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Chao's great strength as a poet lies in the simplicity of his chosen words, his truths and his imagery. The reader is repeatedly invited to take part in timeless and memorable expressions of deeply felt experience.|
-------Elizabeth Jolley, The Fate of a Grasshopper
Chao writes deeply imaged poetry with an eye for what is happening below the surface. It is moral poetry that engages with a liviely and inviting intimacy. A Chinese poet writing in English, he has managed to combine the meditative and reflective tones of Chinese verse with the vitality of contempoary English speech.
-------John Kinsella, Paper Boat
Chao's poetry brings a Chinese sense of extension in time, down the generations and through history, into the Australian context.
-------Nicholas Jose, Australian Book Review
In Chao's impressive short poems, I experience the pleasure of reading ancient Chinese poetry noted for its sharp clarity of images, economy of, and meanings beyond, the words.
------Ouyang Yu, Australian Book Review
Chao is a fine poet with the delicate and sharp sensibilities exhibited by the Chinese culture over the centuries, and an imagistic skill that is as naturalas swimming is to ducks.
------Andrew Burke, Westerly
Reading Chao can become addictive.
------J.S. Harry, Ulitarra
Paper Boat is a fascinating book of poems, possessed of the intensity of trauma and spiritual struggle, it is a significant achievement.
------Mike Heald, Western Review
Chao's poems show how aware he is of the fragilityof our hopes and aspirations, yet he is also aware, precisely because of their fragility, of how precious they are.
------Andrew Tayor, Book Launch Speech
In Chao's poetry there is a strong crisp voice at work and the presence is clear and
Chao is equally at home writing about China and Australia. His poems are simple, a little shy, disarmingly frank, with unexpectedly sharp and wise observations.
-------Jane Sullivan, The Age
Chao's two books contain brief poems of fresh insights from keenly felt poetic sensitivity. Chao tells how burdensome his sensitive nature was, until finding Christ, he used his painful experiences and observations in writings.
-------Irene Playford, On Being
Chao's fourth collection of poems Paper Boat displays the same unexpectedness of imagery and immediacy of observed moments as his third, Out of Chaos. Alert to his role as a poet and surreal re-visioner. Chao's brief poems, while distinctly Chinese in manner, are sharp-edged, often beginning from small, everyday acts or events then ending like surprsied encounters with the self and body. His use of irony and reversal is assured, sometimes haunting and sometimes wonderfully idyosyncratic. Some current poems have been during his stay in Australia but with lines such as
a bang of the door
I turned back
nobody was there
my shadow started up
then with a flop fell
onto the floor
they reveal the somewhat dissociated observer of his earlier work, and likewise hint at the attendant trepidation, if not the anxietyand sense of violence just off-stage. The best poems do, however, achieve the sense of urgency.
Generally though, he is in more celebratory voice throughout and employs a gentler key for his observations of nature and customs in Australia.
---------Philip Salom, Paper Boat
...My initial delight in reading Chao's poetry had been heightened by the discovery that he worte directly in his second language English (as well as in Chinese and French). The poems in Paper Boat, his latest book, provide extraordinary evidence of his ability to perform this feat. Only a select group of writers has such a powerful poetic impulse that it shines as an unquenchable flame in their poetry no matter in which language they choose to write. Chao is such a poet...
In his newest poems, especially those responding to Australia, the first overseas country Chao has visited, we find the imagery equally apposite, especially intense, equally controlled.
an enormously long granite table just placed
under the moon-flower decked veranda splendorued
with contemporary limelight and ancient torches
an enormously long granite table just mattressed
seats them like an audience watching
fits of wind crossing over time ephemeral and time eternal
with their shirts and blouses bulging
an enormously long granite table just centred
with gigantic plates of fresh seafood and bricky bread
bottles of wine white yellow brown and red
dotted like a blessed game of chess
an enormously long granite table just gleaming
with forks knives plates glasses clicking
into frail echoes of sparkling tingling lights
an enormously long granite table
like the Swan River carrying them far to the tales of night
the new moon rocking a canoe of cleansed light
over the billowing Indian Ocean
What living poet would not envy here the quicksilver of ideas, the deftness of word placements, the inventiveness of imagery?
The three "parts" into which this volume has been divided show us many sides of the poet's life, as well as scenes of contemporary China. And also we have incisive views of our own country in Australia, through a mirror which is at the same time riddling and revealing. The final poem in this book, "For Sale", is an uncompromising but not undeserved satire directed not just at Perth, but perhaps at all the world's modern cities. Always there is a keen intelligence perceving, responding, observing, often with a needle sharpness of wit, often self-effacing shyness. These poems are endearing. We come back to them again and again, like treasured objects...
I sincerely hope the reader is deeply satisfied with the rewards for the pleasant task of having sailed in this 'paper boat'.
--------Glen Phillips, Paper Boat
Now, Chao's two books have appeared on the website of Australian Literature for on-line reading and research:
Fate of a Grasshopper: