Wasafiri Wonders: Antony Huen
Ever wondered what your favourite writer’s first drafts look like? Or which book they love that nobody’s heard of? Wasafiri Wonders is a series that asks these questions for you. For this instalment, we spoke to the winner of the inaugural Wasafiri Essay Prize, Antony Huen, on his favourite recent releases, writing habits, and upcoming work.
The 2022 Wasafiri Essay Prize is now inviting submissions from early-career researchers, offering publication, £250, and more. Enter by 12 September, 2022, 5pm BST.
Wasafiri: Describe your first drafts in one sentence.
Antony Huen: Jigsaw puzzles, whether they are essays or poetry drafts.
Tell us about your writing rituals.
I declutter my work desk. I open a Word file and choose a font that I fancy at the time. Long ago it was Garamond, now it’s Palatino Linotype. I rarely write in the morning and I need tea or lukewarm water, some meditation music, and just enough lighting. My phone needs to be on the silent mode. I stare out of the window from time to time.
What themes do you gravitate towards and why?
Asian and Hong Kong identities; Chinese culture and philosophy; childhood, parents, manhood; memory and dreams; places and nature; visual artworks and cultural artefacts — these are what interest me in writing and in life.
Tell us about your newest work.
I have an essay about poets with Hong Kong heritage in Wasafiri 109 (still very grateful for the Essay Prize!); a conversation with Jennifer Wong in the summer 2022 issue of World Literature Today; and the poem ‘Brain Sea’ in the winter 2021 issue of Poetry Wales. I also have poetry manuscripts under review and a few essays in the making…
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
‘Cut to the chase.’
What is your favourite book or pamphlet published in the past year and why?
Maybe Lewis Buxton’s Boy in Various Poses (Nine Arches Press) — I didn’t know a poet’s creative muscle could be flexed those ways.
What is a classic you recently read for the first time?
That’s a great question because I was teaching European classics in translation in spring — and among those we studied, The Decameron and Don Quixote were first-time reads for me. And I’ve recently re-read Peter Pan to research for my poetry.
What is a book or pamphlet you love that no one else has heard of?
Tamar Yoseloff’s Funhouse and Sweetheart, her first pamphlet and full collection — full of conflicting emotions and secrecy.
If your newest work were a music album, what would it be and how would it sound?
The essays I’m starting to write would be instalments of Now That’s What I Call Cantopop. The new poems would sound like Taylor Swift’s ‘mirrorball’.
Which books or authors are relevant reads in our political climate — or one you’d recommend to current world leaders?
Jennifer Wong’s Letters Home (Nine Arches Press), Bhanu Kapil’s How to Wash a Heart (Pavilion), Caleb Femi’s Poor (Penguin). And Eric Yip’s ‘Fricatives’.
Antony Huen is a Research Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Metropolitan University, researching contemporary poetry and poetics, digital humanities, and Hong Kong literature in English. He is published in The Dark Horse, Early Popular Visual Culture, Hong Kong Review of Books, The Oxonian Review, and Poetry Wales, and is writing a poetry chapbook. He tweets @antonyhuen.
Antony Huen’s winning essay, ‘The “old Hong Kong” and “a Gold-sifting Bird”: Hong Kong and Chinese Ekphrasis in Contemporary British Poetry’ was published in Wasafiri 109.
Enter the 2022 Wasafiri Essay Prize here.