time, I was obsessed with a TV program about young detectives who went around solving mysteries—I ended up writing a whole chapter book of a similar genre, pretentiously titled The Case of Greg the Missing Guinea Pig, which was discovered by my aunt who worked as a designer at a publishing company. The next thing I knew, I was holding a printed paperback of this less-than-mediocre story that hadn’t even been proofread through once. I was ridiculously lucky.

Fire Alarm (Sal Kang).jpg

“Brag” with jiayin lin

Born and raised in Beijing. Started studying art from oil paint, currently an IB HL art student.

Born and raised in Beijing. Started studying art from oil paint, currently an IB HL art student.

Jiayin Lin.jpeg

Poetry with Jiaxin Hao

To make a memory worth the space it takes up, we must attach meaning. In these poems, I write down the thoughts from my childhood that I, at last, can put into words.

To make a memory worth the space it takes up, we must attach meaning. In these poems, I write down the thoughts from my childhood that I, at last, can put into words.

Lying Sick in Bed

We rest our fists; for a brief summer

School dies, I lie awake—the summer

Drowse is peak-through—I sneak into

The illusion that is my room;

The curtains here are see-through,

But vain, light leaves the day soon.


Vision lingers before the dark, unsure,

The silver linings on my white shirt

still smell of incense. I was assured

that Chinese medicine is bitter

But you need it incessantly, well,

If you have been sick all your life.


The chicken soup is still good. I feel

My humidifier shivering, bubbling

To cancel out this desert air. I hear

My mother’s steady chopping turn

Into a steady whisking, I think

She’s making soup.


Such are the things that give life—

Upon a sickness and an idle summer

—They are found!

Better Never

We whisper things, arias on gossip.

The day collapses like a puddle

Onto the ground; he calls it a crisis.


The water runs from a faucet downstairs,

I listen in on morning fights, and fall asleep again

Then wakefully descend. Rarely

Do I eat, at least, melodrama spares the children.


They get bored soon, but we, who stay

and listen, hold breaths behind walls,

Become immobile, living, reliving, always.


We watch the children now; rolling down

The hill with brand new roller skates;

Laughing aloud like telephone rings;

We can’t pick up what fathers left

When fathers leave, we escape.


We are not the children now, better never

He says, puddles drown the ground. Water

Will smother the seeds.


Unease was right in summer bloom,

Inquiring if I was quite swoon.

I just want to go back to bed

He will put a bullet into his head.


Don’t leave the water running,

Don’t leave the sink too empty,

Better never, better nothing.


Dad caught fish when I was eight years old 

We had tangled and untangled from the thorns,

And finally we are here; a small strip of land;

I stand as he squats down on the sand.

The water meets his feet, a plastic bag

Ripples with the sun; water is see-through;

So what, Jiangtaigong fished with a bare hook

He responded to my impatience.


Analogies to his life, an open book

Too thick and twisted to read, I lost interest:

Jiangtaigong was trying to prove a point.

I wanted fish. He set stones

To guard the plastic bag, my dad

Reached his hand into cold water

And surfaced it full to the brim

Of clear water, sun, and fish.


His hands were red. I tried

To warm them with mine.


Sometimes I remember shame,

But I never forget loss. I lost

The strip of land that cleared out

of thorns; toxic is the water now,

the fish are dead in the bucket I forgot.


I had learned to hold fish in my palms

And put them back in bowls

When I’m done; childhood fancies;

I go sit in my cell: here’s a table

Against a wall, a lamp which I call

A knockoff for sunlight.


I hold 2010 in my palms,

I could let it escape, memories

Run thin on my fingertips.

Instead I exploit it, exhaust

My childhood until it’s dry.


I had learned to hold on to things.

I can craft a fish from its bones.


Stop Sign in America

I stopped at a stop sign in America,

To marvel at its self-importance—even

Its dents were gleaming, expecting

Its people to pay attention,

with no more supervision

than a bare protruding bush,

and the sparrow picking at the trash.


I hesitated at the stop button, I sensed

a trap. American passengers

Are driving the bus, a man got off,

I followed, of course, I could not stop

A whole car on whim alone, Americans

Don’t understand a heavier character.

I wonder what they are stopping for.

Jiaxin Hao D.JPG

What inspired “Dad caught fish when I was 8 years old”, what inspired this?

It’s a true story; when I first wrote it, I filled up eight pages in my notebook because I was reminded of that moment so strongly. One day I was looking through some old photos and I thought suddenly about how we used to go to the countryside and fish. Then I wrote down all the details I could remember. I like to write about childhood because as children, we remember so many details, but we never think about what they mean to us. As adults we need to remember those details and decide for ourselves what our experiences meant.

