Sarah Howe (b 1983, Hong Kong) came as a child to England, her father’s country, but grew increasingly interested in the history of her mother, who fled from China in 1949. She says for a long time, poetry was something she did ‘under the radar of my official life as a university teacher and literary critic.’
‘Strangely, poetry became the place where I explored my Chineseness, something that otherwise had not place in my life – except perhaps for a hankering to go home to my mum’s fried noodles.’ It is no coincidence, she adds, that she began to write poetry in earnest while on a scholarship to Harvard, ‘a period of geographical displacement, when home was far away and imaginary again.’
The poems in her debut collection, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2014), span a decade: the earliest is inspired by two journeys: her mother’s as a baby and her own first trip to the Chinese mainland in 2004.
Her 2009 pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse), won an Eric Gregory Award, while her poems have appeared widely in magazines and, in 2014, were anthologised in Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe).
She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism and is a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where she teaches Renaissance Literature. In 2015-16, she take up a year’s writing fellowship at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute: ‘It feels like coming full circle.’
Read the Forward Prizes Q&A with Sarah Howe: “It’s funny how being ‘caught between two worlds’ is such a prevalent theme in my writing […] I began to realize how that tension – endlessly hopping back and forth across a dividing line – might actually be something productive, crucial even, to my sensibility.”