Cheung-Ling Wong

Why do I write poetry? I write because it’s a medium I feel safe communicating in as a person who is learning handicapped, dropping out of high school early to spend time labouring in gardens and mowing lawns. Consequently, my other interest of horticulture developed. So began my night classes in gardening at adult education centres where I discovered the joys of reading and writing, and furthering these latent skills with my first attempts at poetry. On matters of reading and writing, I later began various certificate courses in horticulture at VCAH-Burnley College in Richmond Victoria. This was prior to its merger with Melbourne University. I felt Burnley was a progressive place for people like me and with a supportive staff led by the then principle Dr Greg Moore, I felt nurtured and supported despite my handicap. Graduating with good marks and with two certificates at hand, I was one of only two fortunate enough to enrol into the Bachelor of Applied Science – Horticulture (later Bachelor of Hort.) from the certificate course.

Due to ill health from a worsening scoliosis of the spine due to childhood panic attacks and traumas, regrettably I dropped out of university. I spent the next seven years in pain and agony and all alone. Spending most of my time in bed, I became very ill with type-2 diabetes. Despite all this, I had occupied myself with reading books and dabbling more with poetry, thus slowly my reading and writing skills improved. Persuaded by some to read my works in public, and after receiving tremendous audience responses, I was encouraged to further my poetic endeavours. At one of these poetry soirees I was scouted to read my works at a local community radio station – 3WBC 94.1 FM. Since then I’ve been on air broadcasting at lunchtime on every second Friday each month for the past five years.

Throughout all this time, boldly, some say foolhardily, as I was learning to cope with my scoliosis, I approached Burnley College again to complete my degree after leaving without notice for seven years. Dr Moore, then the out-going principal with the Melbourne University merger, thought my re-enrolment was highly improbable with the then new academic board at Melbourne University – Parkville. To my principle’s surprise, luck would have it that I was readmitted to complete my outstanding subjects and graduate with my bachelor degree with honours. Due to my injuries, I am unable to practice my profession in any practical way, but despite this I felt it necessary to complete what I have started, akin to poetic justice – a memorable conclusion from its tumultuous beginnings.

To me, words on paper are something greater than myself – a sharing of a greater humanity. Life’s pain internalized within self is suffering, but when impressed upon paper it becomes empathy and compassion for the ‘other’, the ‘me’ that becomes ‘ye’. Had my pain not escaped its prison it could have poisoned me. In life, never ever be horrified, be edified, page upon page, dust upon dust – accrued wisdom of the ages – hence, never be deformed : be informed. We feast ravenously on ‘meaning’ and nothing is more satisfying and nourishing than wisdom that banishes both pointless suffering and grief, and the vagaries of fleeting, superficial happiness.

Cheung-Ling Wong