What do the details mean to you?

In our childhoods we feel like a lot of things aren’t perfect: we don’t like the school lunch, we don’t like the other kids. Then you grow up and you look back, and everything you didn’t like seems to be so perfect. I described the whole fishing scene as perfect, with a perfect sun and perfect water, and while it wasn’t really like that, looking back it seems so perfect. We don’t cherish those things as children, and now we regret it in some ways. Childhood is easy to write about, people share common ground in that sense.

How did you start writing?

When I was younger, I hated Chinese class. I didn’t understand everything, and I hated that each literary device or word has a set meaning. The memorization bored me, so I didn’t engage in class or start creative writing when I was young. It was only in junior high, when I took a creative writing course and the teacher introduced culture specific stories, that I became involved. I began reading African American and Asian American literature, and I tried to incorporate little details about my own culture and life into my writing. I felt there was more I needed to say, to put into words.

What sort of literature impacted you as a writer?

I was most impacted by “My Name is Maria Christina” by Sandra Maria Esteves, where she spoke about what her name meant in Spanish, what kids called her, and what it meant to her. She dug into her heritage and multiculturalism. My teacher had us write in the same format, and I dug into what my name meant. It is attached to the hope of my parents, that I would be able to appreciate things in life. It tells me to imitate them in some ways, and I felt like it was restraining me. I wrote about how I was good at imitating other people’s speech, imitating writing, and body movement, but I never created or wrote on my own. I explored it and I didn’t know I could think so much about my own name. I liked what I wrote, and I liked how I felt doing it, so from then on, I knew telling your own story, digging into details like your name and what it means to you became important.


How encourage writers to tell own stories?

One struggle I face is that I started out writing trying to make a change in the world, or to change people’s minds about things. But that is incredibly difficult. All your writing has to do is change something inside of you, especially when you start out. Writing is about your perspective and developing that perspective.

What would you like to do with your writing in the future?

It’s my dream to go to college for creative writing or English literature. I don’t know where I’ll go now, but I hope to spread poetry to people in any way possible.

What inspired stop sign in america?

I did a study exchange in Boston, and I envied the life of my schoolmates, the little things they did that they didn’t have to think about. I had a difficult experience at that high school, I felt like I didn’t fit in. It was hard to understand the things the Americans did that they didn’t think about. Like pressing the stop button on the bus, I felt like I couldn’t press it without everyone getting mad at me for stopping the bus. Americans didn’t think about it, they just pressed the button and got off, but I was stuck afraid in my seat. Eventually I pressed the button and got off, but I won’t forget what I felt like sitting there beforehand.

Do you have advice for writers who are writing in English when its not their first language?

People want to conform to the English grammar structure and use big, grand words, but voice is more important. If your voice is more comfortable in Chinese or any language really, and its more real or clearer, then use it when you write in English. It’s interesting to combine your own style or grammar when you write in English, then people will know more about who you are and the language you speak.


robot-lose oneself with sophia choy

Robot-Lose Oneself Sophia Choy.jpg

robot-lose oneself

This reflects the fixed sense of happiness of the Chinese community. The brain and heart symbolize the mankind. The gear symbolizes the loss of identity.

Choy, Yui Man (Sophia Choy).jpg

错误 Mistake translated by 张睿馨

She loves to explore mind and culture and to express her findings through written and verbal languages.

She loves to explore mind and culture and to express her findings through written and verbal languages.













Translated by 张睿馨

I walk past the southern Yangtze,

its features weathered in seasons 

like a withering lotus.

March catkins won't fly unless the east wind blows.

Your heart is a little lonely town,

a flagstone road at dusk.

Spring can't embark 

without the sound of footsteps.

Your heart becomes a narrow window shut tight.

The tit-tat clatter is a beautiful mistake

But I am not returning,

I am passing through……


“wish” by selina sun

This work is inspired by David Salle, I signify the absence of childhood in those who live in refugee camps. The dirty child at the bottom and the tents behind him symbolize the harsh environment they are living in. The child's drawing on top presents a very happy scene of the child's wish in contrast to reality

This work is inspired by David Salle, I signify the absence of childhood in those who live in refugee camps. The dirty child at the bottom and the tents behind him symbolize the harsh environment they are living in. The child's drawing on top presents a very happy scene of the child's wish in contrast to reality

“Wish” by Selina Sun

“Wish” by Selina Sun

“THE judgement” with ella rennie

Ella Rennie, who recently moved to Beijing from America and is excited to learn more about China and its culture, gives insight into her recent work, “The Judgement”.

