International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong – 10th Anniversary Celebration 
香港國際詩歌之夜 – 十週年

Speech and Silence 

19-24 November 2019
Hong Kong

25-30 November 2019
Chengdu, Haikou, Hangzhou, Macao, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xiamen, Yangzhou

International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong (IPNHK) is an award-winning biennial poetry festival established by renowned contemporary Chinese poet Bei Dao. Since its debut in 2009 in Hong Kong, IPNHK has become the most influential series of international poetry events in the sinophone area, delivering internationally acclaimed poets’ thoughts and ideas about poetry to the Chinese-speaking worlds. Following its enormous success in the last decade, IPNHK celebrates its 10th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of Noise Asia in 2019. Gathering more than 50 world-renowned poets, musicians, translators and scholars, IPNHK 2019 presents an extravaganza of poetry and music events with the theme “Speech and Silence” in Hong Kong as well as in 10 different cities in China. Most IPNHK activities are free and open to the public.

Preface – IPNHK 10th Anniversary Celebration

IPNHK Director: Bei Dao

Speech and Silence

“That of which we cannot speak,” Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, concluding his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “we must pass over in silence.” In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, both Wittgenstein and Austrian poet Georg Trakl were both stationed at the Eastern Front—but they never met. Wittgenstein received a postcard from Trakl, and they had hoped to meet, but Trakl was suffering from depression, staying in the military hospital in Kraków. By the time Wittgenstein made it to the hospital, on November 6, 1914, he arrived to discover that Trakl had died three days earlier, of a cocaine overdose.

Philosophers and poets are always missing each other just like this, and the systems of language they work in are often at odds: while Wittgenstein was trying to work out what could be said, Trakl was trying to express the inexpressible. Or to put that another way, poetry starts where philosophy ends.

To a certain degree, speech and silence are the fundamental subjects of poetry, the vast expanses beyond logic. As Lu Ji wrote in his fourth century “Rhymeprose on Literature,” writing “demands presence by divining absence, knocking on silence in search of sound.”

Or, if we might explicate poetry with the help of a poem, I think Paul Celan can bring us further into our theme. In Pierre Joris’s translation:


With a variable key
You unlock the house, in it
Drifts the snow of the unsaid.
Depending on the blood that gushes
From your eye or mouth or ear,
Your key varies.

Varies your key so varies your word
That’s allowed to drift with the flakes.
Depending on the wind that pushes you away,
The snow cakes around the word.

This is an important poem—it may even legitimately be called the “key” to Celan’s poetry. Two central images are at work here, words and snow. The first line of the second stanza, “Varies your key so varies your word,」 gives the implication that the key is the word. The third line of the first stanza, on the other hand, mentions “the snow of the unsaid,” where snow represents the unspeakable. Words and snow, then, distinguish the said from the unsayable, and the task of writing poetry is precisely to make the words we speak express the snow of what we cannot: “With a variable key / you unlock the house, in it / drifts the snow of the unsaid.” The key may change, but whether it will open up the house of the unsayable comes down to the skill of the poet: “Depending on the blood that gushes / from your eye or mouth or ear, / your key varies.” The second stanza presents the conditions for writing: “Varies your key so varies your word / that’s allowed to drift with the flakes.” Word here merges with snowflake, presenting the possibility of saying the unsayable. “Depending on the wind that pushes you away, / the snow cakes around the word”: if what the wind represents is suffering and trauma, then the only possibility is to write in a state of resistance.

This, then, is the theme of International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2019.

It has been ten years since 2009, when we held our first International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong, to mark the pinnacle of international poetry. This year we are hosting thirty poets from around the world, and in addition to our main arena in Hong Kong, we are also holding events in ten cities in China. As we have said, if globalization is our “continent,” then poetry is our “island.” This brave new world may be defined by contentions and conflicts between civilizations, religions, ideologies, as well as power and money, but the island symbolized by poetry represents the promise of a spiritual homeland for all humanity.

Bei Dao

May 17, 2019

(Translated from Chinese by Lucas Klein)















Invited Poets – IPNHK 10th Anniversary Celebration

Organizer 主辦

  • Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation 香港詩歌節基金會

Co-organizers – Hong Kong 協辦 – 香港

  • Faculty of Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學文學院
  • Division of Humanities, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 香港科技大學人文學部
  • HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study 香港科技大學賽馬會高等研究院
  • Noise Asia 亞洲傳聲
  • School of Translation, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong 香港恆生大學翻譯學院
  • The Chinese University Press 香港中文大學出版社
  • University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong 香港大學美術博物館


Co-organizers – Macao and Mainland China 協辦 – 澳門及中國大陸

  • Associação de Poetas de Macau Outro Céu 澳門別有天詩社
  • Hangzhou Shuyu Café 杭州舒羽咖啡
  • Huang Bingyu Art Studio 黃炳餘藝創中心
  • Hong Fan Poets Society 紅帆詩社
  • Librairie Avant-Garde 南京先鋒書店
  • A Space for Art and Creativity 飛地人文美學生活空間
  • Shanghai 21 Culture Promotion Co. Ltd (CULTURE 21) 上海廿一文化發展有限公司
  • Xiamen Paper Times Bookstore 廈門紙的時代書店
  • Yangzhou The Grand Canal Culture 揚州大運河文化
  • Zall Bookstore 卓爾書店 

Huang-Bingyu-Art-Studio     Shanghai-21-Culture-Promotion-Co.-Ltd-CULTURE-21            

Partners – 合作夥伴

  • Cha: An Asian Literary Journal《茶:亞洲文學期刊》
  • Ifengculture 鳳凰網文化
  • internationales literaturfestival berlin 柏林國際文學節
  • Poetry Island 詩歌島
  • Today Literary Magazine《今天》文學雜誌
  • Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine 《聲韻詩刊》

internationales literaturfestival berlin              

Supported by – 資助

  • Hong Kong Arts Development Council 香港藝術發展局 
  • Ms. Li Wei 李威女士 

Acknowledgements – 特別鳴謝

  • Jao Tsung-I Academy 饒宗頤文化館
  • Zebra Valley (Beijing) Culture 斑馬谷(北京)文化
  • Mr. Cao Xingcheng 曹興誠先生
  • Ms. Tracy Li 李卓霏女士
  • Mr. Xiao Dazhong 蕭大忠先生
  • Mr. Fu Jun 傳駿先生
  • Mr. He Qun 何群先生
  • Cognitio College (Kowloon) 文理書院(九龍)
  • SKH St. Mary’s Church Mok Hing Yiu College 聖公會聖馬利亞堂莫慶堯中學
  • S.W.C.S. Chan Pak Sha School 新會商會陳白沙紀念中學
  • Tin Ka Ping Foundation 田家炳基金會
  • Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College 荃灣公立何傳耀紀念中學


Organizing Committee 籌備委員會

  • Prof. Bei Dao 北島教授(Director 總監)
  • Dr. Wang Ling 王淩博士(Program Director 節目總監)
  • Dr. Chris Song 宋子江博士(Executive Director 執行總監)
  • Prof. Gilbert C. F. Fong 方梓勳教授
  • Dr. Lucas Klein 柯夏智博士(Publication Director 出版總監)
  • Dr. Shelby K. Y. Chan 陳嘉恩博士
  • Ms. Ann Mak 麥安女士(Art Director 藝術總監)
  • Mr. Dickson Dee 李勁松先生(Music Director 音樂總監)
  • Mr. Christopher Mattison 馬德松先生

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