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    KIT FAN

  • About

    Kit Fan - poet and fiction writer

    Kit Fan was born and educated in Hong Kong when the city was the last British colony, before moving to the UK at 21. He is a poet, novelist, and critic.

     

    He was shortlisted for The Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize for 'Duty Free' in 2017 and for 'City of Culture' in 2018. He was also shortlisted for the 2017 TLS Mick Imlah Poetry Prize.

     

    His debut novel Diamond Hill will be published in May 2021 by Dialogue Books/Little, Brown and by World Editions.

     

    His first book of poems Paper Scissors Stone (Hong Kong University Press, 2011) won the inaugural International HKU Poetry Prize.

     

    His second book of poems As Slow As Possible (Arc) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, one of The Guardian's 50 biggest books in Autumn 2018, and The Irish Times Best Poetry Book of the Year.

     

    He was awarded by the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon to be a Visiting Scholar in 2020-21.

     

    He was winner of a Northern Writers' Award, The Times Stephen Spender Poetry Translation Prize, and the POETRY magazine Editors Prize for Reviewing.

     

    He is represented by the literary agent Matt Turner at Rogers, Coleridge & White.

  • Debut Novel

    Diamond Hill

    “I enjoyed Diamond Hill very much. It’s fantastically evocative of a time and place, full of vivid images but never at the expense of story. A hugely impressive first novel.”
    DAVID NICHOLLS, bestselling author of One Day and Us

     

    “An extraordinary book. I can’t remember reading something so terrifying, moving, and complicatedly fascinating. The characters brand themselves immediately and we know them completely and not at all. The interweaving of the political and the private is startling. It makes such a complete world and shows you how precarious complete worlds are.”
    ADAM PHILLIPS, author of Attention Seeking and Becoming Freud

     

    Kit Fan's debut novel Diamond Hill will be published by Dialogue Books/Little, Brown and World Editions in May 2021.

     

    Set in the last shanty town of Hong Kong before the fraught 1997 handover from Britain to China, Diamond Hill follows the return of a recovering heroin addict, Buddha, as he tries to salvage what's left from a place he hoped to forget.

    Diamond Hill was once the 'Hollywood of the Orient', but is now an eyesore in the middle of a glitzy financial hub. Buddhist nuns, drug gangs, property developers, the government and foreign powers are all vying for power, each wanting to stake their claim on the land.

    Buddha finds himself crossing swords with the Iron Nun, fighting for her nunnery; a disturbed novice, Quartz, who is fleeing her past; a faded film actress called Audrey Hepburn; and Boss, a teenage gang leader with a big mouth and even bigger plans, plotting to escape what she calls 'the death of Hong Kong'.

    Kit Fan's hard-hitting and exhilarating debut is a requiem for a disappearing city, and a meditation on powerlessness, religion, colonialism and displacement. It explores the price of forgetting and how the present is ultimately always entangled in the past.

  • Books

    Kit Fan second book As Slow As Possible

    ‘The assurance of the voice in As Slow As Possible is often startling, partly because of the precision of its vulnerability, and partly because Fan seems to sense something in the language that gives his poems an uncanny momentum and coherence. There is wisdom encoded in these poems that is at once fleeting and revelatory. It is an extraordinary book.’ Adam Phillips

     

    ‘If there is something of Marianne Moore’s eccentric edginess in the formal accomplishment of these poems, there is also an elegant surrealism wholly Kit Fan’s own. As Slow as Possible deserves to be read in the way its title suggests: this is a collection that will lavishly reward careful and attentive reading.’ Caitríona O’Reilly

     

    Reviews of As Slow As Possible:

    Kit Fan first book Paper Scissors Stone

    ​Winner of the inaugural Hong Kong University International Poetry Prize

    “‘Then all things began twice.’ The poems in Paper Scissors Stone are moved by the forces of repetition and release, and are haunted by crossings (of borders, of people, of languages and their written characters). With wit and sorrow, precision and tact, the poems study the essential qualities of places, persons, and their arrangements, asking us what it is to begin twice. The book is a formally beautiful and complete meditation on transformation.”