Ella Rennie, who recently moved to Beijing from America and is excited to learn more about China and its culture, gives insight into her recent work, “The Judgement”.

The judgement by ella rennie

It’s amazing how comfortable I am in this courtroom given that on the first morning of the trial, this place made me nervous. Dorchester Crown Court is different than any other court I have seen on telly. The one courtroom it has is shabbier than Lambeth Public Library. I have quite an interest in law and when they summoned me, I cannot pretend that I wasn’t excited. I always make time for Poirot on Thursdays. We’ve been at this for weeks, and I can say that I’ve enjoyed this break from work.

For the last few minutes, a young woman with dark hair has been at the witness stand. She speaks with a shaky voice, but her words are vicious. Words like that should never come out of such a pretty girl’s mouth. The old woman at the back of the jury box seems as unimpressed with her as I am—she checks her watch every thirty seconds.

“I always thought something was wrong with him, he always seemed detached and bored. All my friends told me he was a sociopath, or crazy, but I just couldn’t face the idea that I was engaged to a… a… madman. But now… you know…with what happened and all…”

The defense lawyer is already on his feet: “Objection, your honor! The witness was asked about the defendant’s character, and to tell us that her friends called him a sociopath is pure hearsay. Without the diagnosis of a qualified doctor, that is a very serious label and therefore inadmissible.”

“Objection sustained,” said the judge. “The witness shall rephrase her answer.”

The judge’s looks irritate me. He’s short and fat, although I can’t really tell how much because he’s sitting down. His face is red and his forehead is gleaming with sweat. Even under the wig I can see his horrid hair. Considering his age, he has dyed it a ridiculous colour and I bet he has slapped on heinous amounts of hair wax.

The witness, however, her looks don’t irritate me. She has long, black hair and the most magnificent eyes. Her nose twitches every so often. I had a rabbit as a child who used to do that. All day long, it twitched its nose.

“I know he said he was home that night, but he couldn’t have been. My friends and I were there, and he knows he shouldn’t be home when they’re over. They don’t like him, you see.”

The prosecutor then spoke: “Thank you. Now, when your fiancé did come home, did he have any signs of being distraught?”

“Well, you see… I’ve never seen someone after they’ve killed a person. And he is always cold, but… yes. I do think he came in a bit more anxious than usual.”

A doctor is now standing in the witness box. He is a middle-aged man from London with a nice accent. He probably has a flat in London, a country house in Dorset and a villa in Spain. You see snobs like that at the pub trying to order wine. I saw a Triumph outside and I bet it’s his. The prosecutor asks him if he thinks the defendant’s capable of murder.

“Well, all people are capable of murder in the right circumstances—well I guess it would be the wrong circumstances but solely from our conversation I can’t say for sure.”

“Ok then, well do you think he suffers from a personality disorder?”

“My professional diagnosis is that he is exhibits sociopathic tendencies.”

“Thank you, doctor. No further questions.”

The defense lawyer stands up and pulls out his papers: “Doctor, you said he showed signs of being a sociopath, but he was engaged to be married after all and is well-liked by the rest of his family, are you sure of your diagnosis?”

“Actually, being charming is a telltale sign of being a sociopath. At first, they seem perfectly likeable and friendly. That is how they manipulate the person, when actually they aren’t feeling anything and are trying to imitate emotions that they have noticed in other people. They are likely to use mind-games to gain something from someone, and they usually don’t care about the harm they are causing others. Usually, when you start to get to know them better, they become more ‘distant’ and there’s something noticeably off about them.”

Although he’s annoying, that doctor does at least know what he’s talking about. I can see why they’ve left him for last.

The prosecuting lawyer spits while he talks, it’s quite disgusting. At least the defense lawyer and the judge aren’t doing that. I think juror 3 has noticed it, too. Her face is all scrunched up. It’s not very flattering. I was looking at her earlier and saw a ring on her finger, but everyone knows that most marriages don’t work out anyway. I think I have a real shot.  On telly this bit is usually much quicker, they skip the summing up and jump to the good bit.

When the decision has been made, the judge asks:

“Has the jury reached a verdict?”

Finally, it’s almost the end.

“Yes, we have, your honour.”

“Then may the defendant stand?”

At last, something exciting.

The policemen to my right smacks me on the shoulder “C’mon, get up.”

As I stand, I look over at juror 3 from the dock, but when I give her my nicest smile, she stares at me in shock.

The judge asks: “Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the charge of murder?”


I’ve always thought Dorchester was a perfect place for a murder. Just like in an Agatha Christie novel, no small town is as perfect as it seems. At least I’ve given them something real to gossip about.


interview with ella rennie


My parents are from Britain and Greece, but I’ve lived in America before moving to Beijing. I draw my inspiration from my British and Greek roots, and when I return home to Europe, I look at everything, and use that for the setting of my stories. I can picture it well, so I set my stories in villages in Greece or Britain. Or Dorchester, like in Judgement.


I read a lot of courtroom dramas, law dramas, John Grisham is one of my favorites. My grandparents live in Dorset, and when I was younger, I visited a courtroom there, so that helped me picture it. I’ve seen a few Agatha Christie plays, so that inspired me as well.


It’s the thrill of it, the not knowing the ending. I’m also interested in law, and I want to become a lawyer when I’m older. So, all this writing is practice for that.


I think that every writer should do what feels natural, and for me I think that there should be something other than a happy ending at the end of a story, even if its just to make it more interesting. For this reason, I think I do tend to write with twist endings, or something odd about the story, to keep the reader engaged.


Everything around me inspires me to write. I usually get ideas for plots and setting from those around me and I write it down all the time to remember it. Even if its not necessarily good, I love starting from scratch and just writing until there is full page upon full page. Any work that you finish has value simply because you finished it. I read so much that I want to give back to the books I’m reading by writing.


I’m still figuring out how to write, I think all writers are, and the best advice I can give to new writers is to read, read, read as much as you possibly can. It improves everything from your grammar to your vocab to your creativity and dialogue. You can’t write well if you don’t read.


At the end of the day you should just do what you want. I personally try to strip the extravagance away to convey my meaning. I don’t write in flowery language, but I value those writings as well. Writing doesn’t need to have a deeper meaning, it can be just as interesting if it’s just what it is, simple.

Ella Rennie C.JPG

DENG                                                                              泡腾片

等人,                                                                                        泡腾片坠入杯底,闭上了嘴巴,开始编织无尽的白花

感觉是泡在一锅九宫格的辣水                                   白花带出水汽,从圆满变为碎片,从碎片散为乌有,分裂

夜幕淡化了通讯                                                                       出整杯幸福




We, us, ourselves                                                                             两句

Hidden the enormous emptiness                                      碎落的长发,吟唱出逝去的萧索

The reason that caused the hole                                        褶皱的纸团,应合出迷失的羁绊

Is that

We had left our fragments in too many place

Lost to too many people

Who do not deserve our love


SPM Sides.jpg



Transfixed by Khushi Choudhary


Living in China has been quite the adventure. I am fascinated by every aspect of the culture, whether its taking part in the exuberant festivals or learning the complex language. Its four years now and going strong. I am able to make conversations with my friends in Mandarin, seen some amazing parts of the country. Here is an experience that has left an indelible impression on my mind.


Hope you enjoy it.


Day one; 8:52pm

surrounded by lush green trees that hide markets and eateries

The warm breath of the fire covers me like a blanket and I stand transfixed by the orange-red-yellow of the flames. As if standing in the midst of a watercolor painting, I see the contrast of small colorless droplets freckling the faces of the people preparing for the celebration.

A silvery soft-spoken voice breaks me out of my reverie, “The festival is the best part, no?”

I sink my trainers deep into the watery mud to turn to the elderly lady. I nod enthusiastically, after the intense journey, the serenity of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau is rewarding. The rhythmic bump bump of the copper drum and the pleasant whine of the Lusheng invites locals to come out  of their hillside dwellings and dance, sing and be happy. The dark blue of the night envelops us and we all forget where we were in the morning. I forget the luggage lugging and the squabbles with my best friends - travel buddies.  Instead, they invite me to join them on stage and dance a little, an indication that the rest of the trip is going to be just as intriguing (they usually do not invite anyone on stage).

And sure enough, it is.

We trek to a spot that is just below the ridge of the mountain, to find our very interestingly shaped house. The locals introduce it as the "tongue-mouth-shaped" single-story house and it’s charming. The house is surrounded by an abundance of bamboo and trees. Further over the horizon, there are several more houses organized in a horseshoe pattern. Surrounding the houses, is a small stream that meanders it’s way through the nearby forest. I rummage around in my pocket to find our keys and we spot a little figure trotting down the street. She waves, “Are you joining us for the celebration dinner tomorrow”? 

