Flo Oy Wong
Flo Oy Wong, artist/poet/educator, and a daughter of Chinese immigrants, was born and raised in Oakland California’s Chinatown. Becoming aware of poetry at the age of 9 she later attended the University of California, Berkeley as an English major. When she graduated, she became an elementary school teacher. At the age of 40, she began her career as a visual artist. During her art career she received 3 National Endowment for the Arts Awards. In the year 2000, she worked with Kearny Street Workshop (KSW) of San Francisco to present made in usa: Angel Island Shhh, to tell the immigration story of her parents, Gee Seow Hong and Gee Suey Ting, and other immigrants from China. The exhibit was later exhibited at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 2004.
At the age of 75, she began studying poetry in earnest. When she turned 80 in 2018 she published her first art and poetry book, Dreaming of Glistening Pomelos. Currently, she is a member of The Last Hoisan Poets, with Genny Lim and Nellie Wong, who read their original poetry in Hoisan-wa, the dialect of their ancestors, and in English. The Last Hoisan Poets collaborate with the Del Sol String Quartet, a musical community which champions the work of living composers. A co-founder of the San Francisco-based Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA), Flo resides in Sunnyvale, California with her husband, Edward K. Wong. She is currently an active member of the South Bay poetry community, including the Cupertino Poet Laureate Program, the Cupertino Poetry Circle, and the Euphrat Museum’s 1st Thursday Open Mic Program.
Poem on Belonging
HAW THLIM HEE, HAW THLIM HEE
Baba, Mama, Coy see haw thlim hee. Jin geh haw thlim hee. Gheong gai ah? Gheong gai ah? Yin wee ngnoy thlai goy nin see, Hai ook kee gong Hoisan-wa. Ghee song gong Hoisan-wa ah. Coy see ngnoy bock thlai how fot lah. Mahn mahn haung gai lah. Gow yin look sip nin lah. Law Gung ghee haw ah. Sahng geh neuy. Sahng geh doy. Yu thlom geh thloon. Leong geh hai thloon doy. Yit nip geh thloon neuy. Aw law haw heong gow, heong wah. Ahn hai mmm woy gong Hoisan wa. Mmm gin yell, mmm gin yell.
Baba, Mama, Now very heart happy. Really very heart happy. Why? Why? Because at time I small, At home talk Hoisan-wa. Such joy talk Hoisan-wa. Now hair all white. Walk slowly slowly on street. Marry for sixty years. Husband - very very good. Have daughter. Have son. Have three grandchildren. Two grandsons. One granddaughter. All respectful. All no talk Hoisan-wa. Does not matter. Does not matter.
Copyright © 2021 by Flo Oy Wong. Used with permission of the author.
Author photo by Edward K. Wong