    Saskia Hamilton

     

    “These extraordinary poems, so assured in their directions, so startling in their clarities, have an eerily dream-like wakefulness. Fan’s enigmatic lucidity is born of a confluence of traditions, both real and imagined. This is not simply a remarkable debut, but a brilliantly accomplished book.”

    Adam Phillips

     

    “Here is a collection of complex work, skillfully executed. The poems, each carefully measured and crafted, when taken together add up to a beautifully articulated body of work. This is the performance of a fully fledged poet.”

    Louise Ho

  • Short Stories

    Picture of an air ticket and link to the short story

    Shortlisted for the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize 2017

    Sheila, an immigrant divorcee and mother, works as a cleaner while her son Sunny receives private tutoring in the Hong Kong International Airport where a strange incident has taken place and thrown the mother and son into actions that they have never dreamed before.

    Picture of a library and link to the short story

    Shortlisted for the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize 2018

    Mai, a teenage girl from a seaside northern city, lives with her absent mother and works in her grandmother's Chinese takeaway after school. In a wake of a family crisis, she struggles to find her voice while participating in her school debate on the EU Referendum.

  • Poems

    Hong Kong and the Echo

     

    What do we know but that we face
    One another in this place?

    – W. B. Yeats, 'Man and the Echo'

     

    HK. I loved my mountains, rivers, and trees
    long before towers and families, but if the only way
    the sea can speak to the hills is through the moon
    I will speak to you from the ink-dark
    about the changing tides, the slow equivocal pain
    of transition, how things are moving away
    from the norm, the deceptive comfort
    of a norm, the fading neon noises
    on Mong Kok streets, the kind of blue and yellow
    you’ll only find in my heart, the Lion Rock spirit
    and the endangered species named after me:
    the grouper, cascade frog, incense tree.

     

    Echo. What do we know but that?

     

    HK. What’s the meaning of life in numbers?
    Although I count every second of mine
    I remember nothing of those Crown-
    appointed governors come and gone who said
    nothing, did nothing, changed nothing.
    What are the promises in a red flag with five stars
    shooting out from one bauhinia?
    Twenty-two moon-calendars since I was re-unorphaned
    I stray and obey like a tree, half-crown, half-root,
    branching out and bedding in, each growth year
    a scar tissue erased by the smudges
    of shared stocks, fireworks, new railways and bridges.

     

    Echo. We face one another? We face one another?

     

    HK. What am I but the high-rise windows
    reflecting the sun and the lives below?
    Come, look into every single one
    and find millions of homemade voices in an impasse,
    in fissures, in boxlike existences
    where one language is never enough.
    High above I see black kites, sometimes white-bell
    sea eagles gliding between glass and cliff,
    drones and signals, eyeing the quick chance
    while larks, thrushes, and titmice are twittering
    in bamboo cages, bird to bird, sharing
    the captive sky with their distant counterparts
    as one sun drops under the horizon
    and a different one rises.

     

    Echo. In this place? In this place? In this place?

     

    (Published in World Literature Today, April 2019 issue)

    Migrant

    for Ziad Elmarsafy

     

    Months have passed and we have seen enough of death

    this winter that even though seeing these chlorophyll

     

    green leaves suckle on the sun again and tower over Russell Square

    broadcasting C’est la vie on this one June day aren’t enough

     

    for the sea-deaths, land-deaths and air-deaths un-extinguishing

    somewhere else, not yet out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Not yet here too,

     

    this corner kingdom we’ve elected to live within still seemingly

    prospers like the summer holm-oak by the Hotel Russell

     

    you’ll come to frequent in your new life in the capital.

    People lazing about in the sun as in La Grande Jatte, children shrieking

     

    in the fountain, a father carrying his bum-bare boy on his shoulders,

    an old couple walking past, catching our eye, still walking

     

    past. So many of us, I want to know every single life, what

    brought them here today, who they are, and how long they will live.