An audible squeak of excitement can be heard from my roommate Jen, “That’d be great!” The lady introduces herself as Mrs. Wen and we wave to her as she walks back down the street. Rushing into the bedrooms like little kids, we claim our respective beds and Jen starts off in a flurry, rambling on about the facts she’s learnt from the small travel book we picked up on the duty free shop at the airport…

“I was thinking we could grab one of the necklaces or bracelets or earrings that they make here”, she sucks in a quick breath to continue in an even faster rush of words, “we won’t be able to find them outside the community.

“That’d be wonderfu-“

“Oh, also, we have to take part in the tour around the village with a guide, I was thinking tomorrow morning?”. Before I can even begin to formulate a reply, she’s sitting at the mahogany work table scribbling furiously on a small notepad. 

“What about going to see the dragon boat regatta? It’s very popular at this time of year, definitely not a drag-on.”

She levels me with a mock glare of disappointment coupled with a smile at the bad joke and as there is no shortage of attractions to see, we finalize a schedule that could offer a cornucopia of joy.




Day two; 6:59pm

rush of water, bubbles and slashes at the sides of the canoe

The exquisitely carved dragon head is carried down to the river and it’s horns are painted with words of luck that wish prosperity to the people. The dragon’s piercing red eyes are a beacon of glory, they practically scream victory, staring determinedly ahead, chin held high, it says we’re unstoppable.

“There comes Zhen, he’s the one without the bamboo hat, in the centre” Ms.Wen comments animatedly.

“Who is he?”

“He’s the most esteemed member of our village, therefore, he leads the pomp and ceremony. He also carefully returns the head of the dragon with reverence as it is a sacred object.”

Anticipation is thick in the air, inhaled by the onlookers who are itching to snap a picture with their cameras. The local team with golden bamboo hats, blue trousers and purple jackets are the center of the spectacle.

Zhen holds up a hand to demand attention and the neatly dressed men and women accompany him by clanging boldly on their large drums. The chatter stops immediately and all eyes swerve to the teams lined up at the shore. Tension is palpable as the most awaited race begins.

My heartbeat follows the rapid rhythm that the drums are playing and the rhythmic swish of each member propels the boats further into water. There’s crack after crack as the oars pierce the water in sync with the directions shouted by the team leaders.

It seems that the screams of the spectators encourage the dragon to become agile as a fish to swim even faster. The pounding of the drums sound like roaring thunder.  The boats are half way-

almost there-

in three-


one, and the crowd erupts in celebration; the carefree children gather at the edge of the lake to hop with joy and families hug in content. Even louder than the drums, are the spectacular explosion of colors that fan out over the night sky.




Day two; 10:03pm

arguably the best part, (according to us, foodies), the feast should not, ever, be missed

“I am never leaving this table.” Jen adores the delicacies prepared by the locals and I fully concur with staying put in the company of the sour and spicy dishes. They greet us with genuine smiles and insist on serving us rice wine before the commencement of the long table feast. There is at least forty seated at this grand wooden dining table, a pleasant chatter accompanies the clinking of the cutlery.

We engage in conversation with the chefs while they carry the steamy pots to our table. These beautiful young women dressed up in blue bandanas and long skirts titter feverishly at the prospect of sharing their culinary skills.

A lady with fine black hair introduces herself as Lim, “The whitest is snow, the sweetest is candy and the most delicious is Sour Fish Soup. You have got to try the highlight of the Miao cuisine.” The soup consists of fresh carps raised from nearby rice fields that are boiled in a spicy chilli sauce, the aroma is frankly intoxicating. “It’s generally served in a hotpot which means it’s accompanied by tofu, noodles and more.”

A slightly younger lady brings along a large vessel carrying fragrant and vibrantly colored rice, “My name is Huan, this dish is called Five-Color Glutinous Rice. It’s made from the colors of petals and fruits and dyed onto creamy white rice. It’s quite healthy and appealing to look at.”

Lim interjects politely to say, “We usually eat it at weddings or Valentine’s Day but it can be enjoyed at any time. Men and women work at the mountain slopes to grow the dry rice. We also grow maize for animal feed and fruits such as oranges and papayas. ”

The last serving is a tray not filled with food but with intricate silver jewelry. “Miao communities like ours specialize in craftsmanship of silver. We believe that the auspicious patterns can ward evil forces away.” The jewels twinkle and beckon us closer, laid out on a royal blue cloth, they resemble stars that gleam. Whether it’s to remember the affable natives or to uncover the secrets of the culture, I’d recommend getting one of these as they truly let you celebrate the memories.




Day three; 1:05pm

a most interesting conversation with our tour guide in the rice fields

The sun shines bright, though lying down on the cool grass provides solace. The loudspeaker that the tour guide carries is blaring out a command to come back to the bus. We don’t want to, the comfort of grass, after an eventful hike around the village, is heaven.

Rows of tall dank trees act as the protector of this little patch of grass which then, further stretch to glacial blue-white mountains. Little pieces of white fluff are drifted around with the breeze and the yellow-orange hue that the sun gives off makes the beauty unworldly. Little children frolic down the path, carrying crops to their families and helping out in the daily harvest.

“When preparing for the festivals and feasts, all ages in the family are requested to help out.”

Mr. Wang pauses to scan his calculating eyes over the audience. He scrutinizes to see if he has everyone’s attention (which he does), the Miao people’s tales of folklore that he retells captivates us all. 

“It is tradition. Much like the religion that is drilled into the mind of the people at a very young age. The Miao believe that a supernatural power in everything around them decides their fate.”

A little boy with raven curly hair pipes up from the back, “What does that entail? Does everything mean all living things?”

Mr. Wang answers, “They are animists, shamanists and ancestor worshipers. They have a number of different customs and superstitions for everything. For example, they believe Miao spirits, known as tlan, are thought to live in high concentrations in places like sacred groves, caves, stones, wells and bridges. Another one would be that the Shaman in the village are generally called upon on to cure illnesses by bringing back lost souls.”

“Several rituals are carried out at festivals where they don special clothes to recite rites and employ chants, prayers and songs that they have memorized. In these festivals, the people usually sacrifice animals to help sick relatives and assure that good tlan (spirits) watch over their children.”

Mr.Wang gathers us all to say our goodbyes as the tour has come to a close. People disperse and climb back into the bus but I look back forlornly.




These moments spent with the Miao people makes the trip worth it. They are simple people who take pride in their culture. They can only bring smiles to your face and make you forget your troubles in the busy lifestyle of the metropolis.


I am a Year 10 student currently studying in Harrow International School Beijing. I am very passionate about films, music and literature. I enjoy creative writing because I believe it allows me to explore new worlds, which always extend indefinitely. To me, a good story remains forever intriguing.





他很难辨别说话人的声音。“没错,这是。我可否问问您是?”没有回答。他在座椅上倾身向前,把电话放得更近些。为了确认电话是否断了线,他以一种尊重的试探性语气重复了几遍 “喂”。












































































He did not intend to stay in Preston for any longer after Christmas. It was indeed the notable dampness in the air that was bothering him all along a lingering source of annoyance which he never seemed to get accustomed to. The plan of leaving was elaborately arranged and therefore was by no means a decision made on a sudden impulse, for he had organised all the matters in a rather artfully way for the past two weeks. However, just as he spent the very last morning at the station in a sense of pure relief, an incoming call disturbed the tranquility.

Hello? Is this Mr. Rowsell?

He could scarcely recognised that voice. Yes, this is. May I ask whos talking? There was no response. He leaned forward in the seat, trying to place the phone closer. To confirm whether the connection had just broken, he repeated the word Hello a few times in a respectfully tentative manner.

Excuse me for saying this, but could you put Mr. Rowsell himself on the phone, please? Or is he not there?

This is him talking to you, said he in a slightly jesting tone. Whats the matter?

Well, listen Im not expecting any joke on this, so whoever you are

The dialogue terminated as he hung up almost without hesitation. He wasnt in the mood of participating in an absurd debate, which would undoubtedly ruin this graceful beginning of the day and possibly all the rest.

My lack of concern towards the likelihood of the person being someone so significant that could change my status in the blink of an eye had deprived me of all the sensible insights and awarenesses – in other words, losing the perspectives that could as well have developed a means to achieve what was once beyond my reach was a dear price to pay. I sure was in sheer ignorance about the repercussions of an error in judgment.


The light was blinding. Till that moment, there wasn’t a sign of me waking from the peculiar state that was only adopted to distinguish the lines, the words, from the blankness of the surroundings. And as I slowly looked up, she was standing there with a mild smile and a gleam of geniality in her eyes. Yes, Camus, she had got it right. I nodded without saying a word.

She deftly sat down on the seat opposite me, near the aisle. “You’re studying philosophy?”

Apparently I wasn’t. I shook my head, attempting to bring myself back to the reading.

