Ng Hou Man: A Poet Who Documents His Life Experience with Words

Text:Ella Cheong, Senior UM Reporter Savanna Lok │ Photo:Ella Cheong, with some provided by the interviewee  │  ISSUE 90 AUGUST My UM

Ng Hou Man is a master’s student in the University of Macau (UM) Department of Chinese Language and Literature. In addition to being a postgraduate student, Ng is also a poet, publishing under the pseudonym ‘Iao Chi’. Because of an illness, it takes Ng a lot of effort to speak and move his muscles flexibly. Ng realised in childhood that he was different from other children and was for a period sensitive and self-abased, and would act on impulse when driven by emotion. During this time he fostered the habit of embracing solitude and thinking deeply. In his poems, Ng enjoys the freedom to express his emotions, to explore his true self and to search for the meaning of life.

The design of Tramping in the Dark’s front and back cover

Writing Poetry to Release Suppressed Emotions

Ng recalls that he needed to go downstairs to pick up food containers at a Christmas party in the first year of middle school. Out of courtesy, a classmate said, ‘Let me help you with that.’ The seemingly innocent gesture broke him and made him burst into tears. ‘I needed the help of others to do such a simple thing,’ says Ng. The incident hurt his self-confidence badly. At that time, he was afraid to speak in public and was always worried about what others thought of him. He tended to hide himself away from others, but when driven by emotion he would create a scene. Having experienced all sorts of situations and frustrations in life, Ng today has grown into a more mature person.

‘When God closes a door, he opens a window,’ says Ng. ‘Although I wasn’t born into a body with flexible muscles, I was given a sensitive mind.’ With a twist of thought, Ng’s world has become completely different. He started to change his attitude on life, control the anger in his mind, and learn to develop peaceful thoughts. Along the way, Ng feels very fortunate to have found poetry, something that has changed his life completely. ‘Poetry is like an old friend to me,’ says Ng. ‘We can laugh and cry together during my life journey.’

Ng considers Cheang Cheok Lap, his Chinese language teacher in the first year of high school, as his poetry mentor. After entering UM’s Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Ng started to write poems on a regular basis and has created many works. ‘I often write in the middle of the night,’ says Ng. ‘Alone in the room, I listen to music to remind myself what happened during the day. I then express my emotions through words, one verse after another. The habit helps me keep my mood up.’

Through poetry writing, Ng is able to express his suppressed emotions. ‘Besides a good friend, poetry is also an agent that helps me balance all the different emotions in life,’ says Ng. ‘I can learn more about my past and current self.’

A book launch for Tramping in the Dark in Macao

Retrieving Warm Feelings of Friendliness in Literature

Ng came close to parting ways with literature. After graduating from high school, Ng was admitted by the Department of Chinese Literature of Chung Cheng University in Taiwan. However, because of his health condition and the worries of his family, he returned to Macao to apply to UM, and was accepted by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. As he cannot write easily with his hand, the UM Registry and Student Affairs Office provided him with a computer to use to study and answer test questions. He was also permitted additional time to complete tests. Ng would like to extend his gratitude to the university for its support.

As an electrical and computer engineering major, Ng felt that the warm feelings of friendliness were missing in the numbers and calculations that constituted much of his intellectual work. Therefore, he made up his mind to transfer to the Department of Chinese Language and Literature. After all the twists and turns, he returned to pursue the path of a poet. ‘I wanted to try to understand how one should treat others and the origin of life through reading,’ says Ng, who remains very grateful to Prof Tam Mei Leng from the department. ‘She was my interviewer during the transfer and helped to get me into the department.’

Ng’s college life was filled with unforgettable memories

Publishing Poetry Collection to Commemorate 4 Years in College

The Department of Chinese Language and Literature helped to boost Ng’s creativity. During his first year in the department, Ng won the poetry category at an inter-varsity writing competition in Macao. Once a lost and confused person, he found his self-confidence and direction in life through literature. ‘The award strengthened my belief that I should write about my life experiences in poems, and I have been doing it since then.’ Says Ng.

During college, Ng read the works of many famous poets. He found the works of Haizi, one of the Misty Poets, particularly fascinating. After accumulating experience for a few years, and encouraged by his teachers and friends, last year Ng published his first poetry collection, Tramping in the Dark. The book includes some of his poems written during college. Ng sees the book as a college graduation gift to himself.

Due to the influence of his experiences in childhood and adolescence, ‘loneliness’ is the most common theme explored by Ng in his works. Written during his second year in college, Lonely Wedding is his favorite work among all. The poem revolves around ‘loneliness’, a consistent theme in his life.

On the back cover of Tramping in the Dark is an image of a woman with long hair. What appear to be waves on the front cover are actually the curls of her hair. The images are intended to reference the end of a relationship that the author experienced in college. ‘This poetry collection is a small conclusion of my life,’ says Ng. He expresses his gratitude to his teachers and friends, and those experienced writers who gave him advice and support for the publication of the book.

Ng loves to think deeply and read at quiet locations on the campus

Remembering Why You Started

Ng is currently a postgraduate student in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature. As a senior student in the department, he is happy to exchange ideas with younger students and share his experiences with them. According to Ng, a postgraduate student has more free time and freedom than an undergraduate student. Therefore, one requires more self-discipline in order to succeed. ‘As a postgraduate student of literature, you study by reading a lot on your own,’ says Ng. ‘Therefore, I think that it is key for undergraduate students to find out how to nurture their self-discipline when they pursue postgraduate studies in this field.’

As a postgraduate student, Ng hopes that he will make an improvement in literature studies. ‘I hope to pass down the Chinese traditional culture on to the next generation with my small contributions to the studies of Chinese culture and literature,’ says Ng. As a poet, he also made a promise to himself: ‘Wherever I go, I must remember why I started writing at the beginning.’