     

    We all have it, living it, re-living it, shaping this one-off malleable

    thing over and over that even though all winter we’ve seen

     

    what could happen to it, we still sit on the bench among the perishable

    green, chattering about it as if it won’t leave us just like that.

     

     

    (Published in the anthology Wretched Stranger (Boiler House Press, 2018) which commemorates the anniversary of the June 2016 EU Referendum and in solidarity through struggles ongoing and to come. Proceeds of the book will be donated to charities fighting for the rights of refugees.)

     

    Links to a selection of poems published online:

    Hokkaido, Poetry

    Hong Kong and the Echo, World Literature Today

    Vitreous Humour, The Poetry Review

    The Painted Skin, The Poetry Review

    June, by Bei Dao, Modern Poetry in Translation

    The Burning of Books, Prairie Schooner

    Rachel Whiteread’s Ghost, Soanyway

    From The Bostonians, The Compass Magazine

    Among School Teachers, Lacuna

    Late, Poetry Book Society

    Mother's Ink, Cha

    To the Shadow-Millions, Cha

    How Cangjie Invented Chinese Characters, Cha

    Lines from "Another Poem of Insomnia", Cha

    Ghost Letter, Cha

    "Chinese Poetry" (in translation), Cha

     

  • Media and Interviews

    Image of the sea

    Kit Fan talks with Alice Oswald about her latest book, Nobody (Cape Poetry, UK and W.W. Norton, US).

    Image of a beautiful beach and sunset like the beginning of time

    Parts of Kit's poem 'Genesis', a collage of Chinese creation myths recast in the form of the King James's Authorised Bible, was set into music by the Hong Kong composer Adrian Lam. It was performed at the Fringe Club on 5th November 2019 as part of the HK International Literary Festival.

    Image of a window showing beautiful interior

    Kit was interviewed by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and Jason Eng Hun Lee back in 2018 as part of a project 'Anglophone City Poetics and the Asian Experience'. Kit 'talks about his first poetic influences, his migration to the UK as a young writer, his musings on Hong Kong and afar, and his perspectives on the evolving Asian cityscape.'

    Image of a wild country field

    Kit discussed the idea of poetry in the north with Andrew McMillan, Rachael Allen, and Zaffar Kunial.

    Kit Fan British Library Between two worlds: poetry and translation

    British Library Sounds

    A recording of Kit's poems from his first book of poems Paper Scissors Stone including some Classical Chinese poems in English translations.

    Kit Fan Chinese University of Hong Kong A Grain of Sand: Poems from Hong Kong

    Chinese University of Hong Kong Digital Archive

    Kit Fan "grew up in the shadows of the Sino-British negotiations distills the angst of his age. Upheavals, reaching back to the Japanese occupation, and forward to the handover in 1997 and beyond, imprint on his poetry. And yet a greater strength inheres, for the continuity of tradition, the persistence of the Chinese poetic thought in a poetry rendered in English, makes his writing rich with resonances that cross language borders." - Mimi Ching, Curator of 'A Grain of Sand'

    Image of a window showing beautiful interior

    The Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

    Kit Fan read with Colette Bryce and Martin Kratz on 19th February 2019. He read a selection of poems from As Slow As Possible including 'Janus', 'Chapter 2' of GENESIS, 'As Slow As Possible', and 'My Mother in a Velázquez'.

    Image of a beautiful mountain

    Cork, Ireland

    Kit Fan read with Colette Bryce and Lucy English on 24th November 2018. He read a selection of poems, including 'A Chair from Buddha Mountain' from As Slow As Possible.