“It’s odd – I see you more clearly than I have ever seen anyone. But I can’t hear you, and it’s hard for me to believe that you really exist.”

I lifted my gaze from the book.

“So you’re the one who’s actually studying it.”

“That depends...”

“…On how you define ‘study’?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“To me, that means nothing but a vapid and insincere modesty.”

A brief pause.

“You’ve said you don’t study philosophy. And that’s why – instead of emphasizing how well I know about L'Étranger, I put the existing set of theories aside and try to talk about it with you as a common reader.”

“Well. Have I? All of that is built on the assumption that you and I are defining a word exactly the same way. How’s that even possible?”

“Alright, very unlikely indeed,” she shrugged. “How do you think of solipsism?”

“It’s merely an escape from reality.”

“Is reading not, then?”

I frowned: “You’re taking it out of context. I read to know things, and that’s all. I suppose there are quite a few differences between us on this.” There, I had drawn the lines, as it came to me that every remark she’s made lay subtly between amicability and manipulation. Something was gripping me by the throat – an obscure tension that I had unintentionally picked up throughout the conversation, perhaps.

Awaiting the arrival of a dining car had made me become restless. But I wasn’t hungry; I wanted a cup of coffee only because it would distract me from boredom. The old lady sitting next to me was flicking idly through a newspaper with rhetoric headlines, a tiny pair of reading glasses on the end of her nose – I wondered what was keeping her from falling asleep. A low humming sound was firmly embedded in my head, and I realised that my palms had never stopped sweating for the past two and a half hours in the boiling carriage.

I hadn’t talk to the woman for a while, but she showed no sign of moving away from the seat. I was unsure whether she had come to me just to share a few words about the content of L'Étranger, which, as I recalled, wasn’t in fact particularly meaningful. Too many discomforting asking-in-replies. Unlike the usual chat featuring burdensome family affairs, exaggerated personal experiences and other trivial matters between people who met only briefly on the road, she and I had barely understood each other. Her destination remained a mystery to me, and vice versa. I figured that she wasn’t quite fond of either telling or listening to stories.

As soon as I came out of the service carriage, it became dark all around. I made my way back cautiously with the filled paper cup in one hand. The woman was gone, so were most of the rest. The change had made the place so much quieter that the ticking of every watch clinging to every wrist were clear and distinguishable. And the very few people, including myself, were sitting very far apart from one another. The silence chilled me. The image that popped up in my mind were faces with looks of despair, or, more likely, with no expressions at all, for they had realised that their sorrows were beyond expressions or words, and were therefore lapsing into deeper depression. No one feigning a muffled cough, no one stamping feet lightly, no one willing to tidy up or shift any odds and ends that had been left casually on the table. The scene was in fact the total contrary of that of the service carriage, where everyone was so busy weaving in and out of the crowd and had hardly any time to talk. How unbelievable! Leaving the astonishments aside, I felt as though the oppressiveness, like raindrops falling to the ground during a heavy rainstorm, was suppressing me with an irresistible force. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I slapped the cup on the table and opened L'Étranger, but what came into view weren’t the words, instead, it was something else – lying between the pages calmly and neatly, as if it had never belonged here, was a brownish-green Gingko leaf.

It was in the split second when I dropped the telephone, that it dawned to me that I had known so little about everything, that they wouldn’t even grant me the rights of looking back into a past of my own. I must admit that they had done it almost flawlessly with misleading lies and despicable tricks, and so far, had got away with all the responsibilities. The distinction between ignorance and disguise was always clear; and it wasn’t merely by instinct, that I knew they were holding it back from me.

As I held L'Étranger open in my hands, the pages began flipping back and forth wildly – I must have had unwittingly left the windows open, which then let the cold breezes and scattered noises of traffic slip in. The leaf now was resting soundlessly on a piece of paper in front of me, for I did not dare to lose it from my sight, and that I was reluctant to divert myself from everything I believed it would lead me to – who the woman was, how I came to know her, and how I came to forget her. The branches and tendrils of time had entangled me. All I did have was nothing else but this tiny, decaying leaf; I had no other choices but to assume its existence allusive, and therefore to start from it, but it was for sure that only after a few days it would fall into insignificant fragments – yet there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Then, how might I start? Night-time was almost upon me – I saw it – that the lights were no brighter but rather grew dimmer and dimmer, as if they were counting down for the absolute darkness that followed. I felt the walls shrinking that I could scarcely breathe! How might I start – in this black and cold void, in the propagating perplexities, in the deformed soul of mine – how might I start!

