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anna chen poetryFor photos of Anna reading her poetry during the St Ives Literary Festival, Saturday 10th May 2008, click here"Daddy Freud", "Poe", "To Adonis At His Toilet".


More video and pix of Anna reading in St Ives - Arts Club Cafe Frug night. "Under Deep Cover of the PTA"


























































































































































































































































































Masthead photos by Sukey Parnell

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Anna Chen's poetry page


Video of Anna reading her poetry during the St Ives Literary Festival in Norway Square, Saturday 10th May 2008. "Daddy Freud", "Poe", "To Adonis At His Toilet".




Hemingway dreams of an old man mastering Mother Nature
Wrestling single-handed with a 200 pound marlin
Off the Gulf of Mexico
While I tussle with Ernest and the semi-unconscious of the U. S. of A

Ernest loves a drink - his blood - and a fight - his meat.
He's got grit 'n' spit 'n' spunk in his veins
He should've been a matador
Bulls are only one vowel away from 'balls'
And they are built with horns
No prize for guessing what the cat means there

Herman Melville got it on with a cat named Ahab
Fed his leg to a fish called Moby Dick.
What kind of a name is that to give a fish that will be studied in the schools?
Moby Dick was big and he was wild and he thrashed around a lot
Which is kinda funny when you think about it
You may as well give us a story about a killer whale and call it 'Free Willy' or somesuch
But now I am being ridiculous

Horatio Hornblower
What kind of a name is that?

All the American heroes
Why've these cats all got weird names?
John Wayne was called Marion
He would have preferred Marlin, I bet,
But Brando beat him to it
And became a four hundred pound Marlon

Marion and Marlin
So close and yet so far.

If the U.S. of A. was a land of milk and honey,
Did the early pilgrims in their coastal habitats have too much fish in their diet?
What is fish roe, anyway?
Whatever it is, I think the founding fathers O.D.'d on it



'Bag for life,'
So Tescos tell me.
Maybe a bit ropey around the edges but not that bad, surely?
Bag for life.
Well, that is fine for you to say,
Dame Shirley Porter,
Tesco heiress,
Westminster City council supremo
And guilty as sin
Only not half as interesting.
Bag for life
Is not a sentence handed down to ladies who lunch
In between sticking the poor into asbestos-riddled tower blocks
Or who blow 27 million pounds of somebody else's money
And then abscond abroad with their loot intact.
Have you bagged your plot on the Mount of Olives,
Dame Shirley,
Next to Robert Maxwell,
Honoured among thieves?
Perhaps the headlines should have read,
'Life for bag'.



I'd like to blow
Edgar Allan Poe
On bended knee
Like Annabel Lee

I'd like to snort snow
With Edgar A. Poe
Swing into the pit
Of his infernal wit

I'd like to sink low
As Eddy A. Poe
I'm desirous to share
His gloom and despair

Dear Ed can you please
Give me a disease
As cool as the red one
Transmitted by fleas?



Daddy Freud was right
My pleasure principle has no scruples.
Elektra on a bar stool
Looking for
Why did you leave me daddy?
Million dollar trust fund Gold card Sorbonne Sugar the pill
Can't you see you made me ill, daddy?
You You YOU
Daddy Freud speeds to the rescue
But he bites in to my Trust Fund
And my shrink rap won't take VISA
Why did you give me such pain?
Why did you rip my soul apart?
Daddy place baby on stone and rip little Elektra's heart out.
You screwed mommy.
I was prettier than her.
And younger.



It came to us in a blinding flash,
all heat and light,
the silence of space
in this smallest of spaces
ripping out a new universe.

I can hear some woman screaming.
It is irritating the fuck out of me.
We are all choking on dust
and breathing in smoke
not knowing if we
are burning in hell
and she will not stop.

The moment before this universe was born
I stared across a stranger's shoulder
into a black window
thinking about ... what?
It is so long ago, I can barely remember.
Evictions and shopping lists,
who said what
and who hurt whom.
Then the blinding flash
and the woman screaming.

Try to think about something else,
how my friends will gasp over drinks at my anecdote,
that I'd skived this day,
that I am somewhere blue,
that it's green and it's cool,
that birds are singing,
that I'm only imagining what it's like to be here
and not safe in my home
tn the garden,
in the sun.

In the garden, the woman screams.
Can't somebody shut her up?

If only I could get away from her
but I'm trapped
in the darkness made darker by sparking electrics
illuminating the world in sickly pulses.
And the woman screaming.

The dust has settled.
The smoke has cleared.
Time to take stock.
I should check for injuries
but my hands won't feel.
Nothing will

The woman's screams are louder now.

In the moment of convergence
two universes judder into alignment.
Let there be light

14th July 2005



Apologising until the wind dies,
Whimpering til the sun goes out,
Dragging my belly like a lizard.
Are these the demands of Love?

Walking across glass,
Over white coals,
On my knees,
Will that make me good in your eyes?
Or is kneeling too full of myself
When crawling wormishly is available?

I have made animal sacrifices,
Placed the top two joints of my little finger
Neatly severed by secateur,
On a breakfast tray with tea and a long-stemmed rose
For your approval and delectation.
I never get it.
Only the delectation.