  • Literary Criticism

    Reviews:

    • Review of Alice Oswald's Noboby (Faber and W.W. Norton), POETRY (July/August 2020).
    • Review of Nguyễn Du's The Song of Kiều (Penguin), translated by Timothy Allen. The Poetry Review (Autumn 2019).
    • Review of Rachael Allen's Kingdomland (Faber) and Emily Hasler's The Built Environment (Pavilion). The Poetry Review (Spring 2019).
    • Review of Robin Robertson's The Long Take (Picador) and David Harsent's Salt (Faber). The Poetry Review (Summer 2018).
    • Review of Thom Gunn's Selected Poems (Faber), edited by Clive Wilmer. The Poetry Review (Winter 2017).
    • Review of Jorie Graham's Fast (Carcanet) and Pauline Stainer's Sleeping Under the Juniper Tree (Bloodaxe). The Poetry Review (Autumn 2017).
    • Review of Patrick McGuinness's Jilted City (Carcanet), John Ash's In the Wake of the Day (Carcanet), Kwame Dawes's Back of Mount Peace (Peepal Tree), and Richard Gwyn's Sad Giraffe Café (Arc). Poetry Review (Autumn 2010).
    • Review of Clive James's Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003-2008 (Picador) and John Kinsella's Comus: A Dialogic Mask (Arc). Poetry Review (Spring 2009).
    • Review of Simon Armitage's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Faber), Sean O’Brien's Inferno: A Verse Translation (Picador), and Louise Glück's Averno (Carcanet). Poetry Review (Summer 2007).
    • Review of Chase Twichell's Dog Language (Bloodaxe), Elizabeth Alexander's American Blue: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe), and Tomaž Šalamun's Row (Arc). Poetry Review (Autumn 2006).

    Book Chapters:

    • Kit Fan (2015). Sinead Morrissey. In Jay Parini (ed.), British Writers. Retrospective Supplement III. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Charles Scribner's Sons.
    • Kit Fan (2000). Thom Gunn. In Jay Parini (ed.), British Writers. Supplement XXI. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons.

    Articles:

    • Kit Fan, "'Between the blank page and the poem': Reading Simone Weil in Contemporary American Poets, The Cambridge Quarterly 36:2 (2007), pp. 129-154.
    • Kit Fan, "Imagined Places: Robinson Crusoe and Elizabeth Bishop", Biography 28:1 (Winter 2005) pp. 43-53.
  • News and Events

    Previous news and events

    8 June 2018 Reading at Fugitive Ideas: A Cerebration for Hugh Haughton, the University of York

    10 July 2018 Short story, 'City of Culture' long-listed in the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize

    6 August 2018 Short story, 'City of Culture' shortlisted in the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize

    27 July 2018 Poetry Book Society News Blog on my second book As Slow As Possible

    12 September 2018 Prize ceremony of the 2018 Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, London

    11 October 2018 Launch of As Slow As Possible organised by the Poetry Book Society and University of York, with Kate Potts and Zaffar Kunial

    23-24 November 2018 Reading at Ó Bhéal (Winter Warmer Festival), Cork, Ireland

    13 December 2018 Northern Poetry Showcase and Roadshow, York St John University

    19 January 2019 Poets and Players Reading with Colette Bryce and Martin Kratz, with music from the Kell Wind Trio, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

    21 January 2019 In conversation with Adam Phillips, Lutyens & Rubinstein Bookshop, London

    29 March 2019 Wretched Strangers: Poetry & Migration, part of York Literature Festival

    27-30 May 2019 Unamuno Literary Festival, Madrid

    27-29 September 2019 Kings Lynn Poetry Festival, Kings Lynn Town Hall

    30 October 2019 Reading at the University of Sheffield with John Birtwhistle and Peter Hughes

    3-10 November 2019 Reading and Workshops in the Hong Kong Literature Festival

    23 November 2019 Interview by New Writing North on the debut novel Diamond Hill, University of Bradford

    19 September 2020 The Hong Kong Shuffle: a celebration of Hong Kong poetics

    18 October 2020 Durham Literary Festival, Dialogue Books Proof Party: Kit Fan and Buki Papilllon

    21 October 2020 Madrid Bookie: The Art of Self-Care - A Hygge Evening of Readings

  • Contact

    Agent: Matt Turner at Rogers, Coleridge & White

     

    You can also write to me directly: