Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Death of a Poet who Defined Hong Kong
photo: Zhongguo Xiju Chubanshe
BEIJING — Leung Ping-kwan, the poet and intellectual who celebrated and defined Hong Kong, had just been released from the hospital and sat, surrounded by spilling boxes of books, his trademark flat cap on his head, in his home in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district the last time I saw him, on Dec. 9.
I knew that P.K., as friends called him, had been fighting the lung cancer that ultimately killed him Saturday, yet when I saw him last month I was taken aback at his appearance. Below the cap, his mouth and jaw were drawn tight, as were his hands. And yet his bright chuckle, his wide-ranging mind, his enormous appetite for discussion, were still there.
We talked about the recent changes in Beijing, where Xi Jinping had become the new leader, and about the author Mo Yan, who had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He gave me his latest book, a Chinese-language collection of poems titled “Dong Xi,” which means “East West” but also means “Things,” a clever and fitting title for a poet who excelled at what he called “things” poetry, a “unique ‘poetics of quotidianism,’ of the everyday,” as Esther M.K. Cheung writes in her introduction to his latest English-language book, “City at the End of Time,” republished in 2012 by Hong Kong University Press.