I have flagellated my flesh down to the bone,
Separated my hide and laid it like a rug
For the comfort of your dainty feet.

Here are my dissected innards,
Strewn viscera,
Can you read the auguries?

Those were eyes that are your pearls,
Strung with teeth and toenails
To adorn a goddess.
Such are the demands of Love

I sprung from your womb incomplete.
You never forgave me.

May 2008



I was excited
I’d been invited
To The Cultural Media Event of the year,
The annual Reith Lectures.
Not just to consume and admire
But to speak and aspire.
A BBC for the BBC,
The British Broadcasting Corporation
Had invited me
A British Born Chinese
To pose a question at the Reith and
Have it considered by great minds across the ether.
To participate like I was one of Them, “In the fold”,
A sui generis in the mold
Of a new rising force in the country
To talk about a new rising force in the world,
This year’s topic: China.
I’m a BBC for the BBC
New on the block, unfathomed, free,
Off the peg, ready-made,
Waiting all my life for the day
I would be called.
No longer the barbarian at the gates
The burglar in the hall
The Eastern invader
The Mongol Hordes
I was at Lords Cricket Ground
Hallelujah! I was lost and now I’m found.

I was excited
A troth was plighted.
We were recording the show on the hallowed estate
Of the MCC for a national debate
For the flagship BBC radio channel
Lords Cricket Ground, knackers
Under wrap in flannel
White male wet dream anachronism
Balls polished
The crack of willow
Against leather
Thwack! Eee-er, eee-er
The whack and squeal of balls polished again
And again.
And again.
Nuthin’ strange there, then
That’s just white men
And their normal ways.

I was excited
I was delighted
Before kick-off
The swanky reception
Nibbling at canapes
Perfecting my conception
Of tonight’s subject: China and the Body Beautiful, sport, the Olympics.
I’m cutting flab, tightening syntax.
Drinking sensibly
Coz red wine
Can dull the mind, make you whine and slur
And forget what spurred
You on in the first place,
Can make you forget your words,
And we all know you cannot drink and drive
Your words home.
I worked hard at them,
Every last moment
Chiselling my mini-masterpiece
A polemical miniature
In a nutshell
Educating and entertaining
Just the way the Man said it.
Institutional bores can shove it
I know Lord Reith, father of the BBC,
Would love it.
So I craft my infotainment gem
Making it short enough
To survive the edit
And to my credit I was
Shorter by a country mile
Than some of the waffling and pontification
And plain love of their own voice of authority
We would be hearing that night.

I was excited
A wrong was righted.
I am walked into the room
And put in my place,
No longer faceless in the crowd
But up front and proud
In the first row.
There it is,
A sheet of A4 with my name in big black second-coming font
Reserving my seat.
I’m on heat at the sight
I’ll be up all night remembering this.
Too cool to take a photo like a tourist
I take a snapshot with my mind
And store it in my inner iPhoto album
Titled – “Victories I have won”.
Only two photos so far.
This one and the fistfight when I was six.
I will be called to speak
By the chairperson who has read my gist
I am told she has me on her list.
I will be called by the legendary “Sue Lawley, Sue Lawley”
BBC Radio 4 stalwart, arbiter and queenpin.
I look around and check what fine company I am keeping.
Director generals and chairmen abound
I am the only Chinese Chosen One around,
Expected to speak
For the fraternity
An entire race depends on me.
I wonder who will win.

I was excited
My goal was sighted
My name’s on the chair
Who says the system’s not fair?
I plant my behind on my name
Like I am sitting on my own face
Kissing my own butt
Better mine than someone else’s
But I don’t mind, the establishment’s kind
If you are ultimately a Truth seeker.
Sue Lawley starts the show,
Introduces the speaker
On the subject of China and the Body Beautiful, sport, the Olympic games.
My eyes are alight, my thoughts aflame.
“Professor Jonathan Spence
Of Yale”.
My admiration is immense
I have his books, he makes a lot of sense,
Knowing what’s right, defending the poor,
Twenty minutes later
He ends with me longing for more.
Yay! (applause)
Sue throws it open to the floor
And picks her first questioner.
It’s Sir Sumthin’-Or-Other
A god on Mount Olympus
Or high-up in the Olympics committee
Same thing this evening
And he talks and he talks
I don’t understand
Even though English is my first language

Sue calls the next and the next til they all merge into
One red-faced, pink-eyed chubby well-fed bundle of done-thinking, done-feeling,
My head is spinning, my senses reeling.
“Blah, blah, blah
Human rights
Blah, blah, blah,
They hate the disabled, you know”
(Coz in Britain we’re supportive of our weak and our old)
“Blah, blah, blah
Whine, whine, whine,
Moan, moan, moan
Tibet or not Tibet
That is the question.”
If that is the question, the answer is surely not to bet
The farm on feudal theocracy.
Hey, that’s what you said.
Now you’re telling me China ain’t parta the civilised world?
Somewhere a Union Jack’s unfurled.

Coz this is the country of Magna Carta
No longer.
The authorities here are growing stronger.
The Meaning of Life is 42
42 days detention without charge
42 days of your life writ large
42 days without a home
42 days because politicians lost their back bone.
Rendition to a torture zone
Your wife and your kids don’t know where you’ve gone
Guilty until proved innocent
Where sucking your teeth while black is an arrestable offence
A copper scrutinising every email you ever sent
Gotta fuck for food, steal for rent
Freedom of speech? What a cheek!
Satan could sue the bible for libel
Get a million pound payoff and a House of Lords title.
DNA records, CCTVs,
Media frenzied heeby-jeebies,
Asbo-land, tapping phones,
Booming business, crippling loans
For school fees in the land of the free
Hey, why you picking on the Chinese
It’s not us starting World War Three
You’ll free this land?
Iran, Iraq, I scrammed.

I was benighted
The night was blighted.
The Professor talked about Chinese physique
Once thin and attenuated, deflated and weak,
Now growing in stature, reaching its peak,
In pride, in power.
No wonder you’re all sour.
The only monster here has eyes of green
Ain’t that the saddest thing you’ve ever seen?
It’s late in the hour,
Still Sue Lawley calls the faithful of
The Rational Front
One by one
They lecture us on human rights
When we’re giving up ours without a fight.
What happened to the Body Beautiful, to sport,
What happened to tonight’s topic, in short?
Yikes! What’s happening to the time?
They had their turn now I want mine.
The ticking clock counts down
Time dessicates and runs through my fingers
Only five minutes to go and every contributor lingers.
Everyone speaking sounds white and posh
Braying and wittering and talking tosh.
One Chinese woman sneaks in from the floor
And lands a killer punch on one of the bores.
Good for you, sister.
Oh god, we all look the same.
A producer gesticulates, “Sue, you missed her.
That’s not the one. She’s over here,”
He’s pointing at me.
But Sue doesn’t seem to see.

I thought I was set-up
Now I’m being ignored
No chance for a comeback on my question
No time to explore
No opportunity for illumination, expansion,
Gotta make every second count
Breathe in deep
Feel the tension mount.
Pray my soul to keep calm,
Stick to the truth you won’t come to no harm
I. Stick. Up. My. Hand.
The only guest to have to do it.
A humiliation, I knew it,
But it was a dirty job and someone had to do it.

Sue doesn’t announce me
That’s OK
I still remember my own name
And I do it for her
Deep breath
“Thank you Professor Spence.
I am tall, robust,
And not at all attenuated. Sadly.”
A ripple of laughter
“And my feet are size seven. Unbound.”
Louder laughter, I love that sound,
The wake awakes.
“I’m a BBC ...”
And Sue who has already explained eloquently
What a BBC is, dives in and asks me to explain
In case someone mistakes me for British Broadcasting Corporation.
“British Born Chinese,” I assure
Although I could equally have said more,
I could have said “I presented a series on Radio 4, Sue.
On the history of the Chinese in Britain so I’m a bit like you,
A BBC and a BBC”
But I don’t. Coz that way madness lies.
“Sorry, Sue. Enough about me.
Ahem. I couldn’t help noticing
The Chinese smurfs who guarded the Olympic flame
Were tall, healthy, handsome, hot ...”
Sue interjects again,
“This is entirely subjective.”
Yes, Sue. It’s subjective coz it’s my question.
“Ahem, tall, healthy, handsome, hot,
Reeking stamina,
Pounding out the miles on foot
While, the bobbies on bicycles ... were not.
Due to a genetics rather than diet and confidence.
I also noticed ...”
Sue interrupts a third time, the bum’s rush,
“Hurry up, please, we’re running out of time.”
Well, whose fault is that, Sue?
I’ll give you a clue
I think it’s you and where you put me in the queue.
I smile. Deep breath. I have worth.
“I also noticed the hostility towards the Olympic smurfs
Bore no relation to what we saw on camera.
Is this reaction part of a wider fear,
Of the Chinese becoming physically stronger as a metaphor for economic strength?”
A ripple, a murmering and a stirring at length
Brains ticking, souls whirring,
Hearts thumping, me purring
As my arrow finds its target.
We have communication.
The professor smiles and has his say
But it’s all too late in the day.
Sue draws the night to a close.

Thwack! Eee-er, eee-er.
Whack and squeal
That was the sound of
Women have balls, they’re just higher,
Ethnics have wit, we’re just drier.
Sue’s so snippy, I mustn’t look chippy,
I wanna fight back coz I’m not a damned hippy.
An ectoplasmic wraith of my hand snakes out
And grabs the Fragrant One by her swan-like throat
“Take your goddammed claw off my balls, you goddamed creepy-crawley,
Sue Lawley,” I think to myself.
Hear that laughter, Sue?
They heard something new
And an earlier inclusion might have allowed
An outcome more in line with Lord Reith’s intentions,
To inform, entertain and explain.
Instead of retreading the same old lack of invention.
Boring, worn, turgid,
A political agenda
Turning every Chinese into a China defender.
Instead of sticking me at the end a the show.
I offer you something new.
But Sue, you never write, you never call,
You don’t see me at all.
A BBC for the BBC
Wreath Lecture

June 2008

Poetry © Anna Chen