Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


1905 Murder of Chinese Gold Prospector Inspires Poet

How To Be Dead In A Year of Snakes
Chris Tse

Paperback, 210 x 165mm, 80 pages
978 1 86940 818 3
Poetry, 20 September 2014, $24.99

Chris Tse performs a sustained and impressive conjuring act, summoning the wandering ghost of Joe Kum Yung out of the shadows cast by his murderer Lionel Terry and offering him a life and afterlife of his own. More urgently than any stone memorial, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes returns a shocking episode from New Zealand’s past to us charged with questions of justice, empathy and tolerance that remain very much alive today. Chris Price, Victoria University of Wellington

Chris Tse’s haunting evocation of a murdered Cantonese gold-miner touched me deeply and remains with me. In lines of quiet strength, Tse lifts the silence spread over intolerance, injustice and lost hope and returns the miner’s ‘untethered’ spirit to its homeland.Stephanie de Montalk

1905 Murder of Chinese Gold Prospector Inspires Poet

On a Sunday in 1905 – a year of the snake – a man ‘went hunting for a Chinaman’ on Haining Street, Wellington.

In his first full-length collection of poetry, Chris Tse revisits the murder of Cantonese goldminer Joe Kum Yung. By paying ‘proper respect’ to the many lives consumed by the crime, Tse gives a voice to the dead man and his tragic chorus, and allows us to reflect on the experiences of Chinese migrants of the period, their wishes and hopes, their estrangement and alienation, their ghostly reverberation through a white-majority culture.

In poems of quietly polished, resonant language and charged imagery, he circles the events of the murder and the viewpoints from which they could be seen or told and asks us to consider our collective responsibility to remember the dead and the injustices of our past. Tse’s flickering use of imagery, resonant language and flexible pronouns are particularly suited to the historic events he describes and the viewpoints he shifts through.

The world is full of murder /and words are usually / the first to go

The fantails see the whole of the sky / and fill the clouds / with their opinions.

Pondering the gap between then and now, Tse asks who owns the stories, what we should seek from the past, and what we should take forward to the future. In its remarkable lyric narrative, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes is an unusually expansive first collection, and a welcome poetic addition to New Zealand literature.

About the Author
Chris Tse was born and raised in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. He studied film and English literature at Victoria University of Wellington, where he also completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. His poetry and short fiction have been recorded for radio and published in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies, including Sport, Turbine, The New Zealand Listener, Landfall, Cha, Poetry NZ, Takahe, JAAM, Snorkel, Best New Zealand Poems, and Starch. He is one of three poets included in the joint collection AUP New Poets 4 (Auckland University Press, 2011). In addition to writing, Chris is also an occasional actor and has appeared in plays at BATS Theatre and the Gryphon Theatre. He is also a musician, and was the regional winner and national finalist for Best Original Song (V 48 Hours Film Competition, 2012).

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


13/10: 40 Years Since The Māori Land March Arrived At Parliament

Traffic into Wellington came to a standstill as thousands of Māori and Pākehā streamed along the motorway into the capital on 13 October 1975, concluding the Māori land march to parliament. More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: Before The Quakes

Remembering Christchurch: Voices from decades past: The Christchurch I lived in for my first 23 years was where four-year-olds walked alone to kindergarten, crossing roads empty of all but a couple of cars per hour. My primary school, Ilam, was newly built on a grassy paddock surrounded by rural land... More>>

6-11 October: New Zealand Improvisation Festival Hits Wellington

Wellingtonians will have a wide selection of improv to feast on with a jam packed programme containing 22 shows, three companies from Australia, two companies from Auckland, one from Nelson, one from Christchurch and seven from Wellington. More>>


Bird Of The Year: New Zealanders Asked To Vote For Their Favourite Native Bird

Te Radar, David Farrier, Heather du-Plessis Allan and Duncan Garner are just some of the New Zealanders championing their favourite native bird in Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition, which kicks off today.. More>>


Werewolf Film: It Follows - Panic In Detroit

Philip Matthews: When you heard last month that Wes Craven had died and you wanted to pay homage, you could have sat down with any one of five of his films that helped reinvent American horror at least three times over three decades... Or you could just have watched one of the greatest recent horror films that would probably not exist without Craven. More>>


Werewolf Music: Searching For The White Wail - On Art Pepper, etc

If the word ‘hipster’ means anything – which it arguably doesn’t – it seems to be more of an impulse than a condition. One always headed for the margins, and away from the white-bred, white-bread mainstream... More>>


Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news