Spanning across continents and generations, Jason Eng Hun Lee’s ambitious first collection maps the poet’s formative childhood experiences in Borneo and his subsequent transplantation and coming of age in the UK. Ranging from the lush, verdant countryside of the poet’s multiracial upbringing to the proud, iconic national landmarks of London, Beds in the East portrays through gorgeous psychic landscapes the persistent presence of ancestral voices and the desire to embrace multitudes. This tale speaks to an entire generation of people travelling between worlds: of departures and arrivals, love and loss, and of identities in constant flux.
Born in the UK in 1984, Jason Eng Hun Lee is a poet of mixed British and Chinese-Malaysian ancestry. He has been published and anthologised in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010, and was a finalist for the Hong Kong University Prize (2010) and runner-up for the Melita Hume Prize (2012). A regular contributor to the Hong Kong literary scene, he holds a PhD in English Literature and teaches at Hong Kong Baptist University. This is his debut collection.
These poems are tight-seamed, their subjects almost demanding fuller space. This book’s mature re-imagination of historical figures writes back to, and from, great men of the past, including ancient warriors and canonical poets. Via the everyday pleasures and cruelties of childhood, it incidentally but importantly registers the natural and cultural life of more locations than tend to enjoy space in mainstream ‘English’ nostalgic poetry. — Vahni Capildeo
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