Awakened by a heavy thud that seemed to come from above, I found myself filled with an unprovoked fervour for a comprehensive retrieval. I yanked open the drawer, and there they were, the photo albums in scarlet coloured leather jackets, stacked neatly in a pile of four. I placed them close to each other in front of me with extreme care as though they were fine porcelain – I couldn’t find the heart to treat them roughly.

I began looking through it at a reasonable speed. There was myself, of course, standing beside a tremendous statue with a look of bewilderment passing over my face, or sitting cross-legged in a tent that seemed to have been set up wrongly. And there were the others, father, Edmund, Clara, friends from the college and the strangers who showed up at the parade of Manchester in impressive ways.

As I turned the page faster and faster without even knowing it, a tide of dizziness overpowered me. I halted. I could see nothing but darkness. I took a deep breath and held it for long, believing that the act would drive away the vertigo that eroded my sight. As ever, it worked. And, just when I started on the last album, an unusual photo caught my eye – half-length, the figure of a woman dressed in black stood out well from the plain background. However, curiously, the upper half of the photo was stained by a piece of blue paint, and it just happened to be big enough to cover her whole face like an opaque veil.

I must had been too naïve to expect any clue from this, from the things that were left behind. This was their way of winning – erase, erase, and erase again. It was not until I came up to the old tree that I found it mutilated by a fire, with the incendiaries turning into the innocents, and the only witness of the truth was now getting hopelessly lost in time. Of course, the little evidence remained wouldn’t allow my further investigation – no one would trust an outsider who was profoundly convinced that he had known a woman who was now a stranger to him, and it was his distant relatives who were also the only ones left in the family, that were attempting to remove her existence from his memory. The paint could never be cleaned and the truth would never be told; the path that lay in front of me was blocked, as it always would be. I had to leave before it burnt me from the inside out.

I put on a long coat and headed towards the station. It wouldn’t take me long to walk, but with all the luggage, taking a taxi seemed a wiser choice. It had been a while since the last time the picture of the town unfolded before my eyes – the compact, bright-coloured buildings on the sides of the street, the silhouette of the cross on top of the church, people jogging along the roads with their long-haired terriers. It would always be in a harmony no matter with or without my presence.

When I reached the platform, the crowd was rolling in all directions. ‘A reckless rush’, the phrase emerged out of nowhere in my mind with an extraordinary clarity. Of course, not all of them were necessarily in such a state, some of them were acting this way solely because something about them needed to be concealed – solitude, weariness, or possibly a regretful past. It seemed that everyone had things worth concealing. Why was I there? Why was I struggling amongst those who suffered from solitude, weariness, or a past they didn’t wish to bring up? Had I been suffering with them and everyone else, I might as well forget a little less.

I saw her at the moment when I thought seeing her again would be the most unlikely thing that ever happened.

And when I did, the voice inside my head grew louder and louder that was almost deafening. I knew her. I knew her. I knew her. That was all I knew – I must had been so foolish to let go of this, to make up my mind running away from everything. I saw it – an oasis on this boundless desert, in the bustling mess, awaiting to be revealed and therefore bring it all back at once. I dared not blink; my heart fluttered violently as I grasped my coat and fought my way through droves of people wandering around pointlessly. Mirages. With a great rumble the tree had been torn into half, and it stung me so vigorously that it then went into my ears and kept vibrating like mad, or it might be earth itself trembling. The waves that stood between us glittered and shuffled, and for an instant it seemed that she and I and everyone else had all been devoured and then thrown into a sea of nothingness. Mirages. I had lost her, or maybe I hadn’t – for she might never have been there at all. Mirages. Mere mirages!

Moonlight poured in through the window when I sat down and opened L'Étranger once again. I couldn’t step aboard, after all – too many things had been pulling me back. But nothing had changed, I was still here, alone and stranded, with a yearn to unravel an obscurity even if I felt it collapsing through time. Was there still a branch of the tree left to be discovered? Was there even a hope of it sprouting into a brand new life?

I went down and it soon became a dull stroll along the lake gravel. Most of the very few walkers I came across were submerged in heavy coats, trotting in smooth and steady paces.

“Do I know you?”

Something flashed across the wrinkled face. Silence only lasted for a second.

“Well,” he smiled, “I don’t think so.”

He was right, and I had always been wrong. Now I had finally understood where it all started, and where it should end.

I opened the book, and there it lay, the ruthless golden creature – surprisingly still intact. This was the end, I thought, if there was no turning back from where I stood, then I must find the way ahead.

Water riffled gently. Not a trace.