Tegan Smyth

I am a biracial poet with roots in Hong Kong and Australia.

I was born in Sydney (Gadigal) and raised between Australia and Hong Kong. My work has been published in Asian Cha, Voice & Verse, Where Else: An International Hong Kong Poetry Anthology, Twin Cities Anthology and The Economist [1][2].

I started writing poetry as a teenager, with my first poem published in a global call for entries by the UK organisation Young Writers. I regularly perform at open mic and other public events in Hong Kong.

My writing focuses on identity and belonging, drawing from personal experiences navigating the world while holding multiple different identities.

I am also a qualified lawyer and Founder of Grassroots Future, a registered charity focused on refugees in Hong Kong and have given public talks on the matter. When not writing or working, you can probably find me cooking, exploring the city or working on a fibre art project (crochet, sewing or knitting).

Mountain Songs

Mountain Songs embodies the intersecting narratives of migration and how it shapes one’s identity. Taking seven years to compile, the collection centres around identity and culture, navigating these elements as a mixed-race individual. Mountain songs or sango / (pinyin: shange) are rural songs sung in the Hakka language by Hakka people as a medium to court, communicate across large distances and recount oral histories.

They are integral to Hakka culture – my maternal heritage – and have been a way to keep stories by unknown authors alive. As Hakka’s prominence as a spoken language gives way to other more widely spoken dialects of Chinese, it is in careful records that the cultural practices and stories are captured so they can be seen by future generations.

This is true of the poems contained in Mountain Songs, which focuses on the accounts of different women in my family, whose existence and memories have only been passed down in anecdotes but never in writing. The movement of mountain songs sung across different terrain and milieu mirrors the movement of Hakka people themselves, a widely dispersed people, where migration is tied to the community’s experiences both within and outside China.

Mountain Songs explores the journey of first-generation Chinese immigrants to Australia, while also examining the perspective of second-generation children navigating a parent’s homeland. The collection also examines contemporary issues related to migration and how this has impacted perceptions of displaced peoples in both Australia and Hong Kong.

Mountain Songs received the 2022 Proverse Publishing Prize and is the recipient of a Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) grant.

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